STEPS SUCH AS EXPLORING FUNDING OPTIONS AND CREATING A SUPPORT NETWORK CAN HELP PAVE A PATHWAY TO SUCCESS
Today, there are nearly 13 million women-owned businesses, which represents 42% of all U.S. businesses. These businesses employ 9.4 million workers and earn $1.9 trillion in revenue. Over the past five years, the number of women-owned small businesses increased by 21%, while comparatively, all new businesses increased only 9%, according to the American Express 2019 State of Women Owned Small Businesses Report. However, women entrepreneurs in Oregon and Southwest Washington still face many challenges to obtain funding for their enterprises and build a support network to ensure their business succeeds. As they navigate these challenges — as well as ongoing difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic — here are some steps that can help to turn these roadblocks into building blocks for success.
EXPLORING FUNDING OPTIONS
Women-owned small businesses have been more heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, with 71% reporting a loss in revenues or sales, according to a Wells Fargo/Gallup study completed last year.
There are many assistance options to help businesses and non-profits continue your road to recovery. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is a great starting point to learn about available federal resources and programs. Traditional lending products such as 7(a) loans, 504 loans and SBA express loans can provide access to capital, as well as specific relief programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
There are also many free resources and tools to help women business-owners understand other credit and financing options. Additionally, when choosing a lender, consider financial institutions that have demonstrated a commitment and track record of working with minority and women-owned businesses, as well as a lender who may have implemented programs focused on women-owned businesses.
IDENTIFY YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK
Having a support system to lean on is a huge asset for any business owner, but it’s especially important for women. While COVID has created many unique challenges to in-person networking and meeting face-to-face, it’s as important as ever to seek virtual ways to get involved with organizations dedicated to supporting women business owners.
For example, the National Association of Women Business Owners and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council have chapters and regional partners across the country that offer peer-to-peer professional development programs for members. These organizations are dedicated to helping women find the right financial tools to run and grow their businesses successfully.
Another great resource for women business owners is SCORE, which offers online newsletters and webinars in addition to an extensive database of female mentors.
Business owners should also consider the immense value of having an assigned relationship manager at their primary bank. According to a recent Barlow survey, 70% of small business owners who interact with a dedicated Account Officer are very satisfied with their bank compared to those who don’t.
BE YOU AND SET MEASURABLE GOALS
When starting a business and establishing goals, women business owners should consider both their personal and business objectives and see where they align. What’s motivating you to establish your business, and what makes your business unique? One of the most important things women entrepreneurs can do to stand out is to be their authentic selves, while planning and setting measurable goals along the way.
One way to organize your thoughts is to create a written business plan to shape your strategy. It is also important to check out competitive intelligence tools that can help you map your business against competitors and inform your path forward. Your business plan should reflect changes in your business, the industry or the market. With COVID-19 impacts, it is equally important to incorporate the changing needs of customers and economic conditions in order to keep your plan current and respond to the ever-changing environment.
No matter which sources you choose to fund your business, build a network, and establish a plan, remember that knowledge is power. By taking the time to arm yourself appropriately, you can confidently navigate potential roadblocks and pave the path for your business success.
Jess Daly is a senior business banking specialist for Wells Fargo in downtown Portland. She can be reached at Jessica.C.Daly@wellsfargo.com or 503-225-3829.