Keys to Success

We’ve seen lots of headlines recently about women small business owners, including two senators seeking to boost opportunities, and women’s superior efforts in crowdfunding. Here’s a look at those developments.

Federal contract fairness

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is pushing the Women’s Small Business Procurement Parity Act, which aims to help women earn federal contracts.

“If given a fair shot, women are poised to ignite our economy,” Gillibrand said during a press conference, according to “Nationwide, 8.6 million small businesses are owned by women. These businesses have an economic impact of $3 trillion and will create 23 million jobs.”

Gillibrand notes that 670,000 businesses in New York City are women-owned, which is more than 30 percent higher than in 1997. But, she says, these businesses are “systematically shortchanged” with government contracts, with just 1.48 percent getting these contracts.

“If women-owned businesses had received the existing 5 percent goal, city women-owned small businesses would have grown their revenue by approximately $56 million,” she said.

Kickstarting women-owned businesses

An area where women are advancing quickly is on Kickstarter, the online crowdfunding platform in which people can financially support an endeavor trying to get off the ground.

A new study shows that women are 13 percent more likely to meet Kickstarter goals than men, according to a story by Ruth Simon in The Wall Street Journal. Though men-led technology businesses have many more ventures on Kickstarter, women outpace the men in that category by reaching goals at a much higher rate — 66 to 30 percent.

“How female entrepreneurs fare on crowdfunding sites, such as Kickstarter, is notable because women tend to launch businesses with less financing than men and have more difficulty raising funding, making it tougher for their firms to grow,” Simon writes. “Overall, men start companies with nearly twice as much capital as women, according to a recent study by Alicia Robb, a senior fellow at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, an advocacy group for entrepreneurship.”

An example Simon cites: 43-year-old Cheryl Kellond, who used Kickstarter to make sports watches for women. She raised $408,000, and made her first shipment of 3,000 watches earlier this year: “Most Kickstarter backers were female athletes, Ms. Kellond says, but the venture also attracted women ‘who wanted to support women doing something different.’”

More access and training

Small business advocate Katie Vlietstra details the progress made by women business owners in recent years in a story for The Huffington Post. But, she notes, there is still the often-quoted estimate that women still make just 77 cents on the dollar compared to men.

So she lauds the efforts by Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, who recently introduced the Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2014. It aims to level the playing field by “improving access to lending and increasing business counseling and training services for women entrepreneurs, and giving women-owned businesses the same level of access to federal contracts as other disadvantaged groups.”

“Women make up half of the population, and we have a lot of ideas that could become great products and spur our economy,” Cantwell said. “This legislation will help ensure women entrepreneurs get the right tools they need to turn those ideas into new businesses and create jobs.”

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