It’s been said that women are the Mothers of Invention. Nothing could be truer as we see an increasing number of women as entrepreneurs in today’s workplace. At a website for entrepreneurial women, www.entwomen.com, they state “a laptop, a bathrobe, and a cub o’Joe – what else do you need?” Well, it sounds good, but speaking from personal experience, it’s not quite that simple. Ask any woman who has her own business or is doing a business startup.
What motivates a woman to consider entrepreneurship?
First, for women who are younger than their baby boomer parents, they realize there is nothing called a lifetime career anymore. In fact, half the American work force is not satisfied with their job, and only a fifth apply a passion towards their career. So, change can be a good thing if we keep an open mind for retraining, retooling, and redesigning our professional goals.
College students will find themselves pursuing about five different careers and change jobs about 12-15 times during their working lives. This is the economic reality of the job market as we see more technological changes, jobs moving offshore, and job obsolesces. Other reasons include the juggling act of multiple careers in a relationship, downsizing of workforces that don’t offer job security or professional growth, childrearing and daycare challenges, long commutes and higher gas prices which cost more time and money, and boredom or lack of career fulfillment.
Statistics - Women as Entrepreneurs with Women-Owned Businesses
According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, nearly 10.4 million firms are owned by women (50% or more), employing more than 12.8 million people, and generating $1.9 trillion in sales. “…between 1997 and 2004, the estimated growth rate in the number of women-owned firms was nearly twice that of all firms.”
The largest share of 51% or more women-owned firms is in the service sector, followed by the retail trade, and real estate, rental and leasing. From 1997 to 2006, the greatest growth among 51% or more women-owned firms has been in:
• Wholesale trade
• Healthcare and social assistance services
• Arts, entertainment, and recreation services
• Professional, scientific, and technical services
A Historical Perspective
The home party concept of Tupperware or the doorbell ring of “Avon calling” offered newer financial independence and a social outlet for many stay-at-home-moms in the 1950’s. Before that, childcare or home sewing and alterations were one of few ways women could work for at home for pay.
Today, there are more at-home work options than what our mothers may have considered. Now as women make up more than 50% of the university population and can employ the Internet for business, in a sense, the sky is the limit. Makeup and skincare products continue to be popular with Mary Kay, Arbonne, and Artistry. Enjoy the jewelry of Sophia Lia. Need an escape at-home? Consider a home spa party, decorate your home with a PartyLite party, organize your stuff with Longaberger, and archive your family memories and photos with Creative Memories. There’s something for everyone with this category of at-home business.
Still other women are employing their education and expertise to startup a business from scratch. A woman owned CPA firm or attorney’s office is quite visible in most cities. Freelance writers, web sign designers and hosts, consultants, interior designers, virtual assistants, and more are easily working from home-based offices and find clients via the Internet and networking groups.
Becoming a Woman Entrepreneur
Here are a few things to consider:
Find Your Niche
• Know “thyself” - What are you skills and strengths? What are your weaknesses?
• Get creative
• Get curious about the market
• Do research, survey, read, and observe
Develop a Business Plan
This can be a new challenge but is an essential foundation before launching any business. Developing a mission for your entrepreneurial business along with a timeline, budget, marketing plan, taxes, etc. are necessary. Put the business plan in writing. Review it regularly. Attend small business startup workshops. Talk with other women business owners. Contact SCORE.
Self-Employment - The Right Stuff
Self-employment is not for everyone. Are you focused and disciplined? Are you considering temporary employment while the children are young or are you in this for the long haul?
Characteristics of Women Business Owners
• Women business owners are prepared to face risk. Financial risk and startup costs are considerations.
• Women and men business owners have different management styles. Women emphasize relationship building as well as fact gathering.
• Belong to a business organization or network. Have visibility. Network. Make it easy for customers or clients to find you.
• Close the door at the end of the day. Having a home-based business or being an owner is a blessing and a curse. To maintain personal balance in your relationships and family, it’s important to know when to close the door.
Fulfillment, Balance, and your measure of Success are things we all desire. These delicate elements are found through the process of dreaming, courage, planning and action. Getting a clear idea of what you want to do, be and have as your move through the stages of life from single woman, to married woman, to mother, and beyond require you to continue to search and ask questions, internal and external.
“Women are always being tested... but ultimately, each of us has to define who we are individually and then do the very best job we can to grow into it.” ~ Hilary Clinton