Research indicates that while women-owned businesses account for 36% of all U.S. enterprises, they employ just 7% of the country’s workforce – and contribute less than 4% of business revenues. This presents a tremendous opportunity for women’s business centers to help women overcome this revenue and employment gap, while spurring local economic development.1 Wisconsin ranked 38th in the nation in women’s business ownership in 2016; the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) aims to improve this statistic.
Challenges Women Face
Access to capital still remains one of the biggest challenges for women-owned businesses. However, we know that the numbers of women starting and growing businesses is higher than ever before; we see this at WWBIC every day. In 2014, WWBIC loans totaled $2,107,350 to women, and this number increase to $3,242,830 in 2015. Yet women still face more challenges than men in securing business financing. WWBIC helps to bridge that gap.
WWBIC’s programming also helps women overcome their own preconceptions and gives them more tools to design a path to the future they want. Studies show that a good idea – not wealth, race, gender or ethnicity – is the best predictor of a successful new business.
In the United States, women migrate to entrepreneurship not only as a route to power and wealth, or as an expression of an idea they are passionate about, but as an escape from the corporate world, which can make it difficult to achieve a good work/life balance. Out of 185 countries, the United States is one of just three that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave, the others being Oman and Papua New Guinea.
Entrepreneurship is a strong emerging trend in minority communities. WWBIC provides a wide range of skills, expertise and experience to disadvantaged entrepreneurs who are more likely to lack access to traditional business capital, education and network resources.
Opportunities for Women
“Entrepreneurship is the new women’s movement,” Forbes magazine proclaimed in 2012, noting that on a national level, women were leaving the workforce in droves to work at home as job-creating entrepreneurs. In fact, women have been starting businesses at a higher rate than men for the last 20 years. The Kauffman Foundation predicts that women will create more than half of the new small-business jobs expected this year and calls women “the nation’s secret weapon for achieving sustained economic growth.” In the United States, more than half of the 9.72 million new jobs to be created in the small and medium-sized business sector by 2018 will be created by women-owned companies, according to that same U.S. Trust data.2
About a third of all American microbusinesses are owned by women, whether it’s a home-based, part-time business that allows them to supplement other income or a full-time small business poised for growth. Every female microbusiness owner may not become rich, but wages are often double the minimum wage and provide a sense of security and independence during a stagnant economic recovery.
The Future of Women-Owned Businesses
The impact that women business centers have on the women and communities they serve is significant. According to the most recent Association of Women’s Business Center (AWBC) survey, clients served in the past three years have generated more than $3.2 billion in sales revenues and created more than 26,000 jobs at a cost to the federal government of less than $1,500 per job. That’s a significant return on investment.
Wisconsin is rich in resources for women owned businesses, including WWBIC, which is a leading statewide economic development corporation “Putting Dreams to Work” for more than 30 years. WWBIC has offices in the Northeast (Appleton) as well as Madison, Racine, Kenosha and Milwaukee. They provide quality business and financial educational programming – last year serving more than 4,000 individuals and couples that with access to fair and responsible capital – microloans up to $50,000 and small business loans up to $250,000. To learn more about the services available to women entrepreneurs, visit wwbic.com.
Here are some additional resources available for Wisconsin women entrepreneurs:
• Doyenne – doyennegroup.org/
• The state’s Small Business Development Centers and technical colleges are strong “go to” resources for business courses and one-on-one counseling. Find out more at wisconsinsbdc.org/ and https://www.wtcsystem.edu/colleges.
1 Office of Women’s Business Ownership-Dec. 2017.
2 Elizabeth McBride, March 31, 2015, Forbes