Are we beginning to see the rise of the American-born women entrepreneurs?
A couple of things have happened over the last few weeks that lead me to say, YES. The most recent: two American-born women — Sara Blakely and Tory Burch — made the 2013 Forbes list of the World’s Most Powerful Women. Since I’ve started following this list, (2011 and 2012), it’s the first time that an American-born woman entrepreneur has made the cut. (Burch did make the list before 2011.)
American-born male entrepreneurs such as Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg have always placed on the list. Some have even leveraged their powerhouse names into new careers as politicians (Michael Bloomberg) and philanthropists (Bill Gates). Interestingly, both Blakely and Burch are philanthropic and support entrepreneurship as a means to empower women.
The second bit of good news is that the percentage of women angels and women entrepreneurs getting angel funding has reached a tipping point. An innovation — such as funding high-potential women entrepreneurs — achieves success once it reaches 15 to 18% penetration then the system tips and spreads widely. The more high potential women getting funding, the bigger the pipeline for the World’s Most Powerful Women List.
While there are certainly male angels who fund high-potential women entrepreneurs, it is more likely that people who understand your value proposition will fund you. Many women entrepreneurs start companies targeting female consumers. Thus the importance of women angels to funding women entrepreneurs: They get the business plan.
Why are women entrepreneurs important? It’s a matter of economic prosperity. If female entrepreneurs were funded to the same degree as their male counterparts, 6 million jobs would be created in 5 years, according to Babson College.
I don’t want to take anything away from the success of Weili Dai, Arianna Huffington, and Diane Von Furstenberg, whose companies are based in the U.S. But attitudes that shape the rise to the top for immigrants may not be the same as what shapes those born in the U.S. I also don’t want to take anything away from the success of women who used their celebrity, such as Beyonce Knowles and Oprah Winfrey. Things like money, networks, and visibility affect success. And the average Jane doesn’t have as much of those things as a celebrity does.
But the average Jane can do it, as Blakely and Burch prove. What are the ways that women can break through the glass ceiling that blocks the growth of women-owned businesses? I’m going to summarize some of the ways I think make the most impact:
Access capital, not just angel, but debt, venture capital, and crowdfunding. Women start companies with about one-third less capital of other firms and are less likely to tap outside financing over their lifetime, including loans, angel investments, and venture capital according to a Department of Commerce survey. That helps to explain why the average woman-owned business has 25% lower revenue than the typical male-owned firm in the same industry.
Build large and diversified networks. When it comes to networking, women need to get over their inhibitions. Whether you’re raising capital or planning to expand into new markets, it’s your network that can help you take your business to the next level. Make sure men are a big part of your network. It isn’t an us-against-them thing. Men control the vast majority of leadership positions so we need to work with them.
Step into the limelight. Researchers have found that women are reluctant to speak up about their accomplishments and that reluctance costs them opportunities to advance their businesses. Women need to toss aside the adage that it’s unladylike to brag. You don’t have to sound like a blowhard. Just nominate yourself for an award or place on a “Best of” list. It’s bragging without bragging.
Get the support you need whether it is training, peer advisory groups (also known as mastermind and CEO Roundtables) or coaches. Small business owners are tested at every turn. You don’t have to face these challenges by yourself. .
Showcase the success of women entrepreneurs. This can take the form of research. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy and Dow Jones have both conducted research showing the better performance of women entrepreneurs. Find inspiration in the success of other women. Find out who they are through blogs such as this and follow their careers.
What’s missing from your growth plan?”