Starting a business? You may want to consider moving to another state. Looking at trends in the development of women-owned businesses, it is apparent that some parts of the country are magnets for entrepreneurship and rapid-growth, while other state business ecosystems are not as flourishing. In an effort to better understand what makes a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem, the Council has launched the ecosystem project, and has been traveling to various cities across the country to learn more about the support system needed to facilitate high-growth in women-owned businesses. Recently, the Council released state factsheets, which reveal 2012 survey results of business owners on a state-by-state basis. These fact sheets illustrate, compositionally, how the business sector in each state is broken up—by race/ethnicity and industry—as well as fast facts such as percentage of women-owned businesses and generated employment opportunities. However, these state fact sheets only give a broad overview of each state’s business ecosystem; they do not provide adequate information as to what, exactly, each state supports or, in some cases, hinders women’s entrepreneurship.
This goal—to understand what state-level policies contribute to a successful business ecosystem—has been the topic of focus for the 2016 NWBC Summer Fellows’ research. In particular, the Council has investigated business policies on a state-by-state basis, looking at top state policies that are startup friendly, as well as regulations that may present challenges for business growth. The canvasing process consisted of searching databases and state websites looking for state-sponsored business legislation pertinent to women entrepreneurs. In regards to canvasing, each policy we discovered was classified into one of five distinct policy arenas: regulatory relief, financial assistance, tax incentives, technical assistance, and workforce development. These general strategies for business growth were taken from a research report entitled State Strategies for Growing Businesses and Creating Jobs by Heather Poole, whose methodology was detailed and aligned well to the goals outlined for state-level policies.
The Council’s four-pillar strategy to advance women’s entrepreneurial efforts includes data expansion, access to capital, access to markets, and job creation and growth. As we have discovered state policies in the areas listed above, we have subsequently mapped them to these pillars, so that the Council will be better able to understand and support state government initiatives and advise the executive branch, Congress, and the Small Business Administration on proposed federal regulations, modeled after successful state policies, that will facilitate business development.
So, what have we found? State-level policies designed to encourage entrepreneurship common to nearly all states include women’s business centers, basic tax incentives, small business development centers, and environmental regulations. Many of these policies fit into the Council’s four pillars indicated above (See Figure 1).
Good data policy is exemplified in states such as Hawaii, which has a Small Business Regulatory Review Board that looks at the effectiveness of existing administrative rule and impact of regulations on small businesses. The board also makes recommendations to state governing entities and reviews small business complaints and petitions. The second pillar, access to capital, can be illustrated by policy initiatives such as Illinois’s Capital Access Program (CAP), designed to make loans to small and new businesses that do not qualify for more traditional lending opportunities. This program provides funds to women business owners—who still face difficulties with access to capital— to be used to defray startup costs, provide working capital funds, pay for franchise fees, buy equipment, or shell out procurement expenses. Efforts to support women business owners’ access to markets are demonstrated through, for example, Indiana’s Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise Division of Department of Administration, whose commission members ensure that minority and women businesses are given equal opportunities in the state purchasing process, provide advocacy services and training to clients, and oversees that contract and procurement goals are being upheld. Finally, Idaho’s Department of Labor, demonstrates strong commitment to job creation and growth. The Department aids businesses by offering staff assisted recruitment in the form of collecting posting jobs online, collecting resumes and applications, facilitating online job fairs, furnishing space to conduct interviews, and providing job training though funds to offset training costs for qualifying businesses.
We are currently working on an infographic that will make the state-policy research more readily available to business owners and the public, and the Council is continuing to visit cities such as San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, St. Louis, Boston, and—just this past week—Atlanta. By meeting with local officials, organizations [e.g. The Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI), National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), Women’s Entrepreneurs Boston (WEBOS)], and business owners, the Council hopes to learn more about state business ecosystems to provide additional support to women entrepreneurs. Although it may be a little extreme to move to another state, it is advantageous to take advantage of all the incentives a state has to offer—whether that takes the form of supplier diversity programs, tax incentives, women’s business centers, or procurement and contracting requirements geared toward women.
Author: Kiana Amirkiaee is currently a summer 2016 Engagement Fellow at the National Women’s Business Council and a ’19 at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.
Project Completed by the 2016 Summer Fellows: Kiana Amirkiaee, Kamya Arora, and Tara Razjouyan
 Womenable. “The Growth and Development of Women-Owned Enterprises in the United States, 2002-2012. 2016. Prepared for the National Women’s Business Council. <https://www.nwbc.gov/research/SBOTrends>.
 “Small Business Regulatory Review Board.” Small Business Regulatory Review Board. Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. Web. 21 July 2016. <http://dbedt.hawaii.gov/sbrrb/>.
 Coleman, Susan, D.P.S., and Alicia Robb, Ph.D. Access to Capital by High-Growth Women-Owned Businesses. Prepared for The National Women’s Business Council. San Rafael, CA: Marin Consulting, LLC, 2014. Print. <https://www.nwbc.gov/sites/default/files/Access%20to%20Capital%20by%20Hi…(Robb)%20-%20Final%20Draft.pdf>.
 “Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity: Programs/Services Details.” Illinois.gov. Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Web. 20 July 2016. <http://www.illinois.gov/dceo/ServicesGuide/SitePages/ShowOpportunity.asp….
 “Staff-Assisted Recruitment.” Idaho Department of Labor. State of Idaho. Web. 21 July 2016. <http://labor.idaho.gov/dnn/(X(1)S(nqhl0mfhcd32xyydqv24mifz))/Default.aspx?TabID=647&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1>.