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 – Craft Your Reason to Be in Business (Part 3 of 7)

We’re exploring the ins and outs of business ownership for wannabe business owners who are considering taking the plunge. In part 2 we decided that a good definition of a successful business is…

A self-sustaining entity that allows you to achieve your lifestyle goals.

Defining Your Lifestyle Goals

What lifestyle do you want your business to provide? As I shared in part 1, some people fantasize that business ownership will allow them to be waited on hand-and-foot on the French Rivera, which I refer to as “gentleman farmer’s syndrome.” Fair warning: Maybe you can achieve that goal after retirement, but failing to actively oversee your business while you own it means your business will almost certainly fail!

Even big business is not immune from this fact of life. A good example is Lee Iacocca when he moved from the #2 spot at Ford to assume the chairmanship of Chrysler Corporation. He first focused on rescuing the troubled automaker by bringing out the K car (remember the K cars?) and introducing the mini-van (originally a Ford concept that Ford didn’t feel there was a market for). His efforts were successful and Chrysler was able to pay back their government loan in full, ahead of schedule. In fact, the federal government actually made money from the first Chrysler bailout.

But even a corporation as large and talented as Chrysler suffered while he was later distracted in the 1980’s by traveling to raise funds to restore the Statue of Liberty. Chrysler lost market share during that period that it never regained. Without the captain guiding the ship it wandered off course and again required a huge effort to just avoid disaster.

Get rid of any visions (hallucinations?) that you have of creating a business that would support a gentleman farmer’s lifestyle. It’s the road to financial disaster. Successful businesses always have active owner involvement and oversight.

Your Goals May Change

In reality, lifestyle goals vary widely and may change over time. Some may want to make huge sums of money, but others might place a higher priority on having a flexible work schedule, or not having to work backshift or weekends or holidays. Still others really desire a business that creates intellectual stimulation (think Steve Jobs of Apple Computer) or positions them in the spotlight as a community leader. And others might want control of their calendar so they can be at Parents to Lunch with their elementary school child or be able to ramp down their calendar during the summer months when the kids are out of school.

The point is that you may value one or more of these attributes above making large sums of money. Craft YOUR reason for wanting to be in business. Don’t simply adopt someone else’s.

Still have the “itch?” Employees, franchise owners, and entrepreneurs all think differently. In part 4 we’ll explore how employees think differently from business owners.

Exploring Business Ownership – Traditional Employment is Not Risk-Free (Part 4 of 7)

In previous articles we’ve talked about the personality types that have the best chance of business ownership success and helped you define your goals for wanting to be in business. Now we’ll explore how entrepreneurs, franchise owners, and employees generally think. Where will you find a match?

How You Think Vs Your Risk Tolerance

As I’ve shared previously, business success is far from guaranteed so it’s important that you assess your tolerance for risk before committing funds to any business venture. One very general way to assess your risk tolerance is by analyzing the way you think.

Generally speaking, there are three main ways to earn income in increasing order of personal risk; employment, franchise ownership, and entrepreneur business ownership. We’ll explore each to see which you identify best with.

The World of Employment

Employee think is:

I did what I was supposed (or told) to do and I can prove it.

If you’re most comfortable with a narrowly defined set of responsibilities, expect your desk (or tools or equipment) to be provided for you, want to call the IT department when your computer hangs up, crave regular working hours with paid vacation and holidays, and expect benefits paid by someone else, then you’ll probably be most comfortable in an employment situation.

When employment is a good fit you feel most comfortable when you do your part as a team member and leave the business consequences of your work assignment to others. If this describes you, take heart! There’s absolutely no shame in being an employee! In fact, most of the business world is made up of employees who willingly do their part and receive a fixed hourly or salary income in return.

Traditionally employment has also had the least amount of risk for loss of income, although that’s becoming less true. For several decades following World War II there was an unwritten social contract between large corporations (and even many smaller businesses) and their employees that went something like this:

If you come to work with us and work hard, then you are welcome to stay with our company as long as you like. We will retrain our loyal employees to take on new tasks and responsibilities because they are our most valuable asset. We will take care of you with good benefits and if you stay with us long enough we will also provide for your retirement.

Contrast that historic practice with the current social norm of viewing employees as a commodity to be hired when needed and laid off when not.

Risk Assessment

Employment and depending on others for income who may not have your best personal or career interests at heart carries the least risk of the three income earning options. But it’s not risk-free and is far more risky now than it used to be. Let me suggest the book The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences, by Louis Uchitelle, for further reading (I have no financial interest in this book).

Didn’t identify with “employee think?” Check out part 5 where we’ll explore how franchise owners think.