Women-owned businesses are a significant and growing but underrepresented segment of the U.S. economy. In order for the United States, and its various regions, to reach full economic potential, policymakers need to be able to assess the mechanisms throughout their local economies that support women entrepreneurs and to effectively coordinate the variety of stakeholders that share the same goal.
One particularly effective approach to understanding the interactions between the actors and processes that support segments of entrepreneurs, such as women entrepreneurs, is the application of an “entrepreneurial ecosystem” framework. The entrepreneurial ecosystem approach emphasizes the importance of the overall environment within which an entrepreneur establishes and grows her business and the distinct characteristics of a particular region’s ecosystem.
The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) contracted with Washington CORE to develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem model that can be adopted by local stakeholders to evaluate their regional economy, identify significant actors and activities, and provide opportunities to consider how to strengthen the system of support for women business owners.
Once the model was developed, the NWBC hosted a series of in-person town hall discussions, each of which brought together key stakeholders to evaluate how their regional economy supports women entrepreneurs. Town halls were held in six regional economies – Atlanta, GA, Boston, MA, Chicago, IL, Miami, FL, San Jose, CA, and St. Louis, MO. The town halls convened stakeholders from across each ecosystem, such as entrepreneurs and representatives from government, support organizations, finance, and large corporations. Participants referred to the model during the discussions to consider the strengths and weaknesses of distinct domains of their region’s ecosystem and the interconnectivity between them.
The products of this study include, therefore, not only the ecosystem model and guidance to regional stakeholders for its application, but also recommendations to address challenges and build support within local economies. These concrete recommendations are addressed to the Federal Government and regional stakeholders.