More than 9.4 million U.S. firms are owned by women, according to a 2015 survey by the National Association of Women Business Owners. Of those firms, one in five companies with revenue of $1 million or more is owned by a woman.
Entrepreneurship typically has been viewed as a male-dominated field, but women are gaining ground and opening successful businesses. Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, took $5,000 and turned it into one of the most successful companies in America. The company now generates around $250 million in revenue, according to Forbes.
Yet, as much progress as women entrepreneurs have enjoyed, there remain several obstacles unique to their gender. Identifying those obstacles and establishing a strategy to defeat them is vital for any woman who is determined to succeed in business.
Obstacles for Women Entrepreneurs
Taking an idea and turning it into a multimillion dollar business isn’t easy. Getting funding for start-ups can be difficult, especially for firms owned by women. According to a 2014 study by Babson College, fewer than 3% of companies funded by venture capital had female CEOs. Meanwhile, 89% of venture capital investors are male, and 87% of those are white, according to the National Venture Capital Association.
Also, women still face gender bias in the workplace, despite representing 58.6% of it. This results in them not always being taken seriously. One of Forbes’ 2016 30 Under 30 entrepreneurs, Marcela Sapone, cofounder of a butler service called Hello Alfred and priced for middle-class citizens, recognizes this issue.
“Women start businesses that seem cute on the surface, but that’s when you should be really afraid. What we’re doing is really meaningful and is going to change how people live,” Sapone said in an interview with Forbes.
Fear of Failure
From birth onward, gender bias is an issue in society. In general, girls aren’t shown the same level of confidence that boys get from their parents. Women may often have a fear of failure due to this, which may prevent them from moving forward with a business idea, according to Forbes.
“When you’re hesitating to play bigger, remember it’s not just about you. It’s about all of the other women that you will tacitly inspire to give themselves permission. Permission to play big, permission to own their light and permission to launch business that change the world,” writes job coach Ashley Stahl in a Forbes article.
Resources for Starting Your Business
Despite the obstacles, there are plenty of resources available to women who want to start their own companies.
37 Angels is an organization that works with all entrepreneurs and investors, regardless of gender. They offer a bootcamp that teaches investing strategies, and a “fiercely talented network of 60-plus women committed to pushing the boundaries of what is possible within their industries and communities.” They offer continuing education and access to best-in-class founders.
Founded in 1999 in Silicon Valley, Astia is a non-profit organization that identifies and promotes high-growth women entrepreneurs. They link women with angel investors and advise them on their business goals.
This fund, according to Intel, is the largest venture capital fund created for diverse entrepreneurs. It’s a $125 million fund that was launched in June 2015. They place an emphasis on technology companies, especially mobile, big data, diversity, Internet of Things (IoT), software and security, wearables, robotics and sports and health.
The SBA offers a wide range of sound advice for starting a business. It also offers a handy business guide to help those looking to start out on their own. It takes you through the four basic steps of plan, launch, manage and grow, with subsections under each one.
The SBA also administers the Office of Women’s Business Ownership, which provides resources for women. It launched in 1979 and offers training and counseling, as well as access to marketing opportunities, investors and federal contracts.