Over the last ten years, women-owned firms in the US have been increasing at extraordinary rates. According to the 2016 State of Women-Owned Business Report, between 2007 and 2016, the number of women-owned firms increased by 45%.
However, when breaking down growth rates comparisons, minority women business enterprises (M/WBE) continue to lag when compared to non-minority firms. Although women of color are entering the ranks of entrepreneurship at impressive rates, their average annual revenues (just under $69,000) are still less than half of the average woman-owned firm ($143, 000). The growth rates of employment and revenues among M/WBE firms remain essentially unchanged.
Given the multitude of women-owned businesses in the US, how can minority women-owned firms with growth aspiration achieve maximum economic growth? Here are 5 tips to help minority women-owned firms achieve their full economic potential.
- Leveraging Networks: Increasing your participation and strategically attending industry specific conferences and events will not only increase your awareness of resources, programs and initiatives that are available for women entrepreneurs, but it would also be a great place to start building a network with likeminded professionals. One key to networking is to never simply hand over your business cards. Instead, take the time to build relationships so that each individual can become a partner and resource. It’s important to always keep in mind that networking is a marathon not a sprint and building trust takes time. Allow your face to become familiar and acquaint yourself with key industry players.
- Following-up: Networking is only half the battle. The best way to get the highest return on the time, energy and money you invested in these conferences begins with the follow-up. It’s always a good practice to “touch base” within 5 days of meeting someone, to remain relevant. During this interaction, aim to become the problem solver rather than pitching your idea. Instead, try to uncover the contact’s business needs.
- Getting Strategic: As an entrepreneur you should always think 10 steps ahead. Forward thinking will be the only way to grow and scale your business. Do your research, identify your strengths, weaknesses and needs of your company to determine appropriate next steps. Don’t base your decision on what’s trending or “hot” right now. For example, in the supplier diversity arena, getting certified is a popular topic of discussion. However, certifications should only be a considered for your company if they are a part of your overall business strategy. Plan to form strategic partnerships that can directly lead to transactions that will allow you to grow in size and scale.
- Asking for help: Getting an advisory board or a mentor can be a huge asset to your company and overall success. Partnering with individuals who may be able to assist you with access to capital, markets and other opportunities is key. These individuals should be industry experts, should offer your business insight, guidance and help you decide what channels you should be navigating first.
- Identifying Business Incubators: Across the U.S. there are many private, state and local economic development departments that are focused on connecting with communities that are underrepresented and creating a model of support to help new and startup companies to develop. Their goal is to help create and grow young businesses by providing necessary support. These programs provide their clients with management training, office space, financial and technical assistance. Programs like the City of Atlanta’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI) diligently work to revolutionize the economic and social inequities faced by women business owners. It is important to identify the program that best meets your business needs.
While it’s important to recognize progress, it is equally necessary to realize there’s always room for improvement. As an entrepreneur and business owner, setting the bar high and utilizing these creative solutions will help minority women-owned businesses get one step closer to reaching their full potential. For more tips on achieving your economic potential, be sure to follow us on twitter@MBDAGaTech or like our Facebook page!