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VIEWPOINT: Women thrive through lows and highs

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CEO of EVA Enterprises Troy Farmer,

Women-owned businesses have seen favorable results in the last few years from the fruits of their labor when starting, sustaining and growing their business. The climate is optimistic based upon 43% of businesses owned by women in the United States, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Delaware last reported 31% of businesses being women-owned/ The growth rate of women-owned businesses excelled between 2014 and 2019 by 21%, with African-American businesses in the lead, according to American Express’ “The State of Women Report.”

This data allows for us to cheer and glean at the outcomes, as we should. However, what else is under the hood, so to speak? Despite the data reported, there are still significant challenges for women-owned businesses here in Delaware and across the nation.

Taking a deeper dive, provides a bit more context on the grit it takes for women to actually be successful at sustaining their business while creating growth and building economic power. For many women-owned businesses, there is an uphill battle that is fueled by the lack of funding and gender bias. These challenges present issues that continue to impact the growth and sustainability of women-owned businesses. For example, women receive an average of 50% less when applying for loans compared to males, according to Biz2Credit statistics (2022). In 2021, Biz2Credit also shared that the average loan size for women is $49,712 and for men-owned it is $83,198. In addition, the funding rate is 40% lower.

There are several reasons as to why there is this disparity, one of which pertains to how some lenders and funders perceive women-owned businesses. Business concepts may be seen as lacking value when determining if it is a venture worth supporting, particularly if it is lifestyle business, rather than a science- or tech-related business, which are male-dominated. It may not be because the idea is not a good one or that it is not a viable business concept.

Those that sit in the decision-making seat may see the individual who is presenting the idea as less marketable or investable when applying for a loan or pitching. A 2022 QuickBooks Special Report found that a third of female entrepreneurs have experienced some form of sexism. Unfortunately, data presents that it is less favorable for minority women-owned businesses. The latest female entrepreneurship data (2019), informs us that women of color account for 50% of all women-owned businesses in the U.S. while earning less than a quarter of revenues when compared to non-minority women-owned businesses.

Some would ask if a woman’s voice is strong or loud enough? Do they need to position themselves differently? In some cases, however, there is work to be done through the stereotypical, type-setting biases that exist within individuals who represent funding and lending institutions. This goes to the evaluation of both men and women saying the same thing, with value in the communication, but only one voice will be heard. This is not to say that women-owned businesses do not have any support, in fact they do.

Despite the lows, women entrepreneurship will still rise. Women have learned how to increase and leverage their attributes and show that business concepts and ideas are worth paying attention to as worthwhile opportunities to support and fund – even when they are told that their idea will not generate a profit or that they did not qualify for a loan that could fuel their future vision. Many women bootstrap and will self-fund. Women facing entrepreneurial challenges is not new though. They have overcome trials in various entrepreneurial settings that test their will. When one rises, there is a tribe that rises. Their superpower is that they recognize what a low is and rising is in the DNA of a woman and her business. If you are a woman-owned business, seek funding, develop a plan, communicate your vision and continue to stay true to yourself.

There are organizations in Delaware that not only support, but rally behind women-owned businesses. If you are needing business plan development, strategic planning, pricing strategies or loan and funding preparation, there is a fit for the woman-owned business seeking to learn how to leverage their talents and market them in the small wonder with genuine assistance. 

Troy Farmer is the CEO of EVA Enterprises, providing program design, development and delivery to organizations. She is also the Director for Delaware State University’s Entrepreneur and Innovation Maker Space, The Garage.

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