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I Am An Entrepreneur

I am an entrepreneur, as are many of my friends, clients, and family members.

I am a female-entrepreneur, as are many of my friends, clients, and family members.

It amazes me that these statements have different meanings and reactions from many people. What amazes me even more is how little I know about the history of women in business.

As recent as 32 years ago, for a woman to get a bank loan to finance her business required a male co-signer. Thirty-two years people!!! My mind is spinning from this fact. In 1988, I was caring for one-year old daughter, my own small businesses, and a house. I had no idea that a bank could turn me down for a loan because of my gender.

How did it look for our female counterparts 32 years ago?

Not only would I have needed my husband to co-sign, simply because he was a man, I would likely have had…

  • A higher interest rate

  • A larger down payment required

  • A longer approval time

  • A higher standard of personal net worth

  • A much smaller loan amount available to me

  • To offer more security than a man

This could have been true without any consideration for my…

  • Business acumen

  • Experience

  • Education

  • Industry

  • Location

  • Personal references (especially if the references were also women)

In 1988, just 32 years ago, the first legislation to recognize the importance of female entrepreneurs in our county was established.

HR 5050: Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988 (WBOA) was enacted to address:

  • The need for technical training to maximize growth potential for women entrepreneurs

  • Inequality of access to commercial credit

  • Virtual exclusion of women owned businesses from government procurement

  • Inadequate data on women owned businesses

I repeat, this was officially recognized and addressed during most of our lifetimes.

You may be too young for this to seem like a major deal; I thought I was too. All of this women-are-equal stuff got taken care of in the 60’s and 70’s when I was just a kid, right? No. Like many non-white, non-male, non-entitled in our world the battle continues.

1988 was 30-year ago, why does it matter now?

The battle is far from over. Even now, with women starting more businesses than men, it is still true that…

  • Men are 2x more likely to raise $100,000 in business funding

  • A female entrepreneur has a loan approval rate of 15-20% lower than a man

  • Women owned businesses make up less than 20% of all businesses with a revenue of $1 million or more

All while…

  • The number of women owned businesses increased 21% compared to 9% of businesses overall

  • Women owned businesses employment numbers rose 8%; overall the increase was 1.8%

  • The greatest growth in women-owned businesses happened at the two extremes of the spectrum: low-revenue companies and million-dollar-plus businesses.

This impacts everyone. No matter how you define yourself; by gender, race, politics, heritage, who you love, and who you don’t, the access to resources for women in business impacts you.

Women make up roughly half of our population, half of our inventors, creators, and potential employers who have been limited by lack of access to the tools needed to do the job. As a society we are missing out on so many amazing businesses and what they could be offering all of us.

Where do we go from here?

This is so much bigger than me or you. What do we do to continue to strengthen our entrepreneurial community and create a more even playing field?

Every business has value. The greatest growth in women-owned businesses is at the two extremes of the spectrum: low-revenue companies and million-dollar-plus businesses. If the business you want to run is a low-revenue business and it gives you the quality of life you want, that is a win.

Many women limit their business to one they can self-fund as they build it. Bootstrapping is common for entrepreneurs, especially women entrepreneurs, and it can lead to being stuck in low-revenue companies and a cycle of struggle-to-survive.

Too many women make this decision out of perceived lack of ability, knowledge of resources, and opportunity. Women business owners work hard. If you’re going to work hard, get big results. It is time to think even bigger, solve a bigger problem. Step out of the comfort zone and make a bigger impact. You will take a lot of people along for the ride

Now what, what can we do to continue to open-up options for everyone?

Be aware of your own bias. Are you making decisions on who to work with based on comfort level? This may mean we are doing it on old standards of who is supposed to be running this business.

Who do you engage to do work for your business, your family, your organizations? Be intentional about looking at the less traditional options. Time in business, name on the door are less important. Can they do what they say they do with at a high level of quality, value, and integrity

Tell others about the amazing women-owned businesses you find. Write great reviews on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn.

What you can do as a fellow entrepreneur?

Give them a reason to listen.

  • Expect and demand fair opportunities. Yes, Demand them. Make others uncomfortable even when it makes you uncomfortable. You have a responsibility to do what you do and to do it at full throttle.

  • No one is perfect, do not wait until you have it all together to get out there and do it. You learn as you grow. This seems to be more difficult for women than it is for men. Be the best you can be at what you do. Grow from here.

  • Stop playing it small. Stand up, stand out, be seen and heard. You have so much to offer do it.

  • Expect the world to acknowledge who you are, what you know, and what you offer. If you don’t expect it, demand it, ask for it, talk about - do not expect others will. Don’t be shy about letting others know how committed and talented you are.

  • Ask for support, find a mentor, mentor others.

We are in this together women, so think big - no, even bigger – you will solve a bigger problem and live a bigger life.

Additional Resources

  • You can learn more about the trends and innovations of women-owned business by downloading this 2019 Women Owned Business Report put out by American Express.

Article by Barbara Zuleger of Performance Partners. We are business growth mentors committed to helping you build a quality of life you love through business growth that is sustainable and profitable.

Also posted on Athena Village Minneapolis, MN ·Updated Mon, September 28


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