According to the Small Business Association (SBA), women-owned businesses generate more than $1.2 trillion annually and employ about 7.5 million people. While the gap between female-owned and male-owned businesses continues to narrow, many women still don’t know about all the resources available to help them launch and grow a successful business.
The following list of agencies, organizations and service providers specifically focus on helping women position themselves to succeed in a competitive marketplace.
Resources for Business Advisers
Woman face hurdles in the business world that their male counterparts don’t typically encounter. These societal stereotypes makes it critically important for women to choose their partnerships wisely.
Women’s Business Centers (WBC) across the United States are funded in part by cooperative agreements with the SBA and the U.S. Department of Commerce to provide women with valuable resources such as workshops, training, or advice. While services vary by region, here are few of WBC’s standard offerings.
- Online, self-paced educational opportunities.
- Face-to-face counseling sessions on financing, business planning, growth strategies, and more.
- Women’s Business Certification programs.
- Access to mentors and other women who have experience running their own enterprises.
- Workshops and training on topics such as working with government agencies, applying for SBA loans, and creating a business plan.
- Conferences and conventions that allow you to connect with other female entrepreneurs in your field.
Check with your local and state economic development agencies for information on a center near you.
Resources for Mentors and Community
When you build a website and get ready to launch your new business, naturally you want to learn everything you can about social media and optimizing your site for mobile viewing. But unless you’re Oprah Winfrey, it is almost impossible for you to imagine everything you’ll need to do if you’ve never owned a business before. The National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) is a resource that provides success stories from other women entrepreneurs, as well as discounted services and equipment.
Another way to expand your circle is by attaching yourself to trade professionals.
Joining associations and clubs where you can interact with like-minded business leaders is an excellent opportunity to expand your circle of influence and connect with social media influencers. The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) is a great place to start for this kind of information. There are a number of blogs on the Internet today to inspire you with stories about women who turned their passion in a thriving business. Working Mother is an organization that aims to “mentor, role model, and advocate for the country’s more than 17 million moms who are devoted to their families and committed to their careers.”
Resources for Business Financing
Finding startup funding is often the hardest part for female business owners; most women use personal savings to start their businesses. Finding a venture capitalist who supports women entrepreneurs isn’t always easy, but there are female-friendly VC firms out there. Check out this list of 10 women-led venture capital firms.
You can also access financial counseling and advice for startups from SCORE. SCORE’s mission is “to offer workshops on popular topics such as increasing sales, managing your cash flow, and marketing your business.” Though this organization is not specifically for women but startups in general, they do provide in-depth mentoring and a full range of tools and resources to help you succeed as a female business owner.
If you need a loan but don’t have a clue where to start, consider WomenVenture.org. The organization is an approved SBA loan provider authorized to lend to qualified borrowers up to $50,000 to launch or expand a small business. The financial consultants walk you through each step of the application process, including a thorough discussion about your “readiness” for a loan, which can improve approval rates. You can even apply online. And of course, the always-helpful SBA has its own page of resources to help women launch, grow, and finance their businesses. Links include information on which licenses and permits are required to start a company, how to estimate startup costs, how to market your business, and where to find a mentor.
There are literally hundreds of free and low-cost services for women preparing to launch a new venture. The resources above are excellent places to start. Keep in mind that bringing professionals onboard is not a sign of weakness; asking for advice from people with experience and training is actually a sign of strength. While others can guide you toward financing your startup, business marketing, and where to find female mentors, Bluehost can help ensure that your customers have uninterrupted access to your brand 24/7. Contact Bluehost to discuss our web hosting services.