This article was updated on October 10, 2022
October is National Women's Small Business Month— a time to commemorate the strong, passionate women behind the nation's small businesses and their contributions to the economy.
One of the best ways your local business can show support this month is by showing up for the women-owned businesses in your community and encouraging others to do the same.
Today, women own an estimated 11.6 million businesses in the United States, and that number continues to grow every year. However, these female-owned businesses only account for 31% of all businesses in the country.
What’s the reason behind this disparity?
Despite the progress women have made in the workforce, they continue to face challenges due to gender biases, inequities, and discrimination. In fact, many women decide to pursue a career as a business owner because it provides them an opportunity for advancement that may not be as likely if they work in a male-dominated industry.
In a 2020 survey of 2,400 female small business owners, 29% said that they started their business because they wanted to be their own boss. This pattern doesn't just exist within male-dominated industries. Even in real estate, where women account for 63% of realtors, more leadership positions are held by men.
In order to advance in real estate (or any industry) and close the pay gap in the process, many women are driven to start their own firms. But even as their own bosses, women in local businesses have more obstacles to face.
Understand the challenges women-owned businesses face
One of the most important first steps to understanding how you can support women-owned businesses is by taking a moment to learn about the unique obstacles women must overcome.
- Women-owned businesses make 34% less in their first year than male-owned businesses. Even after their first year, women-owned businesses experience a slower rate of revenue growth. While many variables may lead to this severe difference in earnings, one factor could be the additional financial obstacles women face.
- Aspiring female entrepreneurs are less likely to receive external financing. When they do receive financing, it's often less than what male entrepreneurs receive.
- The average business loan amount women entrepreneurs secured in 2019 decreased from $48,341 the previous year to $40,513. A lack of sufficient funding options can mean limited resources, which can impact everything from a business' appearance, to the number of employees a woman is able to hire. It also impacts the amount a business is able to spend on advertising and marketing.
- Women-led businesses see an average revenue of $50,000 in their first year, while male-owned businesses see an average of $75,000. Even after becoming more established, 88% of female-owned businesses make less than $100,000 a year.
The impact of COVID-19
The negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were felt across the country. However, women-owned led businesses were among the hardest hit.
Female-dominated industries such as hair salons, nail salons, gyms, restaurants, and retail stores were all forced to temporarily close their doors during the early months of the pandemic. This caused a significant loss in revenue.
Now more than ever, women-owned companies need community support. Read on for ideas on how your business can tangibly make a difference in the lives of your female entrepreneurial neighbors, both now and in a post-COVID world.
How your business can support women-owned businesses
1. Buy from women-owned businesses
Perhaps the most obvious way to offer support is by giving women-owned companies your business. This could mean purchasing retail products, ordering food, or receiving a service, such as a haircut or a manicure. You can even purchase gift certificates from women-owned businesses to give to friends and family.
2. Invest in women-owned companies
If you already run a successful business of your own, you can help pay it forward by investing in a female-owned company.
With your financial help, a business may have an easier time:
- Opening its doors
- Providing quality products and services
- Successfully marketing itself
- Employing more workers
Sometimes, a little financial help can make the difference between staying afloat or sinking.
You can also choose to donate to nonprofits designed to help support women business owners. When women small business owners can support each other in this way, the entire community can benefit.
3. Donate your products or expertise
If you aren't able to contribute financially to a woman business owner, you can provide support by donating your products, services, or expertise. This can benefit both you and your fellow business owner. Here are just a few examples:
- Donate your services - Consider offering free consultations or services in your specialty to women-owned businesses during Women's History Month. That may include help with interior design, marketing, IT, or even office plumbing. Not only will you be helping a burgeoning business cut costs, but you'll also be creating invaluable community bonds.
- Donate your expertise - As a well-established business owner, you can also offer mentorship to entrepreneurs who are just starting their journey. Organizations such as SCORE, Million Women Mentors, and the Women Initiative Foundation provide a number of volunteer and sponsorship opportunities to help promote women in the workforce.
Your first-hand experience with sales, marketing, client relationships, and employee management is an invaluable tool for other women small business owners who are just starting out.
Whether you're offering time or knowledge, a little help goes a long way, but don't forget to exercise your creative muscles and work together for your women-owned businesses!
For example, if you're a bakery, try donating your signature treats to a new real estate agent's open house. The potential buyers will love the local sweetness, feel more at home in the house, and remember your bakery's name when their next sweet craving hits.
If you're a website designer, offer free upgrades to women-owned businesses during Women's History Month.
If you run a coffee shop, open up your space and invite local business leaders to share their expertise at a networking event for women-owned businesses.
No matter what your business, you can always find a way to help support the local women-owned businesses that keep your community thriving.
4. Create sustainable partnerships
Rather than sourcing products or materials from big box stores or online retailers, consider partnering with a local, women-owned business. By doing this, you'll be investing in your own community.
Bonus? Local suppliers mean you can reduce the need for products to be shipped to you. This means less time waiting around on deliveries, less risk of receiving the wrong product, and less money spent on additional packaging and shipping fees.
5. Call your local representatives
Another way to help support women-owned businesses is by calling your local government representatives and urging them to provide more financial aid for small businesses. As a community member, your voice matters. Use it to advocate for your rights, as well as the rights of your fellow small business owners. During these unprecedented times, people must join together to demand their government to work for them.
6. Refer women-owned businesses to your neighbors
As a female entrepreneur, you interact with the community on a daily basis. So why not use your platform to promote other women-owned businesses in your area? Refer your customers, employees, friends, and family so that they too can support these aspiring female entrepreneurs and experience the quality service they have to offer.
For even greater visibility, join Nextdoor, and encourage the women business owners in your neighborhood to do the same.
With Nextdoor, you can:
- Establish an online presence with a Business Page - Customize your local Business Page with photos and a mission statement. By doing this, your clients can learn what makes your business different.
- Engage with members in your community - With Business Posts, you can keep your neighbors up-to-date with information about your various products and services, special events you may be hosting, and the ways your business is supporting women entrepreneurs in your area.
- Share special offers - With Nextdoor Ads, you can attract new customers and grow your business by sharing special promotions and discounts for your neighbors.
- Receive & make recommendations - Your satisfied customers can leave recommendations on your Business Page to increase your visibility. To support other women-owned businesses in your neighborhood, you can leave your own recommendation on their pages.
This Women's Small Business Month, do your part to help empower women entrepreneurs. Whether it's purchasing their products, creating sustainable partnerships, or offering invaluable guidance, you can find a way to support these hard-working women. When small business owners can come together, the entire community can flourish.