In my last entry, I challenged us all to consider the impact that women’s business has on our economy right now and awaken this sleeping lioness. Women’s businesses are starting at 1.5 times the rate of majority owned businesses and are forecast to continue at this rate of growth through 2015. With over 15 million businesses that are either women owned or in equal partnership with men, this is an important sector that will not go away but more importantly, can be leveraged to make a difference to our economy.
So, how do we continue to accelerate this sector and lift up the women that can make this difference?
My latest research has pointed to four cornerstones that help women to grow and thrive in business and when given the access to these resources they can thrive. I’ve characterized them as the four C’s- Confidence, Competence, Connections and Capital. Without access to these four foundational pieces, women’s business may grow, but will not be as successful as they can be. For today’s blog, I will briefly outline them and in subsequent entries elaborate on what these are and how we can strengthen the resources for women in these areas.
The first and most important piece is Courage and Confidence building. Although all may at times suffer from doubt and fear, this is especially true for women. Time and time again, I see women come into our Center for Women and Enterprise with an awkward nervousness, shoulders hunched and the questioning lilt in their voices. Often their ideas are fantastic and they are well thought through. But it is the demon with the pitchfork aimed squarely at their self-confidence that will stop them cold in their tracks every time. This is the first part that needs attention for the rest to succeed and the good news is there are ways that we can do this for and with women.
Once this has been strengthened, true Competence and business acumen is needed. Starting with solid business planning and subsequent coaching, I have seen all women who truly pursue the entrepreneurial path gain the knowledge they need to pursue their endeavor. In this area, life experience coupled with education help with mastery of the new skills that are needed to start and grow a business.
The next area that is particularly important for women is creating Connections. Research has indicated that women often approach work and tasks in a relational way, working and learning collaboratively. When connected with one another the sense of isolation that many entrepreneurs feel is lessened. In addition to this, we need to provide access to connections to business partners, supply chain opportunities and future clients. The inherent relational nature that women possess can allow them to be extremely effective in this area, but doors for equitable access need to be opened.
Finally, the acquisition of Capital and ultimate success in creating economic prosperity for themselves is key to success. Often women we see need education in personal finance and literacy first to get their houses in order. When this is in place, helping women to get the seed funding, whether through bootstrapping, family, friends, bank loans or acquiring venture, funding is a critical piece of success. Developing economic prosperity or personal capital through success in the goal, and often this area is neglected or undervalued in the process.
I believe that the wave of women’s business growth is a key to our economic health. If we work to strengthen these four C’s we can accelerate this important sector of business In subsequent entries into my blog here at Forbes.com, I will delve deeply into each area with some data and anecdotal information about these areas and ways to enhance the development of these areas for women entrepreneurs.