It’s no secret that the pandemic is challenging businesses and organizations to rethink, well, everything. It’s also no surprise that amid all of the pivoting, repositioning, and resetting, women-owned businesses were hit the hardest; in fact a recent Freshbooks study found that on average, women-owned businesses are taking nearly two times longer to recover from COVID-1 setbacks when compared to businesses owned by men.
So, how can you help turn this bleak picture around?
Read on to learn how through valuable research and tips based on the success I (Meghann Conter!) have witnessed among Dames members and women leaders over the past year.
First, let’s take a trip back to 2019…
I like to jokingly call it “the before times.” I’m starting here because I’m a fan of capitalizing on what’s worked previously when thinking through any problem – and 2019 was a year when women-owned businesses grew two times faster than all business nationwide.
In fact, From the 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses report tells us that a heckuva lot was working in 2019:
- The number of women-owned businesses increased 21%, while all businesses increased only 9%.
- Michigan, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and Nevada saw the largest growth in the number of women-owned firms in 2019.
- Total employment by women-owned businesses rose 8%, while for all businesses the increase was far lower at 1.8%.
We saw these increases and trends in just a short, five-year window, and with cautious optimism, I believe we can get back there. Here’s three actions you can take to help:
#1 Think Global First, Local Second
You might think that your business model might not translate internationally. Or that your style and approach only applies to a few select markets. If you find yourself stuck in this thought trap, I’m here to challenge you. When you network outside your usual haunts and zip codes, incredible things happen.
Mind my goes to our members Whitney McDuff, Jen Coken and Shoshanna French who – despite being based in North Carolina, Maryland, and Colorado – have created a dream team to support their businesses, collaborate on creating offers, cross-refer mountains of business. They have helped one another through huge health challenges and became the greatest of friends in the process.
To determine where to start networking on a national level, look back to that State of Women-Owned Businesses report, which provides a detailed geographic profile that can help you focus on which markets to focus your networking efforts within, and likewise, where any overlooked business opportunities might exist.
#2 Mentorship, Mentorship, Mentorship!
No matter where you are at, you have something of value to share with other women business owners. I can’t say enough about the magic I’ve witnessed since last March that resulted from mentorship. If you’d like a stat to solidify this idea for you: 84% of CEOs with mentors said that the relationship helped them avoid costly mistakes and become proficient faster.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely a fearless collaborator, and you might also wonder how you’ll find time in the day to be a mentor. I say, deconstruct mentorship like you would a burrito in a bowl; make it fit your schedule. A high-touch, one-on-one mentor/mentee engagement isn’t for everyone, so instead, consider sharing what you know through informal or small group formats. This might include:
- Speaking on a panel
- Hosting a webinar
- Leading a mastermind group
- Sharing your expertise through a Clubhouse chat
This also works in those moments when you’re the one who requires mentorship; when you’re painted into a corner, don’t discount the power of bite-sized insights.
#3 Scale Your Team, Creatively
Looking back to 2019 one last time, sideprenuership grew at twice as fast as the rate of overall growth in women entrepreneurs (page 8 of the report). In the current pandemic landscape, where so many women require flexibility due to increased caregiving responsibilities, we can only assume that sideprenuership has surged.
What that means for you: A talent pool of candidates who possess the drive, decisiveness, and creativity that non-business owners often lack. Where you would have once sought out a traditional full-timer, consider using a sideprenuer to scale your operations.
But don’t take it from me – just look at the dream team I mentioned above. They've brought together a collective of contractors to support their collaboration, and against all odds, all three women all experienced growth in 2020. Personally, I have always had a team of contract business owners support me in roles from Virtual Assistants and Copywriters, to filling the CFO seat; all of them provide me with expertise that I couldn’t otherwise afford in a full-time W2 role.
The number of women business owners who rank their business's overall health as “somewhat or very good” fell 13 points during the pandemic according to a survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 13 points! The mindsets and methods I’ve advocated for above are the key to not just helping members of our community win back that confidence, but also to ensuring that more women find their way to the million dollar mark and beyond – creating the employment opportunities and positive social impact essential to healing our global economy in the years to come.