Financing For Female Entrepreneurs
Women as caregivers, college graduates, minimum wage workers, and business owners are dominating society today – a major shift from a majority of American families having a male breadwinner and a woman homemaker not too long ago. Today, only one if five families still has this dynamic. More women are earning college degrees than men today, which theoretically should be helping with the harsh realities of the gender pay gap. Many women today are struggling to prevail in the workforce of a society that still has deep rooted systems that offer more advantages to the working man than the working woman, especially when children are involved. Luckily, nearly two-thirds of Americans (both men and women) and 85 percent of Millennials believe that the government and businesses need to adapt to the reality of women in the workforce. Times are changing, and many women in business today are making huge leaps towards success. The reality of women owned businesses are becoming the new norm in society, however to fully understand the impact of women owned businesses on the economy and society as a whole, addressing the issues of the gender pay gap and women as the bulk of the minimum wage workforce are essential.
Realities of the Gender Gap
Many American’s are aware of the big number being thrown around today – the “80 percent”. Women working full time in the United States today are still being paid 80 percent of what the average man working the same job is paid; but this number does not reflect the pay gap for every woman in America today. For white women, the average pay is 77 cents for every dollar the average white man earns; for African American women, the average pay is 64 cents; for Latina women, the average pay is only 55 cents compared to white men. These statistics are quite shocking in this day and age, especially when The Shriver Report’s have shown that closing the wage gap between men and women would cut the poverty rate in half for working women and their families. This would then add nearly half a trillion dollars to the national economy.
Surprisingly, many American’s today, both men and women, still do not believe that a gender pay gap even exists. Other studies have shown that women and men in the same job have the potential to make the same amount, but women willingly chose to go into lower paying jobs such as health care and teaching; or other reasons such as women taking breaks in their careers to have children or choosing a career that offers more flexibility. What these studies do not include however, is the major societal pressures put on women to go into “traditional women jobs”, the lack of flexibility and support in the workplace for women to also be mothers, and the overwhelming statistic of two out of three American families having to depend on a mother who is balancing being the primary caregiver and primary breadwinner, if not the sole caregiver and breadwinner.
So what does the gender pay gap truly mean for women in the workplace and women owned businesses today?
Women in the Workplace
The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink and The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything are the first reports of its kind, documenting the realities of women in the workforce today, women as the primary or sole providers for their children, and the societal and economic impacts this is having on society today. Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress have shown that one in three women in America today are living on the brink of poverty – this means 42 million women and their 28 million dependents are barely staying afloat. This has also led to women comprising nearly two-thirds of the minimum wage workforce today. Many women are struggling with the lack of support from minimum wage employers and the government to help provide sick days (70 percent get no paid sick days at all), access to affordable child care, and the lack of equal pay for equal work (even with college degrees in high paying jobs). Some women have seen increased wages in large cities for the first time in history, allowing them to make more than their male counterparts. This is a great stepping stone for women everywhere, but as there always is historically for women, this stepping stone comes with a caveat – this equal pay is only seen with unmarried, childless women under thirty. Unmarried, childless women under thirty is an incredibly small percentage of the women workforce today.
Old fashioned ways of thinking still dominate the workforce today, resulting in many hard-working women struggling to balance their family and career; but there is plenty that can be done, and many men and women today are working together to change these old-school workplace norms to reflect the new, real dynamic of the working woman today. Over 80 percent of men and women agree businesses will lose good workers by failing to adopt to the needs of modern families. This has also led to an overwhelming amount of women today taking matters into their own hands, fueling the growing trend of women owned businesses in America.
Women Owned Businesses
2015 was a major turning point, and milestone, for women owned businesses – 10 million women-owned businesses were formed, leading to 1,200 new businesses being launched by women per day. According to the National Women’s Business Council, this is a tipping point in our society that calls for celebration, but unfortunately, is also a call to action in order to keep women owned businesses alive and thriving. The achievements women have made in the innovative and entrepreneurial areas is mind blowing, but women still lack fair access to crucial business sustaining assets – capital, markets, investment opportunities, and much more. Fortunately, many organizations, city and state governments, lenders, investors, and academic institutions are working to give women owned businesses the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
Women today are launching businesses that create value, solve problems, innovate and produce products and services to fill market gaps, and are becoming keenly aware and responsive to market demands – particularly catering to women consumers that are now making a majority of household spending decisions. Not only are women owned businesses shifting societal norms, but they are also greatly impacting the economy on many levels. Local economic ecosystems are flourishing thanks to women owned businesses; federal, corporate, and international marketplaces are opening up to women owned businesses; and women owned businesses are working hard to help support and fund other companies with women founders and leaders. Women today are proving time and time again that they can be successful business women, run profitable businesses, raise their families, be savvy investors, and be incredible entrepreneurs – women are pushing every societal boundary today.
Women owned businesses are still seeing exponential growth, however there are still many unique issues that women owned businesses are still battling. Women owned businesses are consistently forming businesses that contribute to what is being called the “1099 economy” (referencing the 1099 tax form), otherwise called the solo entrepreneur movement. Let’s put this into context: 30 percent of all new businesses are women owned, with 90 percent of those women owned businesses having no other employees than themselves, and 2 percent of women owned businesses having 10 or more employees. These statistical discrepancies show that more needs to be done to support women in building their profitable businesses, allowing them to create more jobs and grow our economy. As mentioned above, many women in business today lack the necessary resources that are readily available to other businesses, resulting in the inability to grow these important businesses.
Many organizations, such as the Small Business Administration, are working hard to allow women access to business growing strategies, support, and financial advice. The SBA has provided many Women Owned Business resources, access to information on The Office of Women’s Business Ownership, and information on other organizations that are helping women grow their businesses.
What We Can Do
There are a variety of organizations, such as the National Women’s Business Council, working hard to empower women, men, and their families, while promoting change in the workplace. There are even steps that everybody can be taking today to help fuel this change and promote awareness to the real dynamics of the American family today, as well as resources to help women owned businesses. We can all take a lesson from Maria Shriver’s motto of everybody being “An Architect of Change”, which she defines as “people who see a problem in their own life or the community around them, then step out of their comfort zone and do what it takes to create the solution”.
Financing a Woman-Owned Business
- Innovation: Innovation is key in any successful business venture today, and many women owned businesses are starting to innovate in market areas that are targeting demographics that have rarely been catered to; we’ve all seen the eco-friendly mommy bloggers, products, and businesses being created today. Innovation is the number one driver for all startups and well-established, especially with the evolution of technology in our society. Innovative ideas, products, and services will vary from business to business, however if a women owned business has a great idea and needs specific funding to help make the idea a reality, there may be financing options to help with this.
- Technology: Technological revolutions are occurring in every single industry, and many business owners are struggling to adopt the new technological advances directed towards their industry. Often times, business owners are overwhelmed with the amount of technology systems that can be implemented in a business, but any women in business that is slow to adopt these vital systems will be impacted negatively. Technology platforms and software’s for every single industry are constantly evolving, and there are many different loan options to help with this necessary and vital transition.
- Marketing and Social Media: Marketing has always been a savvy way for women in business to market their business, services, and products. In the past, marketing revolved around newspaper ads, flyers, and so forth, later transitioning to television and internet ads, and then to mass email marketing and pay for click campaigns on social media sites. With the ever growing technological advances however, women in business must transition into developing social media marketing campaigns with strong content marketing. This is a very difficult transition for established businesses that are used to old school ways of marketing, but by taking advantage of all that content marketing and social media has to offer, particularly by engaging effectively with younger generations, many women in business will see increased profits.
- Working Capital: Every business owner, men and women alike in every industry, will experience difficult times, especially if the business is relatively new. Sometimes these unavoidable working capital costs can put financial constraints on a woman’s business, which is why there are a variety of loan options to help during these difficult times, thus helping any business owner stay afloat until profits start rolling back in.
- Payroll: Payroll is an unavoidable expense; as mentioned above, there are not a ton of women owned businesses that employ people, however there are still employees under some women owned businesses. If a business owner is struggling with working capital costs or other miscellaneous fees, sometimes holding off on payroll seems appealing – but this is a terrible decision for any business owner. Holding off on payroll costs will lead to upset employees, which can then led to either employees quitting or becoming disengaged. Especially in the retail or customer service sector, this can be a huge hit to a business. Consistently paying employees, no matter the circumstance, is vital in any women owned business. Considering the variety of payroll options can help during these difficult times.
- Hiring New Employees: The goal of many organizations today is to help women owned businesses grow, allowing many women owned businesses to consider hiring new employees (or possible even the first one!). Surprisingly, finding a good employee can be incredibly time consuming and expensive, but it is a necessary business move for expanding businesses, which is why there are plenty of funding options to help this important venture.
- Purchasing/Renting Office Space: Many women owned businesses today are sole proprietorships that often involve telecommuting, however if a business owner is seeing rapid expansion, it may be time to consider looking into an office space. This is often an exciting venture for many small business owners, but the overwhelming prices in ideal areas can be frustrating and intimidating. Women business owners should always remember that there are financing possibilities to help expand their business.
- Expansion and Renovations: If a woman owned business is established and has good cash flow, then considering the idea of expanding or opening a new storefront location is always exciting. Similar to purchasing or renting a new office space, expansion and renovations come with a whole host of confusion and issues, but luckily there are plenty of different financing options to help make this dream a reality.
- Equipment: Depending on the industry that a woman owned business is in, there may be a need to purchase new equipment (if the business is new), or the need to replace old, outdated equipment. Lacking the necessary equipment to allow the business to work at optimal rates can be discouraging, especially when many pieces of equipment can be incredibly expensive up front. Reviewing the options for equipment financing may help solve this problem.
Loans & Debt Financing For Women-Owned Businesses
There are so many different financing options available to business owners today; there are no specific loans just for women businesses, but there are still the typical loans that are available to every type of business. For years, women have been discouraged about obtaining traditional financing, whether they believe they will be discriminated against or are simply afraid to rely on these options. However, many organizations, as mentioned above, are endlessly working to make it easier for women owned businesses to obtain these conventional financing options, and the reports listed above have shown that lenders everywhere are seeing the significant impact of women owned businesses on the economy and society. However, this does not deter from the fact that women owned businesses only receive 4.4 percent of total small business loan dollars. This is why we have complied a list of all the various loans, grants, crowdfunding, and other alternative financing options as a resource for all women owned businesses looking for financial help.
|Bank||6-10%||3-7 years||14-30 days|
|SBA||6-10%||3-7 years||10-30 days|
|Line of Credit||5-15%||1 – 3 years||7-30 days|
|Alternative||6-25%||1-5 years||5-7 days|
|Cash Advance||1.16-1.55||3-24 months||1-3 days|
Best rates and terms of all forms of debt financing.
- Rates: 5-10%
- Terms: 1-25 years
Government-backed business loans provided by traditional lenders, including big and small banks, community banks, credit unions and non-profit lenders.
- Rates: 6-8%
- Terms: 7-25 years
Alternative Travel Agency Loans
Alternative loans usually backed by investor dollars and FinTech company financing.
- Rates: 9-25%
- Terms: 1-5 years
Travel Agency Cash Advance
Sale of future deposits into your bank account or through credit card processing in exchange for upfront cash.
- Factor Rates: 1.16-1.50%
- Terms: 4 months – 2 years
Grants For Women-Owned Businesses
By no means are grants easy to come by or easy to obtain. We have complied a list of some of the best resources and grant options available to women business owners everywhere. Understanding the complexities of grants, as well as having the time to complete the tedious process of most grants, can be overwhelming for many small business owners – but if a women owned business has the ability to put the time and effort into a grant, it will be incredibly beneficial to growing a business!
- Grants.gov: This is a great database resource that allows women owned businesses to search for all possible federally sponsored grants. This website has a variety of small business related grants, however make sure to filter the results on the left side of the page to avoid all of the non-related grants.
- InnovateHER Challenge: The InnovateHER Challenge is hosted every year by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Any women owned business that offers a product or service that has an impact on the lives of women and their families may be eligible to participate in this challenge. To participate, the business must enter and win at a local challenge, then the winner can move onto the national semifinal round.
- Small Business Innovation Research: The Small Business Administration works with SBIR to provide a competitive program opportunity that will allow a small business that qualifies to explore their technological potential through their awards-based program.
- Small Business Technology Transfer Programs: STTR is another program that works with the Small Business Administration. In this program, small business owners could possibly expand funding opportunities in the federal innovation research and development sector. There are a variety of federal grant opportunities on their website.
- Women’s Business Centers: The SBA sponsors many Women’s Business Centers across the country. By visiting this page, there are a variety of resources to help find funding on a state by state basis, as well as valuable resources to help women owned businesses find the right funding choice for their business needs.
- Economic Development Agencies: There are a variety of Economic Development Agencies throughout the country that help small business owners start and/or grow their business while offering a multitude of information on alternative financial assistance. This is a great resource to start with even if the specific agency does not offer grants.
- Small Business Development Centers: This is another great resource that the SBA helps fund. Through the Small Business Development Centers, women business owners can find assistance with running a business, financial packaging, lending assistance, and even grant recommendations. Most of these centers are hosted by universities and state economic development agencies.
- Amber Grant: The Amber Grant began in 1998 in an effort to help women achieve their entrepreneurial dreams. Each month, $500 is rewarded to a different women owned business, and at the end of the year, one of the 12 winners will be awarded an additional $1,000. The other benefit of this grant is the relatively easy application process: explain your business, what you would do with the grant money, and pay the application fee!
- Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant: Eileen Fisher, a sustainable and environmentally friendly clothing retailer, supports women owned companies everywhere. With the Elieen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant, businesses that are past the start-up phase, are ready to expand their business, and promote social and environmental change may be eligible for this $120,000 grant. The requirements are listed on the website, and this grant is awarded to 10 recipients a year.
- FedEx Small Business Grant: This is not a women specific business grant, but rather a grant for all small business owners. FedEx awards up to $25,000 to 10 small businesses a year. Like any grant, there are a variety of steps and requirements that need to be taken in order to apply and qualify, but it is always worth a shot to expand a women owned business!
- Mission Main Street Grants: This is a grant program backed by Chase Bank that awards $2 million annually to 20 small businesses. Mission Main Street Grants are awarded to businesses who win the highest number of votes obtained through Facebook.
- WomenOwned: WomenOwned is a database that allows women to have access to thousands of grants and assistance programs. These grants are all women owned and minority owned small business funding options.
- Count-Me-In/Make Mine a Million: This is an organization that offers a variety of events and grant awards to woman owned businesses that are trying to expand their business to over one million dollars in revenue. Make Mine a Million also offers a variety of success stories and inspirational business ideas.
- American Association of University Women: The American Association of University Women focuses on empowering women as individuals and members of the community. AAUW is one of the largest private sources of funding for graduate women; they focus on supporting women aspiring to be scholars, teachers, activists, women at important stages of their careers, and women professionals who are underrepresented. There are also a great resource for questions and other information relating to women in business.
- Huggies Brand – Mom Inspired Grants: This is a great grant program that awards mothers to further develop their original, innovative product inspired by motherhood. The grant awards $15,000, while also providing more resources to help develop their product and start their business.
- Idea Café Small Business Grant: This is another good resource for a variety of different grants that the Idea Café hosts. Typically they offer grants for any small business, with a prize of $1,000 to help with whatever innovative product or service that your business has! These grants also offer an easy registration process with no entry fee.
- Zion’s Bank – Smart Women Smart Money: This is a grant program that is only available in Utah and Idaho via Zion’s Bank. Each year, the local bank awards one $3,000 Smart Women Grant in six different categories: business, community development, continuing education and teacher support, child and elder care, health and human services, and arts and culture. Their main goal is to strengthen communities by supporting woman owned businesses.
- Open Meadows Foundation: Open Meadows Foundation focuses on combating gender, racial, and economic injustices faced by many small business owners today. They offer grants under $2,000 to help a variety of projects, as well as helping to promote equality amongst small business owners.
- The Halstead Grant: This is a grant for woman owned businesses that make and sell jewelry. The Halstead Grant rewards the winners with $7,500 in cash, a $1,000 Halstead gift certificate, and a variety of business connections.
- Career Development Grants: The Career Development Grants provide funding to women who have a bachelor’s degree and are looking to advance or change careers. They also focus on helping minority women and women pursing their first advanced degree or credentials in their field.
Specialized Loans For Women-Owned Companies
Obtaining conventional bank financing can be incredibly difficult for woman owned businesses, which is why we have complied a list of the best alternative resources for finding loans. Many of these banks and organizations have worked hard to make sure that woman owned businesses have equal access to capital to start, grow, and run their business.
- Key4Women: Through KeyBank, they offer a program called. This program aims to provide women entrepreneurs with capital and financial assistance. Since 2005, KeyBank has lent more than $6 billion with this initiative to woman owned businesses.
- Women’s Economic Ventures Loan Program: This program was established in 1995, and is still working to help woman owned businesses that do not qualify for traditional bank financing. The Women’s Economic Ventures Loan Program offers a variety of different funding options with a fixed rate of 10-5 percent.
- Wells Fargo: Wells Fargo is actually one of the leading lenders for woman owned businesses. They offer multiple financial solutions designed to support woman owned businesses, whether they are well-established and looking to grow or just starting out. They also offer lines of credit for woman business owners.
- Operation HOPE – Small Business Empowerment Program: This is a program that is available to all small business owners. Operation HOPE focuses on empowering small business owners by offering many training opportunities and resources, as well as helping to provide access to capital through their partnership with 25 direct lenders.
- Opportunity Fund: This is a loan program opportunity for small business owners based in California. The Opportunity Fund organization offers many loans ranging from $20,000 to $100,000 for eligible small businesses that have difficulty obtaining conventional financing.
- Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative: If your business is based in Wisconsin, consider contacting this program to see if your woman owned business is eligible for a loan of up to $100,000.
- Economic Opportunities Fund (EOF): If your woman owned business is based in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area, then consider researching the Economic Opportunity Fund. EOF is a subsidiary of WORC; they help small business owners obtain loans, investment in products and services, and advising.
- Elizabeth Street Capital: The Tory Burch Foundation partnered with Bank of America to provide women entrepreneurs in the U.S. opportunities and access to affordable loan options through community lenders. They also work to educate and help all women in business.
- Minority and Women Revolving Loan Trust Fund Program: Through the Minority and Women Revolving Loan Trust Fund Program, New York based minority and woman owned businesses have the opportunity to apply for this program. The state distributes $3.5 million across 13 community based organizations, allowing lenders to loan woman owned businesses up to $35,000 for working capital and $50,000 for fixed assets.
- Grameen America: This amazing program was founded by Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Grameen America’s program focuses on provided microloans and other initiatives to support impoverished women entrepreneurs.
Angel Investors and Venture Capital
Financing specifically for woman owned businesses is difficult to come by, but many venture capitalists and angel investors have their sights set on investing in the best woman owned businesses. This is a difficult route to go if your woman owned business is very small or has no desire to reach an enterprise level. Capital investment groups expect a return on their investment, so if your woman owned business is ready for that next step, consider the variety of investors listed below.
- Astia: The main goal of Astia is to promote angel investment opportunities for woman owned business ventures by connecting them with interested investors. Astia’s Expert Sift program has an eligibility screening, and once approved, the business owner has the ability to pitch their business to Astia’s network of investors.
- Golden Seeds: This is a great option for woman owned business startup ventures. Since 2005, Golden Seeds has invested over $70 million in woman owned businesses. They predominately focus on early stage startups, and even offer coaching, business advice, and connection opportunities to help woman owned businesses succeed.
- 37 Angels: This investment group is a community of women investors who focus on educating early stage investors. 37 Angles focuses on investing in all types of businesses while mentoring female entrepreneurs and teaching them how to become investors. 37 Angles has five pitch forums a year where they match 6 to 8 early stage businesses with anywhere between $50-$150K of seed capital funds.
- Women’s Venture Fund: This is an amazing resource for all woman in business, especially first time business owners who are looking to understand the complicated process of loans for woman owned businesses. The Women’s Venture Fund works to help finance businesses based on a variety of factors while helping the business owner understand how much financing their business needs.
- Springboard: If your woman owned company is technology-oriented, then consider reviewing. They offer a variety of expert network innovators, investors, and influencers who want to help high growth technology companies led by women.
- BELLE Capital USA: Belle Capital is an early stage angel fund that focuses on underserved capital markets such as IT, Digital Health, and Cleantech. This investing site requires that there is at least one female founder or C Suite-level executive.
- Phenomenelle: This angel fund invests in women and minority owned businesses in Wisconsin and the Midwest; they too require at least one woman or ethnic minority to hold substantial ownership to qualify.
- Women’s Capital Connection: This is an organization that connects female business owners and entrepreneurs with high net worth angel investors.
Crowdfunding is a newer method of raising financial capital to start, grow, expand, and run a business. By advertising and pitching your creative and innovative idea via crowdfunding platforms, friends, family, customers, and individual investors have the ability to contribute to your business. This cuts out a huge amount of time that would usually be dedicated to building a business plan, a portfolio, and all of the other documentation traditionally associated with conventional financing. Crowdfunding platforms also allow a business owner to reach more people, learn business efficiency, and so much more. Each crowdfunding website comes with its own requirements, fees, and types of projects allowed, so reviewing the variety of options before setting up your pitch on a crowdfunding site is key. There are also endless amounts of crowdfunding websites out there today, however we have listed the most popular websites with the most traffic, as well as women specific crowdfunding sites.
Donation Based Crowdfunding:
This is basically any crowdfunding campaign that does not have a financial return to investors or contributors. This is most often used by charities, nonprofits, and medical situations.
- Indiegogo: Through this crowdfunding platform, business owners can raise funds for any project. Indiegogo is also a rewards based crowdfunding platform, but can be considered a donation based platform because they allow donations for charities and nonprofits.
Rewards Based Crowdfunding:
This is a form of crowdfunding where people contribute to a business venture in exchange for some type of reward – usually the product or service your company offers. It is similar to donation based crowdfunding however, because it does not offer any return to investors.
- Kickstarter: This crowdfunding website has over 13 million visitors each month, making Kickstarter the largest crowdfunding site around today. This website does not allow social causes promotions and is solely focused on business campaigns.
- MoolaHoop: This amazing crowdfunding site is dedicated to helping woman based businesses receive more funding to help grow their businesses. MoolaHoop helps women raise debt and equity free funds for their projects, as well as mentoring small business owners to reach their full potential.
Equity Based Crowdfunding:
Equity based crowdfunding allows contributors and investors to become part owners of your company by trading capital for equity shares. This allows investors to receive a financial return on their investment.
- Fundable: Fundable is one of the biggest business crowdfunding platforms that focus on raising capital for all types of businesses. They offer the ability to do rewards based crowdfunding and equity based crowdfunding.
- Plum Alley: This particular crowdfunding website was founded to bring women investors and entrepreneurs together. Plum Valley offers equity crowdfunding and non-equity financing, as well as allowing investors to have access to special investment opportunities, private showcases, and more.
- National Women’s Business Council: The NWBC is a federal advisory council that was created to serve women in business. They are an independent source of advice for all women owned businesses. This is a great resource for any woman in business that is having difficulty obtaining funding, or needs other resources to help start or grow their business.
- National Association of Women Business Owners: At NAWBO, they provide a variety of business resources ranging from access to capital, business certification and publication, government contracting, to so much more. Reviewing their website and contacting them to help in any area of a woman owned business can be incredibly beneficial.