HBA: October is National Women’s Small Business Month

Published 3:11 pm Monday, October 19, 2015

The State of Women-Owned Businesses Report for 2015 found there are currently 9.4 million women-owned businesses, which employ nearly 8.4 million people. (Contributed)

The State of Women-Owned Businesses Report for 2015 found there are currently 9.4 million women-owned businesses, which employ nearly 8.4 million people. (Contributed)

By BOB VAN LOAN / Guest Columnist

The ranks of the Helena Business Association are filled with female business owners and managers.

However, for many years, women were underrepresented in the world of entrepreneurship, and this month serves as a means of recognizing how far they have come.

For generations, women were discouraged from starting their own businesses, shut out of the market for small business loans and faced discrimination from suppliers, customers, landlords and government officials.

Women weren’t supposed to be “the boss,” and were only supposed to work in certain fields such as teaching, nursing or other traditional “women’s-only” careers.

Fortunately, times have changed! More women are starting businesses than ever before.

According to Forbes, since 1997, the number of women-owned businesses has increased by 59 percent (1.5 times the national average), and women-owned companies have seen job growth of 10 percent and revenue increases of 63 percent.

The State of Women-Owned Businesses Report for 2015, commissioned by American Express, found that there are currently 9.4 million women-owned businesses, which employ nearly 8.4 million people and generate over $1.4 trillion in revenues.

There are several interesting facts and insights from this report, including:

  • Women business owners are becoming more diverse: Today, 32 percent of women-owned firms are owned by women of color, compared to only 17 percent in 1997.
  • Women-owned business growth is happening in some unexpected places: Most people think of big, populous states like California and New York as being the biggest centers of American entrepreneurship. However, the states with the fastest growth in quantity, job numbers and revenues of women-owned businesses are North Dakota, the District of Columbia, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, Wyoming, Virginia, Maryland, Texas and Utah.
  • Women-owned businesses make up a growing share of all privately-held businesses: As of 2014, women-owned firms make up 31 percent of all privately held companies in America, representing 14 percent of jobs at privately held firms, and 11 percent of revenues.

So if you’re a female business owner or manager, October is an ideal occasion to celebrate your successes and honor the legacies of all of the other enterprising women who are making a difference in the business world.

It’s also a time to consider redoubling your efforts toward growing your business.

Here are some resources provided by the Small Business Administration:

  • Small business loans for women: Loans that women-owned companies can apply for, including microloans (up to $50,000), general small business loans, and real estate and equipment loans.
  • Small business mentoring: Whether you are looking for answers to specific questions, or would like mentoring or guidance on your business plan, you can contact your local SBA Women’s Business Center.
  • Government contracts for women-owned businesses:  Check out the SBA’s programs on Contracting Support for Women-Owned Small Businesses to compete for federal government contracts. Many state governments also have programs for “supplier diversity” or other initiatives that help women-owned businesses.

For more information on issues and trends affecting women-owned businesses, check out some of these useful resources and organizations:

  • National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO): NAWBO is an organization of women entrepreneurs that aims to promote economic development and create innovative changes in the business culture.
  • U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce: This is an association of women-owned businesses that serves as a lobbying and advocacy group in Washington, D.C. Check out their website for information on summits, seminars and special meetings that help women-owned businesses grow and thrive.

This year, let’s all have a happy and empowering celebration of National Women’s Small Business Month.