If there were any doubt that women owners are an ever-growing force on the independent
business scene, new studies of leading female entrepreneurs around the world
supplies incontrovertible proof. The National Foundation for Women Business
Owners (NFWBO) has been hard at work, researching the small business climate
for women and identifying strong trends.
Fifty Top Women Show Trends
In one study done jointly with IBM, the NFWBO used as its subjects 50 top
women business owners (plus 10 more up-and-coming) to compile these findings:
- These women owners cover a wide range of industry categories, for example:
27 percent in manufacturing, 25 percent in retail trade, and 10 percent in
- Slightly less than half (46 percent) of these women inherited their businesses,
and more than half began their own: 34 percent by themselves, and 17 percent
- As a group, the study subjects generate $139 billion in revenue and employ
more than 150,000 workers. And, the numbers keep increasing.
The Majority of Women Owners Prefer “Small”
More research from the NFWBO shows another picture: that women owners, taken
as a whole, prefer pared-down operations. The very smallest, in fact: among
the approximately eight million women-owned businesses in the U.S., 75 percent
of these are one-person operations with no employees. Ownership of such a small
business gives women maximum flexibility with work schedules and offers a better
chance of keeping their home lives healthy as well.
Ignoring the big-business gurus who claim that small does not equal successful,
women owners continue to prefer keeping their businesses small. Although the
NFWBO research reveals that fewer than one percent of these businesses have
more than $1 million in sales, women owners are showing strength in numbers
and gaining respect from many quarters necessary for their support and growth.
The Small Business Administration, for example, offers a number of free counseling
and assistant programs, as well as its loan guarantee program–all helping
the woman-owned business to flourish.
Women Owners Triumph over Bank Loan Inequities
Another NFWBO study shows that women business owners, for the first time ever,
are experiencing access to business loans from banks nearly equal to that of
male owners. A number of U.S. banks, among them BankAmerica and Wells Fargo,
offer special loan programs for women business owners. Partly thanks to the
rise of women to high bank positions, the woman-owned business is being seen
for its untapped potential.
With easier access to loans, women owners can now be less dependent on high-cost
credit card loans for financing, and they have more leeway to reinvest earnings.
According to the NFWBO, all this means that women-owned businesses have developed
into more sophisticated operations.
Although male and female entrepreneurs may have equal access to loans, a related
NFWBO finding shows that the sexes still approach the use of credit differently.
Men owners tend to use this money to help out with cash flow or to consolidate
debt; women put the dollars towards business growth.
In addition to these specific discoveries, NFWBO studies also showed that,
on an international scale, women owners come from similar backgrounds and voice
the same concerns about important business issues. They constitute between
one-fourth and one-third of the world’s independent business owners. They are
also vocal, as was evidenced at an international conference in Paris sponsored
by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Approximately
350 delegates from 35 countries attended the multilingual sessions and workshops.