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Why Women Should Start Small Businesses
by Rieva Lesonsky
March 25, 2022
Women Entrepreneurs in an office setting

I started my business 14 years ago because I was tired of making money for a company that didn’t fully value my worth or treat its employees particularly well. I can imagine that some of you started your business for similar reasons. But, of course, many women small business owners had different motivators for starting a business.

An interesting survey, Elevating Female Entrepreneurs, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Office Depot, reveals that 33% of female small business owners were motivated to start their businesses to inspire other women. Women of color were even more dedicated to “inspiring other women,” with 39% saying that’s why they became entrepreneurs and 82% of those adding they wanted to be successful so they could show other people “it’s possible to overcome stigmas.”

Startup Challenges

Of course, starting a business is not an easy task—it’s filled with roadblocks, hurdles, and other challenges. The women surveyed were no exception. Their toughest challenges:

  • 47% lacked funds
    • 58% mainly had problems with high startup costs
    • 39% said equipment/maintenance fees were their most significant financial challenge
  • 38% struggled with trying to maintain a work-life balance 
  • 35% had issues with marketing
  • 32% said it was difficult to grow
  • 29% cited networking as their biggest challenge

Women of color had other challenges as well. More than half (53%) of those surveyed felt they didn’t have enough resources during their startup journey. And 40% felt that at least some of the challenges they encountered were “related to discrimination or bias against race/ethnicity." Also, 42% felt they were denied opportunities based on race/ethnicity that would have helped their business.

Becoming an entrepreneur was not a sudden whim for these women—84% said they had dreams of starting their own business “as long as they could remember.” And 80% began their companies based on a hobby or other “activity they were already passionate about.” The COVID-19 pandemic motivated 61% of the newer women entrepreneurs surveyed (those who started in the past two years) to start a business.

And 61% of the women overall and 71% of women of color were so motivated they worked a day job while starting so they could save enough money to open their business full-time. 

The women business owners said it would have helped them to have more access to resources, such as cash grants (38%) or marketing materials (29%) when starting up. 

The Rewards of Business Ownership 

Despite these struggles and challenges, 73% of the women surveyed believe it’s easier for a woman to become a successful business owner today than ten years ago. 

As business owners, you know there are highs and lows. That’s been true for me—luckily, the good times outnumber the bad. And 81% of the women in the survey agree, saying that owning a business has been an “overall positive experience.” 

The most rewarding aspects of being a small business owner were: 

  • Being your boss—66%
  • Watching your business grow—40%
  • Putting an idea into action—36%
  • Work-life balance—25%
  • Inspiring other women—24%

The Power of Mentorship

Since you’re reading this on the SCORE website, most of you have experienced the positive power of mentorship. These women agree—36% currently have a female mentor or role model in the business world. This is especially true for women of color, who, according to the survey, were almost 1.5 times more likely to have a mentor than Caucasian women (42% vs. 29%).

Overall, 75% of the women business owners who had been mentored credited that mentor with the success of their business. If you don’t already have a SCORE mentor, that stat should convince you of the value of getting one as soon as possible. Find a SCORE mentor today and keep growing your business!

About the author
Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is president and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog
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1165 Herndon Parkway, Suite 100
Herndon, VA 20170

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