In the United States, 12.3 million women-owned businesses generate $2.1 trillion annually, and women founders represent 22.4% of all small business owners. Yet when it comes to starting a business, SCORE reports that the top challenges faced by female founders include:
- Financing (47%)
- Work /life balance (38%)
- Marketing (35%)
- Scaling (32% )
- Networking (29%)
Despite these difficulties and setbacks during the pandemic, women business owners have found ways to thrive — particularly online. E-commerce channels for businesses have helped to bring about new opportunities for women entrepreneurs, offering greater flexibility and visibility, low-cost tools and useful resources. And overall, retail’s multi-channel sales methods – including in-store and online – can be leveraged to scale and grow their businesses.
Retail is a top industry for women, representing nearly 12% of all women-owned businesses in the U.S. With increased awareness of resources and access to funding for women founders, the current upward trend of emerging women-led businesses can continue to have a positive impact on U.S. economic growth.
Promising trends among women-owned businesses.
There have been several promising trends among women-led businesses in the past few years despite ongoing economic uncertainty.
Almost half of all start-ups launched in 2021 were formed by women — a “dramatic increase” from just two years earlier, as only 28% of new businesses launched in 2019 were started by women.
Minorities in particular are leading the way, as just under half of all women-owned businesses are owned by women of color.
Current challenges for women in business.
Women entrepreneurs have faced distinct challenges, including during the pandemic.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported that the percentage of female business owners who ranked their business’ overall health as “good” dropped from 60% (January 2020) to 47% (July 2020) during the early months of the pandemic. In contrast, the number of male business owners reporting “good” business health decreased by only five percentage points during the same period (67% to 62%).
According to the Connected Commerce Council’s 2020 Digitally Driven report, women-led small- to medium-sized businesses were less digitally prepared for the pandemic and “project[ed] 6% less revenue and 8% more permanent closures in 2020 than men-led” businesses of the same size.
Women are still under-represented among venture-backed entrepreneurs and venture capital (VC) investors as well. In fact, companies founded by women receive less than 3% of all venture capital investments and women account for less than 15% of all VC funders.
Retail’s flexible multichannel selling options help women entrepreneurs grow and thrive.
The internet has helped increase the chances of success for women-led businesses, as it enables them to tap into buyers beyond traditional brick-and-mortar retail outlets. Through social media, digital marketing tools and online marketplaces, female entrepreneurs can reach a wider audience, increase their visibility, and interact with customers.
The multiple sales methods available in the digital age offer women-led small businesses flexible options for marketing, sales, fulfillment, and warehousing. For example, online marketplaces such as eBay, Etsy, Amazon and Shopify provide a variety of tools for sellers seeking to better market their products. Amazon has a women-owned business storefront that customers can shop all year long, and eBay has committed to “elevating powerful female voices and stories” across its marketplace throughout Women’s History Month.
Organizations and government agencies such as Association of Women’s Business Centers, SCORE, Connected Commerce Council, U.S. Small Business Administration and others offer useful tools, coaching and resources to support female entrepreneurs as well.
Women in business can be further positioned for success through efforts to improve the marketing of resources and programs that support small businesses, increase support services for owners and ensure greater access to capital.
Even as a global pandemic created unforeseeable economic challenges, women entrepreneurs have been resilient. Retail serves as a great example, providing flexible options for creativity and entrepreneurship among diverse innovators. And supporting women in business is ultimately supporting the health of our economy. The more that women-led businesses can get the resources, capital and tools they need to expand, the more opportunities these businesses will have to bolster economic growth.