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Working capital is the fuel that turns women-owned startups, small businesses, and sole proprietorships into standouts. Here are four funding tips for female entrepreneurs.
Overall, women-owned businesses account for nearly one-third of all businesses in the country. Of the nearly 10 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., a disproportionate 89 percent are sole proprietorships with no employees. That compares to all U.S. businesses, of which only 75 percent are non-employer businesses.
The 11 percent of women-owned businesses that have more than one employee provide jobs to more than 8.4 million people and generate $1.4 trillion in annual revenue. These standout women-owned businesses can be found throughout the United States, in industries from management and health care to construction, mining and education. While disparate in geography and industry, they have this in common: Growing from the size of one to a company capable of employing several, dozens, or even hundreds of others takes time and working capital.
Statistically, women-owned businesses have lower revenues than those owned by men and have a greater challenge when it comes to signing on investors and getting startup and growth capital. In “Why Female Founders Are Getting Nowhere with Funding,” Caroline Fairchild proposes that one reason for the disparity might be the simple fact that men and women communicate differently. Given that women entrepreneurs are often presenting to mostly-male investors and decision-makers, and that many women-owned companies’ target markets are women, presentation style alone could be responsible for the failure to win funding in some instances. This point leads to the first of four pieces of advice for women entrepreneurs who need business funding.
1. Tailor Your Approach
Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to acquiring funding, you need to tailor your application and messaging to make it as relevant as possible to the decision makers of the moment, be they investors, traditional lenders, grants, associations, crowd-funders, alternative business loans or some other capital resource. Tell a story about your business that engages this audience, clearly communicates the mission and vision of your business and draws them in, so that they want to play a part in the ultimate success of your business.
2. Get Advice
Many solopreneurs are self-reliant to the point that they overlook the one thing that can give them a leg up when it comes to sourcing funding as well as successfully obtaining it: Expert advice. Reach out to other successful female entrepreneurs who have used outside funding and ask about their experience. You may find they are more than willing to share their advice or even introduce you to organizations and individuals who might be willing to partner with you in a financing role.
3. Explore More Options
Investors and bank loans are often the first resources that come to mind when you need working capital to grow your business; however, every form of financing has pros and cons that might make it right for one situation but inappropriate for others. Don’t be afraid to explore several different options before you zero in on the one or two that are going to suit your needs best.
For example, there are many different organizations that offer grants to women-owned businesses. While the application process for grants can be lengthy, they often come with the advantage of tools that provide working capital that does not need to be repaid. Likewise, bank business loans often have lengthy application and underwriting timelines, while platform lenders have business loans for women entrepreneurs which can be funded almost immediately and are repaid more quickly than bank loans. Taking into account how quickly you need the money and how long of a repayment term you are looking for should be prime considerations as you analyze the pros and cons of various financing resources.
4. Think Like an Entrepreneur
By and large, entrepreneurs are willing to think outside the box; in fact, most entrepreneurial endeavors come from creativity that found a new idea or a new way of doing an old idea. Bring your problem-solving skills to the table when it comes to funding your business. For instance, instead of thinking you need one “big” source of funding, perhaps you can explore several different funding resources to collect the sum total of what you need to grow your company.
Nothing about being a business owner is as easy as it seems from the outside, and getting funding to grow your woman-owned business is no exception. Tailor your approach, think creatively, and tap your network so that you can pursue those financing resources which are best-suited to the financial needs of your company.