Women Empowered Through Business Ownership

Helen Reddy said it best in the 70s: “I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore…” The 70s may have had some bad clothes and disco music, but the 70s also opened the door for women, and in many ways, became the Decade of The Woman.

Women have become empowered over the last 30 to 40 years in wide variety of ways, but one of the biggest ways women have become empowered is through business ownership.

The statistics on woman-owned businesses are impressive and empowering enough on their own:

Women In Business:

  • As of 2008, there were 10.1 million firms owned by women. (Ownership is defined as owning 50% or more of a company.)
  • These businesses employ over 13 million people, and (as of 2008) had generated $1.9 trillion in sales.
  • Women-owned businesses make up over 40% of all privately held companies.
  • One in five companies reporting revenue in excess of $1 million is a woman-owned business.
  • 3% of businesses owned by women report revenue of $1 million or more.
  • According to score.org, 69% of women are more likely to seek business advice than their male counterparts. Only 47% of men will seek advice. (Does this really surprise anyone, give the whole “men won’t ask for directions” thing?!)
  • Women-owned business have been growing at twice the rate of all U.S. companies.

Women Of Color And Business Ownership:

  • Women of color owned 1.9 million businesses in 2008.
  • These businesses generate $165 billion in revenue annually, and employee 1.2 million people.
  • Between 2002 and 2008, women of color owned businesses grew more quickly than any other privately held companies.

Clearly, women are a very entrepreneurial group! Studies have long shown that women are capable multi-taskers, effective problem solvers, creative in approaches to many aspects of daily life, and are often the financial planners at home. These unique skills have lent themselves beautifully to the empowerment of women through business ownership.

Women often create successful businesses because they have identified a need through a specific set of circumstances. Women have created hair care products specifically due to the lack of products they want or need and can’t find. Mother’s Helpers and Home Fairies came about because women have long wished that “they had a wife.” Niche businesses developed for women by women are hugely successful simply because women identify with other women on a very specific level.

There are many opportunities in today’s market for an enterprising woman to develop her own business, big or small.

In an article by ask.org, these six start-up business ideas were marked as “Hot Markets For Small Businesses:”

  1. eBay drop-off sites
  2. Search Engine Optimization and Internet Marketing
  3. Performance Apparel
  4. Niche Health and Fitness
  5. Technology Security Consulting
  6. Service/Products For the Hispanic Market

However, the list for starting your own business is virtually endless. Take a look around you and see if there is a business need that can be filled.

Other ideas for women-owned businesses include:

  • Tutoring
  • Free-lance article writing for online business promotions
  • Gourmet Food production and sales (Think Mrs. Field’s cookies!)
  • Personalized Gift Basket Sales
  • Resume Writing
  • Virtual Assistant
  • Pet Sitters
  • Web Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Online Affiliate Marketing
  • Internet Marketing Mentoring and Coaching

Many of these business ideas can be started with little working capital. Not all businesses take a large investment for start-up costs. Many of the ideas listed above can be done from home with no employees and no overhead costs such as rent, insurance, additional utilities, etc. And, many work-from-home businesses are entitled to a tax break because you are using your home as an office.

If starting your own business is appealing to you, or starting your own home-based business is an idea you’d like to turn into a reality, then pick a direction, research what you would need to get you started, and join the millions of other women who have been empowered through business ownership!

There really is something to that “I am woman, hear me roar,” song. Thanks, Helen Reddy!

Exploring Business Ownership – Maybe You’re a High Rolling Entrepreneur – Part 6 of 7

We’re wrapping up a series on evaluating whether the concept of business ownership is right for you. Most recently we’ve discussed how to assess your risk tolerance by analyzing the way you think. We’ve covered the 3 main ways to earn income, outlined the risks associated with employment and franchise ownership, and how each personality type typically thinks. If you didn’t identify with either of those, then maybe you’re an entrepreneur at heart.

Entrepreneurial Business Ownership

Entrepreneur think is:

How can I meet the needs of my customers by profitably solving the problems they have?

If you want to chart your own course, solve all your own problems, be captain of your own ship, be totally responsible for whatever success or failure comes, and chafe at the thought of working for someone else in return for less risk, then you probably have the entrepreneurial bug.

Risk Assessment

Being an independent business owner is a high risk proposition with a high probability of first time failure.

Why high risk? Because you will most likely pledge every asset, such as home equity, savings, 401(k), etc., that you have to finance startup or purchase of the business. If your venture fails, you may very well lose everything you’ve spent or offered as collateral. (This is also true for franchise owners.)

Why a high probability for failure? Because first time entrepreneurs have such a clear vision of what they want to do and how to do it; they think they know everything! I have several colleagues who generally refuse to work with first time entrepreneurs because (in their words) “they think they know more than I do and helpful suggestions that I make are either ignored or become implementation battles.” Truer words were never spoken.

If your risk temperament is right in line with the type of person I’m describing and you want to go forward, then how can you improve your chances of success? Buck the trend by getting lots of experienced advice and counsel from those who have gone before! Be willing to listen to those who have graduated from the school of hard knocks and learn from their mistakes to avoid making them all again yourself, because you simply don’t have either the time or the money to survive the experience of learning it all firsthand.

We’ll wrap up this series in part 7 by outlining why businesses generally succeed or fail, and I’ll suggest some more reading resources and offer some advice on how to navigate a path to success.

Exploring Business Ownership – Franchises, a Controlled Way to Own a Business (Part 5 of 7)

In part 4 we began a discussion on how to assess your risk tolerance for business ownership by analyzing the way you think. I covered the 3 main ways to earn income, outlined the risks associated with employment, and how employees typically think. If you didn’t identify with “employee think” then maybe you’ll identify with franchise ownership.

Franchise Ownership

Franchise owner think is:

I can run the systems, methods, and procedures that are already defined and documented. If you’ll show me how, I can pull the right levers and push the right buttons to make the business work.

If you’ve had middle management experience or if you’re a “systems” kind of person, if you like a broader scope of responsibility while staying within certain rules, if you can solve big picture problems but enjoy support when you’re having a tough go of it, if you want more personal freedom than being trapped 9 to 5 in an office cube, and if you want to build equity in a business investment that you can eventually sell, then owning a franchised business model is worth looking into.

Most people think of restaurants when they think of the franchise industry. However, there are literally thousands of franchised business models available in the US in at least 50 different industries, although in my opinion probably only a few hundred are truly robust or mature enough to consider investing in.

When you buy into a franchised business model you license the right to operate a business, usually within a prescribed territory, using the franchise brand name and their products, services, and methods of operation. You basically operate a “clone” of what other franchisees are operating.

Presumably the products and services have been tested and perfected, target markets have already been defined, marketing campaigns have been developed, store designs have been created, and the necessary equipment has been specified. You essentially operate the business model in accordance with the methods and procedures prescribed by the franchisor. Some feel that it’s a controlled way of getting your feet wet in the business ownership world.

Risk Assessment

In my opinion investing in and operating a franchise is more risky than employment, but has less risk than an unsupported entrepreneur-owned business. The franchisor has a vested interest in helping you succeed in their business model because they get a royalty cut of your sales income stream.

However, it is certainly possible to fail in business owning a franchised business model. If you don’t follow their system, if you refuse to market your business, if their business model, product, or service simply doesn’t meet the needs of the market place, or for any of a number of other reasons, then you can loose your entire investment (just like entrepreneurial business ownership).

If your risk temperament seems to be right for the franchise area, then I highly recommend retaining an independent outside advisor to guide you through your initial investigation and evaluation of the thousands of concepts available. Like independent fee-for-service financial advisors, getting professional counsel to help you navigate through this area will be money well spent.

Did you identify with “franchise owner think?” If not, stay tuned. In part 6 we’ll explore how entrepreneurial business owners think.