The Entrepreneurial Landscape for Women Looks Different
Currently in the US, the pandemic created a boom of new entrepreneurs. Of these new businesses being created, many have women at the helm. The entrepreneurial landscape for women looks different than it used to. Currently, somewhere around 39% of all business in the US are run by women and we’re holding our own with regard to the amount of revenue that women run companies add to the economy – 39%. The fact that we’re now contributing an equal percentage of revenue to the percentage of women run businesses is so great. No longer can we be brushed aside and not taken seriously. The numbers speak for themselves.
The one place we’re a little behind is in how many employees we hire. Although we run almost 40% of all total businesses, less than 20% of our businesses have employees. Of those that do, the average is 8 employees per company. Male run companies average 11 employees per.
Regardless, the point is, growth is occurring at a steady pace- especially for minority women and it’s an exciting landscape to be a part of.
Starting a business is one thing but studies have shown us what’s missing that is keeping women from transitioning from founders to CEO’s of mature businesses.
The first known issue is that women traditionally lack guidance as to how to build a good business.
- They don’t innately know how to analyze and assess their competition
- They don’t know how to ensure they are setting prices to ensure they have adequate profit margin and cash flow
- They aren’t able to develop the strategy and infrastructure to scale their business.
The second known issue is that these women lack access to capital. Women owned businesses get just 2% of the traditional capital dispersed by investors.
Access to capital is a more broad problem than people usually think it is. While it can include what may have come to your mind first: finding connecting with venture capitalists, angel investors or attracting partners; it also can be about finding loans, improving cash flow, funding a specific capital investment and debt management. It can also be as simple as improving your business financial knowledge to know how to properly leverage what you do have and learn how and where it is most appropriate to take risks.
The trick to overcome these problems is by being confident in your abilities to do so. With confidence you can stand firm in executing your strategies, making difficult choices, managing your employees, negotiating with vendors. Sometimes we think that you need humility to ask questions but in my experience working with women founders, that just isn’t the case. You need confidence to be bold enough to ask the question in the first place.
You need to have access to people who want to help you fill in the gaps in your own knowledge without anything to gain for themselves. You need people invested in your success who create a safe enough place for you to ask questions you don’t already know the answer to. Especially when it comes to overall business financial strategy, one size does not fit all. 80% of all companies don’t ever get (or may not ever need) external funding at all. Having a mentor or accelerator that serves as a pipeline from start up to VC’s might work very well for some founders but it’s certainly the wrong path for others. Don’t ever let someone convince you that you need external investment to be successful. Remaining confident is key to telling people you respect that you appreciate and have taken their advice under consideration but will be choosing a different path for your business.
It should be noted this is a cyclical process. Just because you’re confident in your abilities to lead today, doesn’t mean that that confidence can withstand the drama that comes with running a business forever. We all need a cheerleader and a devils advocates to keep us at our best.
You can not live in the shadows of your own company and be successful. Reinforcing yourself as a confident leader is not a one time process. It requires repetition, reassurance, work and support to stay there. Having a group of women like LP2X who are invested in your success helps tremendously. Launchpad2X accelerates the path from founder to CEO by giving women the knowledge they need to feel comfortable sitting at the table, even if they have to assert themselves to get a seat.
Personally, I’ve actively owned, co-owned, built or run businesses and non profits for over 20 years. Some of them were winners, some less so but all of them have provided me with incredibly valuable lessons and experience.
I was invited to be part of Launchpad2X 2013 cohort. What I expected was a sort of business schematic bootcamp experience for women founders. What I got was a crash course in what I didn’t know I didn’t know.
Before then, I had businesses and had worked in the corporate world but had a very “college course” approach to how things worked. I lived in a place of tradition and “should”. Launchpad’s programming gave me a look “behind the curtain” to see how one dimensional and small my thinking was.
In the 8 years that I’ve been involved with Launchpad2x (both as an alumni and now as a board member), I’ve been a beneficiary of their knowledge and network. They’ve been a stabilizing force, grounding me back to my mission and goals.
We need organizations like this in our city and everywhere else. The results are clear, this program works to help push women’s past the meek sounding “I just run a small business” and into “I am an enterprise CEO” while helping them gain the tools they need to make that progress a reality.
Regardless of the stage your business is in, let people help you. You are not expected to have all the answers, you are expected to lead- and those are not the same thing. Launchpad provides insight and tool that help you wade though a sea of ego, self serving advice and tradition for the sake of tradition common in the business world. Their non watered down advice and information is a culmination of experience from some extraordinary women at the top of their game.
I’ve been on this amazing journey and now I get to help others on theirs using the tools, knowledge and experience that being a part of this organization has provided for me. I’m proud to be able to mentor new companies coming into the program, be part of their finance committee to develop grant programs for CEO’s that may not have access to funding, and to help the organization grow nationally. Launchpad knows what it means to be mission driven and lucky for all of us women founders in the room, their mission is to make us all more successful.