Although NWBC has indefinitely postponed its signature #LetsTalkBusiness Roundtable Series, which connects the voices of women entrepreneurs and business owners from across the country to policymakers in the Nation’s capital and helps serve as a springboard for the Council’s annual policy recommendations to Congress, the President, and the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), NWBC remains focused on carrying out its critical mission. As was reinforced at our first 2020 #LetsTalkBusiness Roundtable last month in San Juan, Puerto Rico, women business owners are key to helping local and national economies recover from disasters as well as grow and thrive.
Check out this dynamic interview with Dolmarie Mendez, Co-Founder and CEO of Abartys Health at NWBC’s #LetsTalkBusiness Roundtable in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
For over 50 years, National Small Business Week has highlighted thriving small businesses and encouraged communities around the country to support local enterprises. This year, National Small Business Week has been postponed. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, women business owners have been forced to adapt rapidly to new realities and market demands. In the spirit of American innovation, women-owned small businesses are taking steps to adjust to new societal norms and continue to provide essential services and products – with an eye towards ecommerce and inventive approaches to marketing and funding their enterprises.
Women-owned businesses comprise 42% of all small businesses. The approximately 13 million women business owners in the U.S. have demonstrated great resiliency and a keen ability to adapt to our current “new normal” by providing products via ecommerce, leveraging digital marketing, and looking to alternative sources of funding.
With the recent, substantial shift toward online purchasing, the World Trade Organization delved into the impact that the pandemic has had on ecommerce. The analysis noted that ecommerce can benefit small businesses and make economies more competitive. Women are particularly equipped to pivot to online platforms and resources and fill commerce voids. Etsy’s 2019 report, Celebrating Creative Entrepreneurship Across the Globe, notes that of the 2.1 million Etsy active sellers, 87% are women. Online marketplaces like Etsy and Anytown USA are great platforms for business owners and entrepreneurs to reach consumers. Home-based solopreneurs in rural communities also rely heavily on digital platforms to expand their market reach and boost sales. They are leading the charge in keeping the economy strong under social distancing measures and online purchasing is a safe way to support women-owned businesses during the stay-at-home-order.
Social media is another great way to acknowledge and support small businesses. The lockdown has produced an uptick in social media engagement and activity, along with advertising that goes along with it. With more people online and scrolling through social media platforms, we have great opportunities to share and highlight small businesses across the country. Women entrepreneurs have certainly tapped into the benefits of social media to build awareness and raise capital.
According to the NWBC report, Crowdfunding as a Capital Source for Women Entrepreneurs, there is a positive association between social media engagement and success in crowdfunding. Storytelling through social media is an effective way for women to promote their businesses and connect to potential customers or clients. Sharing their stories with other networks can be very beneficial to small business owners and provides another outlet for them to reach consumers.
Despite the impact COVID-19 has had on our economy, women business owners and entrepreneurs continue to work diligently to provide for America’s consumers and innovate in newly-discovered fashions. Even as we transition back to our pre-pandemic way of life, women will have contributed and devised new means to do business.
We are thrilled to announce that the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) is a 2020 Census Partner! We look forward to supporting the U.S. Census Bureau in its monumental efforts to secure a successful decennial count across the nation.
H.R. 5050, the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, established the NWBC as a federal advisory committee dedicated to the empowerment of women entrepreneurs, and among other provisions, required the U.S. Census Bureau to include women-owned C Corporations when reporting data. Before the passage of this landmark legislation, government agencies tracked mostly self-employed women but overlooked larger women-owned enterprises.
Since its inception, the NWBC has relied heavily on data collection from the U.S. Census Bureau to fulfill its statutory obligation and mission. The Council is statutorily charged with, in relevant part, promoting and assisting in the development of a women’s business census and other surveys of women-owned businesses.
The U.S. Constitution mandates that each person be counted every 10 years. These critical results determine the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives, direct the effective distribution of federal funds, and assist small business owners in choosing where to start, grow, and scale their businesses. The data also allows the NWBC to better convey the irreplaceable economic impact of women’s business enterprise and more effectively advocate for the policies that empower women business owners and entrepreneurs.
We cannot measure what we cannot count. So female founders…Make the pledge now! Achieving a complete and accurate 2020 Census starts with you!
Get started at 2020CENSUS.GOV
WASHINTON, D.C., March 9, 2020 – As part of its ‘#LetsTalkBusiness Roundtable Series,’ the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) held its first roundtable of the year in San Juan, Puerto Rico on February 27, 2020, at the Puerto Rico Convention Center, together with the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA). NWBC was joined by the Governor of Puerto Rico, Wanda Vázquez Garced, who delivered remarks on the state of women’s entrepreneurship on the Island.
NWBC Chair Liz Sara greeted the roundtable participants and attendees and thanked Governor Vázquez Garced for welcoming NWBC to the Island. Chair Sara then provided remarks on the importance of improving access to capital and opportunity for women entrepreneurs and business owners in Puerto Rico and across the country.
Governor Vázquez Garced underscored her administration’s commitment to strengthening economic conditions for women, emphasizing that “Puerto Rico is open for business” and that women business owners on the Island are key to helping revitalize and further strengthen the Puerto Rican economy.
Following the Governor’s remarks, Council Member Nicole Cober prompted the participants to share the impact that natural disasters—the 2017 hurricanes and recent earthquakes— have had on their businesses.
One female founder in the freight and transportation industry whose business provides global logistics solutions in Puerto Rico shared an emotional account of the widespread devastation experienced across the Island. “Everyone was at risk. Our whole island was at risk…. But the hurricane [Maria] created an incentive to push Puerto Rico forward.” Her company was in fact one of the first responders, creating a temperature-controlled warehouse to store medication and ensuring that medicine was getting to the most vulnerable—even in the most rural and remote areas of the island.
Another participant, a roofing manufacturer, noted that women business owners on the Island, and Puerto Rican women business owners on the mainland, were instrumental to helping provide immediate emergency services. She shared, “We were up and running just four days after the hurricane and brought together the business community. We visited communities across the Island and formed a ‘business emergency group.’”
Council Member Cober noted how important it is to support healthy ecosystems in the post-recovery phase as women-owned small businesses are instrumental to helping save and ensure the continuity of a stronger Puerto Rican economy. She then directed the discussion to the topic of financial education, asking, “How does Puerto Rico institutionalize financial literacy and education in K-12 grades and at the university, if at all?”
A bed-and-breakfast business owner with businesses in Maryland and Puerto Rico stated, “This is not just a problem in Puerto Rico. This is a nation-wide problem. Entrepreneurs often don’t understand that the extension of business credit is based upon an individual’s personal credit.” She continued, “Most kids today graduate from high school and don’t even know or understand what a credit score is; and although women make 75% of all buying decisions, many don’t often have an understanding of the fundamentals of financial literacy.”
Jennifer Storipan, Executive Director of PRFAA, noted that the Governor “is committed to institutionalizing financial education through an ‘Institute of Financial Education’”. She added that Puerto Rico is exploring best practices by taking an interdisciplinary approach—incorporating financial literacy curriculums across Math and Social Studies academic disciplines.
Yvette T. Collazo, the SBA’s Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands District Director, noted the fact that all financial institutions, including credit unions, are certified in Puerto Rico. However, a challenge is that credit unions “are set up to provide personal but not commercial loans.” She also recommended to new start-ups that “while you need to think big, you need to start small, and for that reason microlending is key in Puerto Rico.”
District Director Collazo also noted how important STEM businesses were to the economy in Puerto Rico. Last year, the SBIR Road Tour made a pit stop on the Island for the first time in its history. Similarly, the SBA’s Emerging Leaders program was recently brought to Puerto Rico, a telltale sign of the economic and entrepreneurial potential on the Island.
Council Member Barbara Kniff-McCulla noted how the business community in her Iowa hometown chose to invest in STEM education. “In Pella, working with local manufacturers through a public-private partnership, we put in a STEM program in Central College. So, I would recommend that you look to local businesses to put money into your [education] program[s] because these are the businesses that will be hiring these students in the future.” She then asked the business owners to share some of the initial steps they took in looking for capital to start their business.
Another female lender—certified as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) by the U.S. Treasury and certified by the SBA as a 504 Development Company Loan Program—noted that her organization created an ‘entrepreneurs academy’ and added a childcare component for academy participants free of charge.
A National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Board Member and business owner in the emergency medical services field also noted, “Because of my relationship with NAWBO, I’ve been supported and provided with mentorship. And today, we work with young ladies to provide them guidance and financial literacy.”
A Chicago-based lawyer/entrepreneur also reiterated, “Mentorship is great, but it’s not just mentorship. Women need sponsorship. Don’t just talk to women about how to do it, take her with you and walk her through the door.”
NWBC Council Member Rebecca Hamilton then asked the roundtable participants to share some of the primary drivers and top financial factors informing their decision whether to fund a prospective investment.
The head of an NGO in Puerto Rico stated that when considering funding an enterprise, their organization looks to certain criteria, which include ensuring: 1) there are at least two individuals tied to the project; 2) they have conducted a market study for their product or service; and 3) they commit to completing a curriculum and its required hours. Only after completing the curriculum do they get the funding.
A health tech female CEO also shared a gripping story that spanned from pitching her health tech start-up while five months pregnant to winning ‘Rise of the Rest Competition’ to raising $3 million for her enterprise with local capital. “I went through a whole acceleration process. Today, we are a woman-owned company with twenty-seven employees.” She shared that the road is not easy and that “you just have to get out there” and find opportunities to “expose your companies to Angel Investors.”
Council Member Cober wrapped up the roundtable discussion and reiterated the NWBC’s commitment to employ the feedback received as a springboard for the Council’s policy recommendations to Congress, the President, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. The Council appreciates the participation from diverse business owners and stakeholders in Puerto Rico.
For more information about upcoming events, please visit the NWBC website.
WOMEN IN SMALL BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE – NAMPA, IDAHO
WASHINTON, D.C., October 25, 2019 – As part of its ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series,’ the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) held a roundtable in Nampa, Idaho on October 9, 2019, with U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-ID), NWBC Chair Liz Sara, Council Members Jessica Flynn (Boise-based, Founder & CEO of Red Sky), Barbara Kniff McCulla (Owner of KLK Construction), and Bonnie Nawara (Past Chair of AWBC), and local women business owners. The discussion explored the unique challenges for rural women entrepreneurs and sought to identify untapped opportunities for growth.
The event began with NWBC Chair Liz Sara welcoming the roundtable participants and attendees. “NWBC is honored to be here at Idaho’s new Women’s Business Center. NWBC was established by the same legislation that established the Women’s Business Center program. Each year since our existence, we have advocated for the importance of this program and are pleased by its expansion to Idaho.” She continued, “This year, through the work of the Rural Subcommittee, led by Jessica Flynn, we focused on the importance of women’s business centers as a central resource for women entrepreneurs in rural communities.”
NWBC Council Member Jessica Flynn, a local of Boise, then introduced U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-ID), who provided a brief legislative update and opened the conversation to the local business owners. The Senator noted that Idaho ranked 3rd in the nation for fastest growth of small business in 2018 and highlighted the economic impact of the female founders. He reiterated his commitment to empowering rural women entrepreneurs in the region.
Multiple participants referenced the absence of affordable childcare options in the state and suggested that this void prevents many women from launching new business ventures or entering the workforce altogether. Historically, Nampa has been known for its strong agricultural base. However, the city also has a large and diverse manufacturing and retail base and has gained strength from the technology industry.
A representative from the Small Business Administration recognized the cyclical nature of agriculture businesses and advised that the best time to get a line of credit is when you do not need it. He also highlighted SBA’s LenderMatch program, a free online referral tool that connects small businesses with participating SBA-approved lenders.
The founder & CEO of an e-commerce apparel brand revealed the toll that subpar infrastructure took on her bottom line. “I spend more upgrading my city block than my buildings cost me,” she revealed.
Broadband was also a major topic of discussion. A recent ranking of fixed-broadband download speeds listed Idaho as the fourth slowest state in the country. The same study also examined broadband speeds in America’s 100 largest cities and ranked Boise’s speed as 95th. Council Member Jessica Flynn lamented, “Broadband continues to be a major barrier to local entrepreneurial success and, even more, to scaling the economy.” She then shared the Council’s plans to examine the FCC mapping process and gather further input from women around the country on the broadband challenges that they face. Access to reliable broadband has been a recurring theme for women entrepreneurs. NWBC Council Member Barbara Kniff McCulla noted a similar situation in her home city of Pella, Iowa. She briefly discussed the ways that Kim Reynolds, Governor of Iowa, was working to address the issue.
NWBC Council Member Bonnie Nawara wrapped up the roundtable discussion by highlighting the overarching themes and reiterated the Council’s commitment to employ the feedback received as a springboard for the Council’s policy recommendations to Congress, the President, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. The Council appreciates the participation from diverse business owners and stakeholders in the Nampa area.
National Hispanic Heritage Month spans from September 15th – October 15th and celebrates the contributions of the Hispanic community. Research on Hispanic women entrepreneurs conducted by NWBC finds that there are over 1.9 million Hispanic women-owned firms in the United States. These firms are growing in number, revenue, and employment. According to the 2018 State of Women-owned Businesses Report by American Express, 400 Hispanic women-owned businesses are launched each day; and since 2007, Hispanic women-owned firms have grown at a rate of 172 percent.
Hispanic women are also job creators. Recent U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by the NWBC shows that from 2014-2016 employment amongst Hispanic women-owned firms grew at a rate of 14 percent. In 2016, Hispanic women employed over 570,000 workers.
NWBC spent Hispanic Heritage month celebrating and acknowledging women entrepreneurs’ success and impact. Federal agencies across Washington, D.C. hosted events to pay tribute to the Hispanic Americans who have made a significant impact in U.S. history. The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Honorable Elaine L. Chao hosted a celebration featuring a fireside chat with U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25).
The U.S. Small Business Administration also celebrated Hispanic and Latino American culture and heritage with a presentation from Ilka S. Rodriguez-Diaz, a Chief Foreign Language Strategist for the Central Intelligence Agency. Ms. Rodriguez-Diaz is also a founding member of the Agency’s Latino employee resource group, the Hispanic Advisory Council.
The White House celebrated 2019 Hispanic Heritage Month with a reception on Friday, September 27th. The event was attended by a diverse group of American Latinos representing various industries, NGOs, faith-based groups, as well as geographic regions from across the country. One prominent Latina businesswoman from Texas delivered brief remarks about her journey to becoming one of the state’s most successful female founders.
NWBC staff also participated in the Embassy of Spain’s and the Association of Hispanic Leaders’ (ALH) Hispanic Heritage Month roundtable discussion titled “Hispanic USA 2020: A Conversation About Our Impact and Influence in American Society Today.” The roundtable brought together key national Hispanic leaders who shared their respective viewpoints and insights on the current state of the U.S. Hispanic community – specifically, the growing, political, economic, and social clout of Latinos, the nation’s second largest demographic community.
To wrap up Hispanic Heritage Month, Nina Roque, NWBC Executive Director, participated in ‘The Essentials of a Successful Business’ panel at the Latina Style Business Series on October 18th. It was an honor to provide insights and trends related to Latinas in business, as well as on alternative forms of capital, including the findings of the Council’s crowdfunding research.
Latina-owned businesses are one of the fastest growing sectors of national entrepreneurship in the U.S. High potential Latina business owners drive local and national economic development, and often make substantial contributions to their communities. The rate of new businesses being launched daily by Hispanic women is a testament to how their entrepreneurial spirit is shaping the new workforce of the 21st century. NWBC is committed to supporting Hispanic women-founded firms from startup to scale. With a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, these firms will continue to have great success.
Marina Del Rey, CA
WOMEN IN SMALL BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE – MARINA DEL REY, CA
WASHINTON, D.C., September 30, 2019 – As part of its ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series,’ the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) held a roundtable in Los Angeles, CA on September 17, 2019, to better understand the specific challenges and opportunities for women’s entrepreneurship pertaining to access to capital, with a specific focus on angel investment and venture capital. California’s women owned firms employ more than 1 million people and generate a combined annual revenue of nearly $225.5 billion according to the 2017 AMEX State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.
The event began with NWBC Chair Liz Sara welcoming the roundtable participants and attendees. She noted, “Los Angeles is a very important roundtable stop for the Council. California is home to the greatest number of women-owned businesses in the nation with about 1.55 million, according to estimates in a seventh annual American Express analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.”
NWBC Council Member Vanessa Dawson, a local of Los Angeles, then prompted the women entrepreneurs to share their experiences seeking funding to start and grow their businesses. Dawson noted that “unfortunately, female founders received only 2.2% or $2.88 billion of the total $130 billion in Venture Capital (VC) funding in 2018” and asked the roundtable participants to shed light on this phenomenon. All the participants recognized the difficulties of raising traditional forms of capital.
One participant, an angel investor, shared that the vast majority of founders in her portfolio were women because she had created an equally accessible platform and not because she had considered gender as a reason to fund. She also highlighted the low number of female investors willing to write the big checks.
Financial assistance was a recurring topic during the discussion. One investment partner lamented that she had never heard of the available Small Business Administration (SBA) loan programs prior to the roundtable and regretted the missed opportunities to connect women founders to those resources. She also encouraged federal agency outreach to the angel community and early stage growth investors. A local SBA representative shared SBA’s community to increase outreach and highlighted SBA’s LenderMatch program, a free online referral tool that connects small businesses with participating SBA-approved lenders.
NWBC Nicole Cober wrapped up the roundtable discussion by highlighting the overarching themes and reiterated the Council’s commitment to employ the feedback received as a springboard for the Council’s policy recommendations to Congress, the President, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. The Council appreciates the participation from diverse business owners and stakeholders in the Los Angeles area.
St. Petersburg, FL
WOMEN IN SMALL BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE – SR. PETERSBURG, FL
WASHINTON, D.C., August 13, 2019 – As part of its ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series,’ the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) held a roundtable in St. Petersburg, FL on August 6, 2019, to better understand the specific challenges and opportunities for women’s entrepreneurship in S.T.E.M. Florida is ranked number one in the country for the fastest growth rate of women-owned businesses according to the 2018 AMEX State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.
The event began with NWBC Chair Liz Sara welcoming the roundtable participants and attendees, including founders in various business sectors in S.T.E.M., from technology to manufacturing to health. Chair Sara highlighted the Council’s efforts to convene women business owners on topics related to the Council’s three issue areas: Women in S.T.E.M., Rural Women’s Entrepreneurship, and Access to Capital.
The highlight of the Roundtable was a fireside chat with U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and NWBC Council Member Marygrace Sexton, Founder & CEO of Natalie’s Orchid Island Juices. As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Senator Rubio discussed current legislation pertaining to women’s business enterprise such as the Women & Minority Equity Investment Act, which allows women-owned firms to accept venture capital and equity investments that would constitute more than 50 percent of the ownership of a firm and still maintain ownership and control of the business for purposes of WOSB or 8(a) contracting program certifications, so long as the venture capital or equity firm is also woman-owned. The Senator also highlighted his Supporting Veterans in S.T.E.M. Careers Act, noting, “We have a wealth of talent leaving the service, and they are equipped with unique skills. It is particularly important for our women in uniform to utilize their skills for S.T.E.M. careers or to start their own businesses.”
NWBC Council Member Monica Stynchula, Founder & CEO of REUNIONCare, Inc. and a local of St. Petersburg, then moderated a lively discussion among women business owners in S.T.E.M. fields. The importance of early S.T.E.M. education and business mentorship were prominent themes around the table. A business consultant advised, “Surround yourself with a circle of influence and recognize that you could be in someone else’s circle too.”
An owner of an engineering and manufacturing company recounted her experience as the only woman in her college science program and recalled how the professor could not remember her name and would return her papers last. She noted the importance of teaching entrepreneurial skills at an early age and engaging young women in S.T.E.M. fields. A representative from a local college highlighted that the majority of the school’s natural science majors were women, but they consistently identified as scientists and not necessarily entrepreneurs. Several participants echoed these sentiments by acknowledging the need for business education to be interwoven throughout basic education courses. Others stressed that while S.T.E.M. education was important, S.T.E.M. degrees were not as essential to a start-up’s success as the ability of the founder to learn and adapt to ever-changing technologies.
NWBC Chair Sara wrapped up the roundtable discussion by highlighting the overarching themes and reiterated the Council’s commitment to employ the feedback received as a springboard for the Council’s policy recommendations to Congress, the President, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. The Council appreciates the participation from diverse business owners and stakeholders in the St. Petersburg area.
WOMEN IN SMALL BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE – AUSTIN, TX
WASHINTON, D.C., July 30, 2019 – As part of its ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series,’ the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) held a roundtable in Austin, Texas, on July 25, 2019, to better understand the specific challenges and opportunities for women’s entrepreneurship by delving into the topic of access to capital, with a specific focus on issues related to credit access and venture capital. Austin has become the start-up and entrepreneurship capital of Texas and is the second-best city in the country in terms of economic clout for women in business according to the 2018 AMEX State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.
The event began with NWBC Chair Liz Sara welcoming the roundtable participants and attendees, including investors, lenders, and various business sectors from technology to aerospace to health. NWBC Council Member Rebecca Contreras, a local of Austin, then prompted the women entrepreneurs to share their experiences seeking funding to start and grow their businesses. Contreras noted that “women only receive 4.4% of small business commercial loans, despite the fact that women pay back their micro loans at a 97% rate of return” and asked the lenders in the room to shed light on this phenomenon. All the participants recognized the difficulties of raising traditional forms of capital. Some recounted being questioned by lenders differently than their male counterparts. One participant shared that while “men can get an investment on an idea, women need to go in with their product already built and show some sales first.”
The importance of mentorship and a support network, often found in other women’s business organizations, was prominent themes around the table. A high-growth business owner and advocate for female entrepreneurs recommended that other female founders assemble their own industry specific advisory committee to assist them in connecting with other founders in their industry. “Don’t be afraid to inconvenience people,” she said. Another business owner, who was initially turned away by a traditional lender, found support from her local chamber of commerce. After building a network within her chamber community, she was able to return to that same lender and acquire capital. She is now nationally recognized for her cupcakes.
NWBC Council Member Vanessa Dawson, CEO of the Vinetta Project, a capital platform that sources, funds, and supports promising female founders, shifted the discussion toward angel investing and venture capital. She noted the Pitchbook statistic that female founders received only 2.2% or $2.88 billion of the total $130 billion in VC funding in 2018.
She asked the roundtable participants to share some of their successes pitching their business ideas as well as some of their pitfalls. One woman founder shared that despite having orders from a high-end retail company, she was initially unsuccessful in acquiring venture capital.
NWBC Chair Sara wrapped up the roundtable discussion and reiterated the Council’s commitment to employ the feedback received as a springboard for the Council’s policy recommendations to Congress, the President, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. The Council appreciates the participation from diverse business owners and stakeholders in the Austin area.
For more information about upcoming events, please visit the NWBC website.