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For many women entrepreneurs, success seems to come at a higher price — with more time, effort and sacrifices than men might have to make. If you feel that way, you’re not alone. In fact, the majority of women small business owners say they have to work harder for the same level of success as their male counterparts, according to the latest report on small business owners from Bank of America.
While the climb might be steeper, that hasn’t deterred millions of women from starting a business. Women have been driving record levels of small business creation since the pandemic began in 2020, and according to Fairygodboss, women are now starting 1,200 businesses per day. There’s plenty we can learn from those who’ve been down the road before. Acknowledging that everyone’s path is different, here are three strategies to help women business owners overcome common hurdles:
Crack the code on accessing capital
While access to capital for women has improved over time, our report found that more than a quarter of women entrepreneurs believe they’ll never have equal access to capital. It’s evident that we still need to overcome systematic barriers, but there are strategies that can help women business owners right now.
Time and time again, I’ve seen many women entrepreneurs feel like they need to have the perfect plan before going to a bank. The truth is, you don’t have to wait until things are 100% polished to talk to a specialist. Don’t let fear of rejection stop you from seeking critical advice from professionals who assist a wide range of businesses every day and can help fine-tune your plan and provide guidance around the most appropriate source of funding and next steps.
And there are alternatives to consider. Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) are a great resource for those who may not qualify for a traditional loan, for example. Also, today, there are more and more venture capital funds run by — and focused on — funding women. At Bank of America, we are making strategic investments in funds like Chloe Capital and Coyote Ventures, because they’re so good at empowering underrepresented women entrepreneur talent.
Find your people
Entrepreneurship can feel lonely, but you don’t have to go it alone. And you may not know it, but just by being a woman business owner, you already have a groundswell of support from a huge and passionate community of fellow women entrepreneurs. There are so many organizations, programs, events and circles of support that you can join.
Take, for example, the National Association of Women Business Owners — a group that started in 1975 with 12 women that’s now 5,000 members strong with 60 chapters across the country — which provides a whole range of benefits to propel your business growth and fuel personal and professional development.
NAWBO is one of the gold standards, and there are plenty of other great communities to consider as well, from global to more local in focus, bigger to more tight-knit: Vital Voices, Female Founder Collective, HerAgenda and BizWomen, to name a few. Take a look at what’s local to you, too, and there might be a physical space for you to network and work. For example, NYC-based Luminary is a global professional networking organization and non-traditional co-working space specifically designed for women entrepreneurs.
Find the group that clicks with you and where you feel most comfortable — depending on the type of resources you need, the conversations you want to have and who inspires you. You can use those networks to find a mentor, and better yet, an advocate who can vouch for you and help you along your journey.
Shared experience can be really helpful here, too. Through networking, you might meet someone who has faced similar challenges. Maybe that’s staffing problems, supply chain disruptions or managing customer expectations. You can get practical advice and solutions this way.
Build your confidence, and be kind to yourself
One of the best things I always remind myself to do is to “own your chair.” Whether you feel like it in the moment or not, you deserve to be seated in the room and have your voice heard as a decision-maker — so, own your chair, and don’t be afraid to ask for what your business needs.
A powerful way to learn how to own your chair and build self-confidence is to arm yourself with knowledge. The more you know, the more confident you’ll feel as an entrepreneur. Tap into the many (free) educational resources out there. A few that I’d recommend are our Small Business Resource Center and SCORE.
Also, it’s easier said than done, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Running your own business can be unpredictable and stressful. Both in business and life, women tend to be harder on themselves than men.
Entrepreneurship is not an easy path and can be very mentally taxing, so be kind to yourself. Prioritize mental health, and do your best to make sure your life is well-rounded and not all work, all the time.
When you can, try to make time for yourself — whether you go for a walk, cook a meal, read a chapter of a book or do whatever it is that helps you unwind. You might feel you’re falling behind on work by stepping away, but just the opposite can be true: You come back recharged and better equipped to lead. By utilizing these tips, women business owners can alleviate some of the stress of entrepreneurship and find balance while also managing a financially successful business.