March is Women's History Month in 2021, an unprecedented year due to the world-wide coronavirus pandemic. Despite the economic issues, it’s important to take time to celebrate the history of women and how they contribute across different sectors of the economy.
This month-long celebration commemorates the important role of women in American history. At SmartBiz Loans, we’re honored to work with women entrepreneurs every day who contribute to the overall U.S. economy through small business ownership.
Women now own more than nine and a half million businesses, employing almost 8 million people and generating one and a half trillion in sales. They are truly making history every day.
Women who own businesses face unique challenges. In fact, up until 1988, women needed a man to co-sign their business loan! Although that’s not the case anymore, women still come up against roadblocks when trying to access business-building funds.
As an example, women account for only 14% of 7 (a) SBA loans granted.
Known as the “gold standard” in small business funding, these low-cost loans help businesses expand in many ways and women are missing out. At SmartBiz Loans, we’re proud that more than 30% of the 7(a) SBA loans we’ve facilitated through our bank partners were granted to women-owned businesses, a number significantly higher than the national average. Here’s recourses to help women grow their business, even during the 2020/2021 pandemic.
Women’s business resources
WBE certification is necessary if you wish to participate in programs that require tracking the amount of business done with women-owned enterprises. Most local, state and federal government purchasing agencies have programs for woman-owned businesses. To become WBE certified, you must show:
- Woman Ownership: You must prove that the business is 51 percent owned, controlled, operated, and managed by a woman or women.
- Time in business: Your company must have been in business for at least six months.
- US citizens: The owner or owners must be US citizens or legal resident aliens.
- Contribution of capital: The woman business owner or owners must show that the contribution of capital is real and in proportion to the ownership interest in the business.
Grant options for women-owned businesses
Here are some good places to start your search for public or private grant opportunities:
Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)
The SBDC program offers management and business counseling services. The SBDC are the SBA’s largest non-financing program and is a collaboration of SBA funding along with state and private resources. Currently, more than 950 service centers handle counseling and training needs of roughly 650,000 clients annually.
Manufacturing, procurement, technology transfer, disaster recovery, technology, market research and international trade are emphasized. To learn more about the SBDC program or to locate an SBDC near you, visit the SBA's website.
Office of Women's Business Ownership
The Office of Women’s Business Ownership’s mission is to enable and empower women entrepreneurs. Economically or socially disadvantaged women are offered training and counseling in many languages to help them start and grow their own businesses.
Office of Entrepreneurship Education
Here’s the mission statement of this office:
“The Office of Entrepreneurship Education's mission is to provide entrepreneurial information and education, resources and tools to help small businesses succeed. The office is an integral component of Entrepreneurial Development's network of training and counseling services.”
Women-Owned Business Success Stories
SmartBiz Loans is proud of our record of supporting minority-owned businesses, including women-owned.
Center for Montessori Education, NY Inc.
We spoke with K.T. Korngold, CEO and owner, who shared the challenges she faced starting a business as a women.
“The biggest challenge was getting funding. I had taken the helm of a successful business that has been a leader in the field of education for a quarter of a century. I had demonstrated my skills and expertise by stabilizing the company.
Yet, when I needed a loan to help move and renovate a new location for our center, I found most banks required my husband to guarantee the loan.
Why is that kind of gender discrimination still allowed? I’m grateful to SmartBiz because they connected me with a bank that didn’t require that.”
We interviewed one of the founders of Off-Road Vixens co-owned by Shari Bisquera and Carey Kiehn. Off-Road Vixens offers infant, youth, and adult clothing, appealing to all generations of females. The featured clothing changes with current styles and stays in line with the founders’ passions to provide the best possible products.
“We have a niche in the market-nobody does what we do,” says Carey. “Females love it. Our infant brand is very popular along with mother-daughter matching clothing.” The women wanted to create a catchphrase that would be in line with the female extreme sports lifestyle.
They launched with the slogan “Girls Get Dirty Too!” Carey says, “It resonates with people. Our brand represents both females participating in racing as well as the weekend warriors.” The pair has now been in business 10 years.
Birch Tree Productions
Katie Basson runs her million-dollar company from a home office in Newburyport, MA. Birch Tree Productions specializes in high-end promotional products for a variety of clients across the U.S. From customized leather bags to branded fleece, Birch Tree offers clients unique flair and stellar service. Basson says the best part of being a female small business owner is that you have limitless possibilities. “If I keep working hard I can create something that will grow and last.”
Epic Global Talent
Founder Laura Tabsharani has advice perfectly tailored for Women’s History Month.
She says, “Taking the leap to become a woman entrepreneur was not easy , but life is way easier on the other side. Just do it.”