Numbers show that more women in the United States are choosing the path of entrepreneurship. According to American Express’s “State of Women-Owned Businesses Report,” there were 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. in 2014, which employed almost 8 million people and generated $1.4 trillion in revenues. Since 1997, the number of women-owned firms in the country has increased by 68 percent.
It’s clear that women-led businesses are making a big difference in the economy, but to continue to grow, female entrepreneurs need resources for coaching, networking, and business funding. Here are nine essential resources for women-owned small businesses.
Mentorship, Networking, and Educational Resources
1. SBA Women’s Development Centers
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has Women’s Development Centers throughout the country. These centers provide free or low-cost classes on everything from legal Q&As for startups, to business financing basics, to how to use your accounting software. They also provide networking opportunities to fellow women business owners.
2. SBA Federal Contract Program for Women
The SBA’s Federal Contract Program authorizes federal contractors to set aside certain bids for women-owned businesses. To be eligible, your business must be at least 51 percent women-owned, and you must be a U.S. citizen. You can register online to qualify for bidding.
SCORE is a nationwide non-profit agency that matches business owners with mentors who can help solve business problems. These guides can help you achieve your business goals through various tools, such as step-by-step webinars that teach entrepreneurs how to develop business plans.
4. Women’s Industry Associations
Joining an industry association can help you make valuable contacts in your field and get practical advice on running your business. Many industry sectors have national and regional associations that cater to women. Examples include the National Association of Women in Real Estate Businesses, National Association of Women in Construction, and the Women’s Foodservice Forum.
5. Fit Small Business
Fit Small Business is a leading educational and review site for small business owners at all stages of business ownership. Just starting a business and want to know your financing options? Looking for marketing tips? Need help choosing the best phone system or printer for your new business? Fit Small Business has in-depth how-to articles on a wide range of topics, as well as business product and service reviews to help you manage your business more effectively.
1. Women Business Grants
There are several business grants available to women-owned businesses. It takes time and persistence to apply for grants, but the payoff can be big. Some examples of grants to apply for include Chase Mission Main Street Grant (offers $150K), Huggies Mom Inspired Grants (offers $15K), and Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Businesses Grant Program. Most of these grants accept applications in the first half of the year.
If you head up a high-growth early stage business, consider applying for venture capital from Astia. Astia has a network of more than 5,000 industry experts, entrepreneurs, investors, and leaders who are committed to helping female-led businesses get seed funding.
3. Springboard Enterprises
Springboard Enterprises is not a venture capital firm, but it has a network of investors, influencers, and innovators to help women raise equity capital. Since 1999, the company has facilitated $6.8 billion in capital. Applications to join the program are based on category. For example, Springboard is currently accepting applications from fashion and health businesses.
4. Women’s Venture Fund
For some businesses, it may be easier to get a loan than a grant. Organizations like the Women’s Venture Fund provides loans to women-owned businesses based on sales, number of clients, contracts, and the availability of other resources. Currently, this organization supports businesses based in New York, but there are similar organizations available throughout the country.
The above resources are a great starting point, but there are countless other opportunities and assistance for women-owned businesses. Reach out to your existing network and to organizations near you to find more resources for your business needs.
Priyanka Prakash is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.