Over the last five decades, the number of women-owned businesses has skyrocketed, growing from 4.6 percent of all U.S. businesses in 19721 to an astonishing 42 percent of all businesses today2.
The female cohort of business owners has been hard at work over the last half-century and even more so over the last 24 months, overcoming challenges to achieve and maintain the pursuit of entrepreneurship. I’m fortunate to lead a team that works with some inspiring women business owners daily. The female business bankers on my team Cami Gibertini, Trudi Greig, and Tish McQuillen joined me in compiling the following universal guidance to help female entrepreneurs on their journey to success.
Make the First Move
It’s no secret that the access to capital remains a constant struggle for women business owners. Whether driven by a desire to have the “perfect” business plan, or fear that they are not business-minded enough to talk lending options, many women delay seeking advice on the topic of capital. Remember that no business concept is perfect, and assistance from a network of professionals can go a long way towards increasing your knowledge about business financing.
We recommend including your banker early in the process, as well as finding a national or local program for women entrepreneurs to discuss available resources. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a comprehensive list of support programs and organizations. The professionals associated with these groups are excited to share guidance on important topics such as developing business plans and identifying options for capital such as angel investing and SBA women-owned small business loans.
If you are still hesitant, dive into your own research to gain a baseline understanding of various capital funding sources and the requirements to obtain them before your meeting with a professional. Take as many small steps as you need – as long as you’re moving forward toward your goal.
Embrace a Growth Mindset
Do not let fear limit you. Too many woman business owners are afraid to fail. Yes, it may feel disheartening in the moment, but failing teaches some of the best business lessons.
No matter if you are on the cusp of opening your own business or taking your enterprise to the next level, lean into your strengths but also open yourself up to the possibility of growth by finding opportunities in failures, learning new skills and persevering through challenges on the path to your goals.
It’s also imperative to accept that you can’t do it alone. There are numerous resources available to help you and your business succeed. Take advantage of them. Join your local Chamber of Commerce or business resource group. Build relationships with your banker, accountant and lawyer to gather tips for propelling your business and your personal financial goals forward.
Take the Reins of your Financial Future
As a business owner, you make hundreds of decisions that affect both your personal and professional future. Taking a proactive stance to improve your financial knowledge in all aspects of your life and business can make you feel in control and help you build and maintain wealth.
Two of the best ways you can conquer your financial goals are knowing your numbers and understanding your risk tolerance. Whether it’s your personal finances or your business cash flow, take time to understand the impact of these numbers. Spend time becoming familiar with the various aspects of financial reporting, loan repayment, cost of goods and profit margins. Lean on your professional network to help you master the complexities, but strive to have a strong foundational understanding of the basics.
Also, identify the level of risk you are willing to undertake. Setting a risk threshold will help guide your business strategy decisions, making clear what is beyond your risk tolerance. Take into consideration your short- and long-term goals, your business’s life stage, and future succession plan.
Find your Tribe
Surround yourself with people who celebrate your successes and encourage you when challenges arise. Finding other female business owners to network with and learn from can help put your concerns and questions into perspective. These connections may also prove to be the start of powerful, mutually beneficial relationships. Develop them by becoming active in local and national women-owned business networking groups that build communities of like-minded entrepreneurs.
Be certain to recognize the importance of mentorship. Seek out someone you know and trust who can provide unbiased guidance and expertise to help you navigate through inevitable tough decisions you’ll face.
Also, don’t forget to pay it forward. Once you’re established in your business, embrace a young entrepreneur and provide guidance and support to help them reach their goals. Be the mentor you always wanted.
Here when you need us
Hancock Whitney has a long history of supporting the business ventures of women. We’ve been the bank behind a number of successful female-owned enterprises, ranging from legal and CPA firms managed by female partners, to physicians, real estate developers, prominent restaurant owners, architects, engineers and designers.
We invite you to learn more about our efforts to Support Women in Business and take a look at the inspiring stories of women in business in our region and the role Hancock Whitney has played in helping them fulfill their dreams. When you’re ready to talk, we are here for you.
1 State of Women Owned Business Report 2018, https://ventureneer.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/2018-state-of-women-owned-businesses-report_FINAL.pdf, accessed February 15, 2021
2 2020 report from National Women’s Business Council (NWB), https://cdn.www.nwbc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/21113833/2020-NWBC-Annual-Report.html, accessed February 15, 2021
The information, views, opinions, and positions expressed by the author(s), presenter(s), and/or presented in the article are those of the author or individual who made the statement and do not necessarily reflect the policies, views, opinions, and positions of Hancock Whitney Bank. Hancock Whitney makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented.
This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Information provided and statements made should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Hancock Whitney Bank encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.