Women-owned firms help save the economy
by Allison Bliss
Oakland Business Review
August 2002

I work with businesses, in the media, and for a diverse group of organizations, and over time, I have seen patterns develop that indicate which companies will be successful or "entrepreneurially" fit. Companies that have strong vision, marketing and finance, and develop great management systems are a cut above the rest. Why? Because they seek professional help in these areas.

There are so many pitfalls in each area - marketing that doesn't suit the company's image, staffing problems, uncontrollable cash flow and more. Without a consultant, guide or adequate qualified staffing small companies might feel like they are up against impassable hurdles. That is when help should be sought.

According to the Small Business Association (SBA), "50 percent of new businesses in the U.S. fail within the first four years. Those 20 percent who survive in business ten years learn to leverage existing skills and utilize experts to help their businesses."

Since our culture typically has encouraged women, more so than men, to ask for help, they often actually get the help they need while men try to muscle through and learn as they go. Getting the help you need through outside resources helps your business; women-owned businesses show this impact clearly, as indicated by the following recent studies:

Women-owned firms number 6.2 million, employ 9.2 million, and generate $1.15 trillion in sales nationwide, reports a study by the Center for Women's Business Research and Wells Fargo. The number of women-owned businesses continues to grow at twice the rate of all U.S. firms. The expansion in the number of women-owned businesses with 100 or more employees increased 68 percent faster than all businesses breaking the "100 employee mark" during the 1997 to 2000 period. Those with $1 million or more in revenues are outpacing the growth rate of all businesses of the same size.

The study also documents that women-owned businesses are as financially robust and creditworthy as all businesses, regardless of size.

The study reported that women-owned firms continue to start up in every industry. Yet some industries show greater than average start-up activity. In total, one-third (33.6 percent) of women-owned firms are less than four years old. Over the past years, though, the industries with the greatest share of new women-owned firms are:

Health services (45 percent of women-owned firms are less than four years old)
Retail trade - General merchandise stores (44.4 percent)
Finance and insurance (37.5 percent)
Engineering/accounting/research services (36.4 percent)
Business services (36.2 percent).


Bay Area shows top growth


The Sacramento-San Francisco-Oakland corridor in California is among the top ten metropolitan areas in the country with the greatest share of women-owned firms, ranging from an impressive 32.5 percent in Oakland to 30.8 percent in Sacramento and San Francisco.

Resources

Consultants can help businesses one-on-one to solve specific problems. There are several good local organizations to help small and growing business owners with more general needs, such as:
The Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, (415) 541-8580
SBDC - Small Business Development Centers, 893-4114
SBA - Small Business Association, (415) 744-6820 or visit http://www.sba.gov/ca/sf/
Career Centers (for a list of local centers, visit http://jobstar.org/resource/carcent/alameda.cfm)

Allison Bliss is the head of Allison Bliss Consulting, which provides strategic marketing, writing, promotions and publicity at 510-864-8500.

For more information, read the Oakland Business Review, the Chamber’s monthly business newspaper
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