50 Billon Dollar Boss
Kathey Porter and Andrea Hoffman, authors of 50 Billion Dollar Boss, writes for us about on how to make being a woman-owned business work for you.
How to make being a woman-owned business work for you!
No matter the industry or type of business you’re looking to start, the decision to take the plunge to start a business can be a tough yet exhilarating decision. However, in today’s economic climate, there is no reason to go at it alone or start from ground zero. There’s an array of government agencies, private entities, and nonprofit organizations try to bridge social and financial gaps with help directed specifically at minority women entrepreneurs. But finding that help often takes diligence and creativity—qualities that successful business owners tend to have. Here are tips to make being a women-owned business work for you:
Seek programs/organizations that specialize in women-owned businesses
Many times business owners miss out on the resources and support available to them simply due to lack of awareness. There are many programs designed specifically to help women-owned business succeed. Here are six agencies that can help you. The services offered are varied and are more than sufficient to help get you on your entrepreneurial way or accelerate the growth of your business.
Small Business Administration (SBA)
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 as an independent agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise, and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation. The SBA recognizes that small business is critical to our economic recovery and strength, to building America’s future, and to helping the United States compete in today’s global marketplace. Although SBA has grown and evolved in the years since it was established in 1953, the bottom line mission remains the same: The SBA helps Americans start, build, and grow businesses. Through an extensive network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations, SBA delivers its services to people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.
Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE)
SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow, and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. SCORE has been doing this for nearly fifty years. Supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and through their network of over 11,000 volunteers, they deliver services at no charge or at very low cost.
Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)
SBDCs provide a vast array of technical assistance to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. By supporting business growth and sustainability, and enhancing the creation of new businesses entities, SBDCs foster local and regional economic development through job creation and retention. As a result of the no-cost, extensive, one-on-one, long-term professional business advising, low-cost training and other specialized services SBDC clients receive, the program remains one of the nation’s largest small business assistance programs in the federal government. The SBDCs are made up of a unique collaboration of SBA federal funds, state and local governments, and private sector resources.
National Women’s Business Council (NWBC)
The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) is a non-partisan federal advisory council created to serve as an independent source of advice and counsel to the President, Congress, and the U.S. Small Business Administration on economic issues of importance to women business owners. The Council is the government’s only independent voice for women entrepreneurs. Members are prominent women business owners and leaders of women’s business organizations.
Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)
Established in 1969, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce that helps to create and sustain U.S. jobs by promoting the growth and global competitiveness of businesses owned and operated by minority entrepreneurs. The MBDA works throughout the nation to link minority-owned businesses with the capital, contracts, and markets they need to grow. They advocate and promote minority-owned business with elected officials, policy makers, and business leaders. Serving as subject matter experts and advocates for the minority business community, the MBDA conducts high quality research and cultivates domestic and international relationships. Through a national network of more than forty MBDA Business Centers and a wide range of domestic and international strategic partners, they provide technical assistance and access to capital, contract, and new markets opportunities to create new jobs. For example, over the four years from 2009 through 2012, MBDA and its national network of business centers supported the creation and retention of more than 33,000 jobs and helped secure $14.6 billion in contracts and capital for its clients.
Women’s Business Centers (WBC)
A program of the SBA, Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) represent a national network of nearly one hundred educational centers designed to assist women start and grow small businesses.
For years, certification has been the way to significantly help minority and women-owned businesses gain access to government “set aside contracts.” Whether you are starting a business or your business is already established, participants in certification programs can drastically benefit from these opportunities. Additionally, there are several government agencies at the local, state and federal level which offer certification. Increasingly, certification has become widely used and accepted in order to gain access to opportunities with corporate entities. Below are two of the most widely known and accepted certifying agencies that offer certifications accepted by corporations.
National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC)
The National Minority Supplier Development Council is the global leader in advancing business opportunities for its certified Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American business enterprises and connecting them to member corporations. NMSDC was chartered in 1972 to provide increased procurement and business opportunities for minority businesses of all sizes. The NMSDC Network includes twenty-four regional councils across the country. There are 1,700 corporate members throughout the network, including most of America’s largest publicly owned, privately owned and foreign-owned companies, as well as universities, hospitals and other buying institutions. The regional councils certify and match more than 12,000 minority-owned businesses with member corporations that want to purchase their products, services and solutions.
Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), founded in 1997, is the largest third-party certifier of businesses owned, controlled, and operated by women in the United States. WBENC, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit, partners with fourteen Regional Partner Organizations to provide its world class standard of certification to women-owned businesses throughout the country. WBENC is also the nation’s leading advocate of women-owned businesses as suppliers to America’s corporations.
Supplier Diversity/MWBE (Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprise) Programs - corporate, higher education, etc.
Like the government, many corporations and higher education institutions have specific programs that target minority and women-owned or diverse business in order to do business with them. These programs often conduct and participate in outreach conferences, vendor fairs, and matchmaking events in order to meet and engage with vendors. While the opportunities may vary, be sure to confirm whether any certifications are required for participation in their respective programs.
Use collaboration to support and grow your business
In today’s business environment, it is almost impossible to successfully go it alone. Building a foundation through collaborations - whether strategic partnerships, joint ventures, mentor-protégé arrangements, etc. is beneficial for any enterprise. However, for small businesses, collaboration can be a critical component to success and longevity. Regardless of the size of the enterprise, ideal collaborations are mutually beneficial in that both parties can benefit and gain an advantage by the alliance. Unfortunately, many small businesses do not seek out collaborations as they underestimate the value that they can bring to a larger entity due to their length of time in business or experience. Understanding the needs and objectives of a potential partner and how you can help them acquire that need, and vice versa, can ensure collaborations are robust and set up for success.
Mentorship, Mentorship, Mentorship
Ask any entrepreneur and they will tell you finding the right mentor or coach was one of the secrets to their success sauce. Very few successful business have elevated in its industry on an island and without guidance. Networking and collaborating to find the right inner circle, mentor, and ultimately your success team is imperative to the aspirational and aggressive goals that most have. As many women entrepreneurs are first generation entrepreneurs, they don’t always have access to some of the networks where financing, references, resources, etc. are readily available. Being creative and stepping out of the “ideal” mentor box is critical in order to advance our businesses. Further, mentors might not always look like we envision, so we have to be open to ANY opportunity where someone is willing to share information, make an introduction, etc. to advance your business.
Connect with networks with similar interests
Below are a few national organizations that advocate and promote the success and sustainability of women-owned businesses. If you are not quite ready to join these groups, look for regional, local or even online community groups that offer a more intimate opportunity for engagement, support and networking. If you still cannot find one, in the spirit of entrepreneurship, create one.
• Association of Women’s Business Centers
• National Association for Moms in Business
• National Association for Women Business Owners (NAWBO)
• Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP)
• Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO)
• GoldmanSachs 10,000 women
• Ernst & Young: Entrepreneurial Winning Women™
• SBA’s Innovate:HER Business Challenge
Cultivate a spirit of paying it forward
Women are natural nurturers, a trait that does not always work well in the world of business. However, it is this trait that allows women to motivate, empower and support other women. By cultivating and adopting a spirit of paying it forward, you are as committed to and invested in the success of others as you are in your own success. This is imperative if women are going to continue to excel in owning their own businesses.
An expert on small business development, supplier diversity and entrepreneurship, Kathey Porter has been a Supplier Diversity Director and consultant for government, higher education and corporate entities. She has been an adjunct business instructor at several colleges and universities including Virginia Tech – Pamplin, College of Business, Savannah State, University, Savannah College of Art & Design, Strayer University, Columbia College and, University of Phoenix.
Andrea Hoffman is founder and CEO of Culture Shift Labs (www.CultureShiftLabs.com) an advisory firm that tailors B2B and B2C engagement strategies and engineers connections and collaborations, between corporations and the 'diverse elite.'