The NCSL Blog

05

By Mark Wolf

Woman's work is never done--but it's a lot more rewarding when she owns the company.

According to a recent report by Womenable, "it is estimated that, as of 2014, there are nearly 9.1 million women-owned enterprises,employing nearly 7.9 million workers and generating over $1.4 trillion in revenues."

Those numbers could and should be higher, said a panel assembled for a Legislative Summit session, Economic Engines: Women-Owned Businesses Keep the American Dream Alive.

Self-employment is a much better alternative to low-wage jobs, panelists said, citing statistics that the median net worth of business owners is 2.5 times higher than nonbusiness owners and even very small businesses such as sole proprietorships give women a better chance to take care of their families.

(Pictured from left: Connie Evans, Jennifer Teehan of the Washington Women's Business Center, Kristina Trujillo and Julie Weeks.)

Women have a difficult time obtaining startup funds, said Connie Evans, president and CEO of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity.

"Women face tremendous barriers of access and availability to financial products and services that fit that meet their needs," said Evans. "Women tell us the need for startup and working capital is high. Looking for capital less than $100,000 is very difficult to find. Women are often starting businesses with less than $5,000. Capital often comes with a requirement for collateral which many women simply don't have. It doesn't have to be this way. People say those businesses are too risky, but they're not. There's not a lot of risk in a store, a salon or a florist and these are the types of microbusinesses women are trying to start."

Research shows that women think, lean and lead their businesses in different ways, said Julie Weeks, president and CEO of Womenable, which strives to improve the landscape for women entrepreneurs.

"There is a tendency to think that there is a one-size-fits-all model but that's not true. Women are more relational, more likely to come and take a class and meet their peers," said Evans.

Kristina Trujillo, a Ph.D. research assistant at the University of New Mexico, whose work on using the body's own ability to fight cancer was the impetus for starting a new company, Exovita Biosciences. Trujillo is not an owner of the company because of conflict-of-interest rules of the National Institutes of Health. She said "angel" investors are crucial for startups and said lawmakers need to create more advantages such as tax credits to encourage investment.

Representative Jane Powdrell-Culbert of New Mexico (R), who moderated the session, carried a bill that provided up to $2 million in tax credits for investors.

Women entrepreneurs need to examine every opportunity for microbusiness development, said Evans.

"There is a program at the treasury department called the Specialized Small Business Investment Companies (SSBIC) to support small business' access to capital," she said. "That money has already to gone to states, however no all of those funds have been utilized. I would urge you to chase down that SSBIC money at the state level to help capital development. Several states have introduced legislation that would allow the use of workforce investment opportunity funds to be applied at the state level to support entrepreneurship."

Women are three to four times more likely to own a business with a social component, to right a wrong and a number of states have passed legislation that would legitimize their social enterprise and allow them to roll profits back into their company to grow their mission.

Mark Wolf is an editor at NCSL.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.