Growing Your Woman-Owned Business
Did you know that October is National Women in Business Month? In celebration of women entrepreneurs everywhere, we’ve created two awesome resources:
- First, our Women In Business page, which is dedicated to sharing inspirational stories, resources, advice and more.
- Second, this guide, which covers everything from growth tips to funding options.
We’ve broken this guide into four chapters, so you can read it all at once or bookmark it to read it in pieces and pick up where you left off:
- Growing your woman-owned business
- Funding for women business owners
- Grants for women business owners
- Small business loan tips
Before we dive in, keep in mind a few of the current statistics from the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) that highlight the current demand for business loans for women:
- 6+ million firms are owned by women
- $1.7 trillion in 2017 sales was generated by women-owned businesses
- 51 percent of privately held firms are owned by women
- 4 million firms are owned by women of color
Growing your business
Earn what you deserve
Despite the battles women have fought over the decades to earn equal pay as employees, there’s still often a disparity in what female entrepreneurs charge from their male counterparts. Whatever the reason for this lopsided equation, it’s time to turn the tables on this situation and start earning more money. Here’s how you can earn your worth and boost your business as a result.
1. Check out the competition.
You can’t charge what you are worth until you know what others are charging. Poke around and see what your competitors are pricing their goods at. Consider whether your own products are similar in quality or go beyond what others offer. In that case, you’ll want to charge more than they do.
2. Consider the value of your time.
If you consult or offer services, there’s no easy formula to calculate profit margin the way there is with products. So, you must determine what an hour of your time is worth. If you charge hourly, just quote potential clients this rate. If you charge by the project, then assess how long a given project typically takes you to find your flat rate. Again, see what others charge and use this data in your decision-making.
3. Bid high with the expectation of negotiation.
Not every client will negotiate, but you’ll always have those who will. And you don’t want to start lowering your prices when they’re already low. That’s where that slightly-uncomfortable number comes in handy. If someone’s prepared to pay that rate outright, bonus. Otherwise, you have a little wiggle room for negotiating without cutting your prices lower than you can afford to.
Also, if sales and promotions are part of your marketing strategy, it’s easy to discount your new higher prices than to slash what’s probably already too low.
4. Be confident.
If you waver when you quote a price, your potential clients will smell blood in the water. Practice in the mirror if it helps. But you should look your client in the eye if you’re face-to-face, and boldly announce the price. You’ve got this. Be brazen and ask for what you deserve. You just might get it.
5. Ward off the wrong clients.
When you try to be the lowest price in town, you make a lot of work for yourself, but not much profit. In all honesty, do you really want the kind of client who bargain-basement-shops for your kind of services? Probably not.
As you raise your rates appropriately, you may lose clientele. Don’t let that scare you off; you don’t want to work with people who won’t pay the appropriate price for quality work. But you will start to attract better clients who are willing to pay more for what you do. You’ll have fewer clients, less work and more money. A winning formula.
6. Handling existing clients.
You can implement your new higher prices with the next potential client that comes your way. But what about existing clients? Is it fair to suddenly charge them more? You’ll have to find your own answer.
For current clients, perhaps grandfather them into your old prices, but raise rates slightly for new services. Or, if you have a good, solid relationship with clients, let them know you’re raising your rates, offering them a decent price, even though it’s a little higher than what they’d been paying.
However, if you think a great client will balk at paying more, don’t raise prices if their business is something you value.
Help one another
As women-owned businesses continue to look for ways to grow their businesses, here are six ways women entrepreneurs can help each other:
1. Collaborative efforts
A great way to support each other is to collaborate and create strategic partnerships. Developing mutually beneficial partnerships will open up doors of opportunity and provide new revenue streams. Getting to know other women entrepreneurs will give you the opportunity to share your business goals. You may uncover that your perfect client has been in a fellow business owner’s database all along.
Be a role model. Women can help each other develop and grow their companies through mentorship. If you are someone who likes to help and inspire others, then become a mentor. A good mentor is someone who shares their experiences while encouraging others to find new opportunities.
In women-owned businesses, role models are very important for support and growth. Many women struggle to find a balance in their personal and professional lives. A great mentorship relationship is one that develops over time. When you take the time to mentor a fellow entrepreneur, you will find that it can be very rewarding.
3. Share tech knowledge
Technology has reinvented how business is conducted. If you know of an app, website, or program that has helped your business become more efficient, share it.
4. Help overcome the funding gap
A key reason why women-owned businesses are being held back is because they remain underfunded. Without proper capital, women-owned businesses will not be able to start, grow, and subsist. Be an advocate for creating an equal competitive field for women business owners by using your expertise and influence to help other business owners. Share your experience about the funding process and let other women know about workshops or training sessions that can help.
5. Network and nurture business relationships
Women are natural nurturers. As women, we can use this to our advantage by developing and nurturing business relationships. Networking and relationship building has to be part of your marketing plan. A great way women can help each other and develop relationships is through organizations for women business owners:
- NAWBO, with over 10 million members and 70 chapters across the country. Find a chapter in your area to learn about all aspects of business ownership.
- Check with your local Chamber of Commerce to see if they host a women’s networking group. If they don’t, then start one.
- Use LinkedIn to reach and connect with other women entrepreneurs.
- Develop awesome relationships with other business owners by attending local events in your area.
6. Share your story
Whether you started your business because you wanted to leave corporate America, or you wanted to change the world, everyone has a story. Share the reasons why you became an entrepreneur. Check out the Female Entrepreneur Association’s “How She Did It”, where you can read stories about female entrepreneurs from around the world and become inspired to succeed. In your quest to help others, you can also share your story there as well.
Are you a female entrepreneur who is looking specifically for business loans for women? If so, you’re in good company. There has never been more women starting businesses, and loans are often fueling their success.
Not surprisingly, many female business owners are well aware of the challenges of obtaining financing and are choosing to rely less on outside capital than men. Because of the difficulties of obtaining business loans for women, female-operated businesses often have less working capital and tighter budgets to purchase the things they need.
Women are also more likely to seek out non-traditional forms of lending such as peer-to-peer financing, government or non-profit assistance or alternative small business loan for women providers such as online lenders.
Business Loans for Women: Where to Start
If you’re considering applying for business loans for women, a good place to start is the Office of Women’s Business Ownership with the United States Small Business Administration (SBA). They oversee a network of Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) across the United States and provide training and counseling for women, particularly those who are economically or socially disadvantaged. They also provide assistance in applying for SBA backed loans.
While the SBA doesn’t offer any specific loan programs for women, it’s one of the largest loan guarantors in the United States. This gives women-owned businesses the opportunity to apply with certified commercial lenders for loans backed by the government. And, many of these certified lenders do have special programs designed to help women-owned businesses.
SBA LOANS FOR WOMEN BUSINESS OWNERS
The SBA’s Microloan Program provides loans up to $50,000 to help small businesses and some non-profit childcare centers. The average SBA microloan is $13,000, and intermediary lenders have their own lending and credit requirements.
- General Small Business Loans
The SBA offers the 7(a) Loan Program to help businesses in the acquisition, operations, or expansion of an existing business. These are typically larger loans than those issued through the Microloan Program. The average 7(a) loan in 2012 was $337,730, and the maximum loan amount is $5 million.
- 8(a) Business Development Program
The SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program is not a loan program, but rather a resource for minority and women-owned businesses to grow through one-to-one counseling, training workshops, and management & technical guidance. This program is also beneficial to women and minorities because it provides access to a variety of government contracting opportunities to enable them to compete in the federal marketplace.
Women business owners who are interested in any loan program or the 8(a) program should contact their local SBA district office. As well, the SBA’s website offers a wealth of resources for women business owners through their online learning center. There are online training courses, informational videos, chat sessions and many tools that can help assist you in growing your business.
ADDITIONAL FUNDING RESOURCES FOR WOMEN BUSINESS OWNERS
- Traditional lending
Every business owner can try for traditional bank lending, and this includes female entrepreneurs. However, when you look at small business lending by the numbers, you’ll find that it’s much more difficult for small business owners to obtain traditional loans. In fact, businesses are less likely to get a business loan if they need less than $250,000, they have been in business for fewer than two years, and they have a credit score of less than 640.
In addition, female small business owners face their own unique challenges. Between mid-2015 and mid-2015, only 47 percent of women entrepreneurs were approved for a traditional loan (compared to 61 percent of male entrepreneurs). The potential discrimination that many women face may also unfairly cause lenders to misjudge perceived risk for female business owners.
- Peer-to-peer loans
Individual investors join forces to lend money to small business owners through online platforms such as those offered by sites like Prosper.com and Lending Club. Approval and funding times vary for peer-to-peer loans depending on how long it takes to get investors for your business.
- Asset-based lending
This form of financing is also referred to as factoring is based on a business selling invoices, receivables, purchase orders, or contracts. Asset-based lending is most commonly used by business-to-business companies that have cash flow issues. The cost can be high for asset-based lending with annual interest rates typically ranging from 7 to 17 percent.
- Alternative business loans
Small businesses that don’t meet traditional bank requirements can still obtain funds through non-bank entities that specialize in offering ready cash for working capital. When women are unable to obtain funding through traditional lenders or need to fill gaps in funding from other sources, alternative lending is often the best option.
A small business line of credit or business loan from an alternative lender can be used by women business owners to fund start-up and growth costs such as investing in equipment, hiring more employees and developing marketing resources. The flexible funding options make it easy for women business owners to get and manage their business funds online.
- Loans from friends and family
Of course, many female entrepreneurs simply turn to their loved ones for acquiring the cash they need to start a business or to enable it to grow. This is, in fact, one of the most common sources of financing for small business owners. And, there are definite perks to going this route including typically lower interest rates, more flexible payment terms, and no approval process. However, there are often strings attached to loans given by those you care about. To minimize any chance of problems down the road, it’s always a good idea to write and sign a detailed loan agreement with the terms clearly spelled out.
- Venture capital
Venture capital is another useful alternative funding source for female entrepreneurs. This option allows women to trade equity for financing. One major downside to venture capital is that many venture capital funds are still dominated by men who are often less willing to invest in female entrepreneurs.
Female venture capitalists are more likely to invest in women-owned businesses. However, in 2017, female founders only got 2 percent of venture capital dollars (while male founders received 79 percent). The good news is that the number of female venture capitalists and angel investors is growing, and as this number continues to increase so will opportunities for female entrepreneurs.
Keep a Close Eye Out for Scams
Unfortunately, not everyone in the loan business is honest, and there are certainly predatory lenders out there that would love to make a quick buck off an unsuspecting business owner looking for business loans for women. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Do ask questions, and make sure you get answers. A few resources for helping you determine if a loan provider is legitimate or if it’s one you should stay clear of:
- The Federal Trade Commission is the complaint department for the federal government. You can file a complaint if you’ve been taken by a loan scam or if you suspect a scam. And, you can get some very helpful tips on their website for how to spot a scam.
- The National Fraud Information Center is a division of the National Consumers League. It provides a daily Internet Fraud Report that gives up-to-the-minute information about online scams including those that involve financing for businesses.
- ScamBusters is a site that closely monitors scams worldwide.
Without a doubt, it can be tremendously exciting and even a little scary to launch a new business. Full of hope and promise for the future, it makes good common sense to carefully weigh your options before deciding upon a business loan for women or any other type of financing. With the right type of funding and a good game plan for how the cash will be utilized, you can position yourself for entrepreneurial success.
Grants for women business owners
If you’re seeking funding, look for women-centric grants and loan programs before you start knocking on investors’ doors. These are open to women only, so right away you reduce the pool of people you’re competing against for funds.
1. WomensNet Amber Grant
Each month, WomensNet awards a female entrepreneur a grant of $10,000, and at the end of the year, one of the 12 winners will be awarded an additional $25,000 grant through the Amber Grant. There are no stringent guidelines, other than that applicants be female and need the money to put toward developing their business idea. There is a $15 application fee, and applications are accepted each month.
2. State-Specific Programs
It’s worth a little investigation to find out if your state offers any financial assistance for women-owned businesses. New York State, for example, offers a Minority and Women-Owned Business Investment Fund, a $2 million equity investment fund that supports innovation, job creation and high-growth entrepreneurship in the state.
3. 37 Angels
Angel investors are a tough nut to crack for any business owner, and women are definitely in the minority when it comes to being recipients of these funds. 37 Angels aims to turn the tables on these statistics. Made up of more than 50 female angel investors, the investment company has a streamlined process for applicants and lets them know whether they are eligible for funding within four weeks. Those that do get funding can expect between $50 and $150,000.
4. National Women Business Owners Corporation
If you’re interested in becoming certified as a woman-owned business, consider doing so through the National Women Business Owners Corporation. As a woman-owned business, you will get access to government contracting opportunities and get your business in front of more potential customers.
5. S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce
If you’re itching to make a difference in the landscape and politics of women-driven businesses, consider joining the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce. You’ll meet other advocates for female entrepreneurship, have a say in policies and legislation and build your network.
Small Business Loan Tips
1. Find out your options.
Take the time to research all of your loan options. Compare interest rates, application requirements, processing time and loan terms. Not all loans are created equal, so it can really pay to find the right one.
2. Start building business credit.
Even if your personal credit scores are good, it can be very challenging to obtain business loans for women. Establishing good credit for your business before you apply for a loan is a smart idea. This can be done by paying vendors on time and applying for a business credit card and making payments on time.
3. Look better on paper.
Many small business owners, both male and female, make the error of not depositing cash into their business bank accounts before paying themselves or their vendors. This can be a big mistake. Making those deposits is your proof of cash flow if you want to obtain a business loan. Also paying vendors on time and filing taxes before the deadline can help too.
4. Focus on your business plan.
A business plan isn’t just busy work required by the bank or the SBA – and it shouldn’t be tucked into a drawer once you’re done writing it. It should stick with you as a dynamic blueprint for the future growth of your business. By keeping current with your financial projections, marketing strategies and development efforts, you will always have the backup to show potential lenders and investors what you’re doing now and where you’re headed in the future.
Starting and running a business is difficult, even when you’ve got help. But having the right financial, leadership and small business advice resources can make the difference between you treading water and actually propelling your business forward.