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.
WOMEN IN SMALL BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE – BALTIMORE, MD
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 28, 2019 – As part of its ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series,’ the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) held a roundtable in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 25, 2019, to better understand the specific challenges and opportunities for women’s entrepreneurship in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M).
The Baltimore roundtable convened local women business owners in S.T.E.M. to share their perspective on the educational pipeline and barriers to accessing capital. The conversation also included educators, investors, organizational representatives, and government officials.
NWBC Council Member Shelonda Stokes welcomed attendees and set the stage for the discussion noting, “As advocates for the nation’s estimated 12.3 million women-owned businesses, NWBC strives to encourage women to start and grow their businesses in S.T.E.M., an industry with proven high-growth potential.”
NWBC Chair Liz Sara prompted the local women entrepreneurs to share the trials and tribulations of starting and growing their businesses All participants recognized the difficulties of establishing credibility as the subject matter expert in a room full of men. One participant transformed a regional software engineering firm into a global software company and noted that access to equity capital was her toughest charge along the way.
The need for mentorship was a prominent theme around the table. Some found counsel within their client base, while others forged connections with personal role models in their industry. Representatives from a local state university noted that tech entrepreneurs had trouble finding properly tailored advice, so the university is hoping to utilize alumni in specialized fields for better guidance. A non-profit organization focused on computer science education stressed a need for relevant curriculums that cater to the interests of young girls and expressed that early, consistent exposure is key when attracting females to these underrepresented fields.
Council Member Monica Stynchula 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 from the Baltimore area.
Throughout these past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to represent the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) at the Kauffman Foundation’s Annual ESHIP Summit in Kansas City, MS, and at the Diana International Impact Day at Babson College in Wellesley, MA. Both convenings provided unparalleled dialogue between entrepreneurs, researchers, educators, investors, and policymakers.
At the Diana Impact Day, I had the great opportunity to moderate the Conference’s Session A: Connecting Research and Practice, with a specific focus on addressing financing for women entrepreneurs. The session was divided into two panels – the first on pipeline issues and the second on implicit bias. Each panel featured an entrepreneurial research expert, an investor, and a woman entrepreneur. Following each panel discussion, I invited conference attendees to discuss some of the perspectives presented, best practices to address any funding challenges identified, and some of their commitments to action.
Despite the significant gains that women entrepreneurs and business owners have made throughout the 30 years of NWBC’s existence, the dialogue between the panelists and the attendees highlighted the significant challenges and barriers that persist for women entrepreneurs seeking to start and grow their businesses. Most conference attendees were aware of the alarmingly low percentage of venture capital funds that are awarded to women entrepreneurs: just 2.7%. That’s just 2.7% of the total $130 billion in venture capital funding awarded in 2018!
At the conclusion of the Session, I provided a policy wrap-up for the conference attendees, where I summarized the recurring themes presented in the panel and roundtable discussions. They were: Access, Education, and Challenging the Institutional Bias in Funding.
Overwhelmingly, I heard from the speakers that acquiring venture capital is about access – access to a network of support and access to a network of potential funders and investors. If it’s all about access, it’s easy to understand why that may present more difficult challenges for diverse entrepreneurs who may be in more rural areas for example, or entrepreneurs who may also be first generation Americans.
I also heard that financing women entrepreneurs is about education, both for the entrepreneurs and the investors. It’s about educating women entrepreneurs how to pitch their already-investable ideas to investors. And as entrepreneur Carla Walker-Miller, founder and CEO of Walker-Miller Energy Services, said “it’s about [teaching women entrepreneurs] to eat the NO’s for breakfast.”
Dr. Alicia Robb, Founder and CEO of Next Wave Impact, pointed out that overcoming some of the challenges to funding women entrepreneurs is also about education and awareness related to alternative forms of capital – finding the right kind of capital for the right kind of entrepreneur. As she pointed out, alternative forms of capital may provide more suitable options for some entrepreneurs. This is also supported by NWBC Kiva and Kickstarter case studies, which revealed promising results for women entrepreneurs seeking to fund their business ventures through crowdfunding platforms.
Both Chip Hazard, General Partner at Flybridge Capital Partners & Investment Partner at XFactor Ventures, and Angela Lee, Founder of 37 Angels & CIO and Associate Dean at Columbia Business School, acknowledged the need for the investor community to recognize some of the institutional bias present in traditional funding structures. Overcoming some of these challenges requires venture capitalists and investors to recognize some of their own internal implicit associations with diverse entrepreneurs and unique or different business ideas. The vast majority of investors continue to be men, some of whom may find it difficult to understand or relate to a product that they won’t personally be able to use. A recent story I read about an entrepreneur seeking capital for her smart breast pump comes to mind. In that case, she found great success in funding her venture through Kickstarter.
At the conclusion of the Session, I reiterated the Council’s commitment to listen and engage with diverse members of the the larger entrepreneurial ecosystem, and to continue to elevate their voices to policymakers. I am particularly encouraged by the Council’s new slate of recently installed members, who are especially committed to elevating the often unheard or overlooked voices of women entrepreneurs in rural areas and in STEM fields.
I also invited conference attendees to join in on NWBC’s roundtables around the country, to continue to share their research findings with us, and to stay engaged with us by providing comments and feedback on our public meetings and Annual Report to Congress and the President. It is critical to the work of the Council, as advisors to the President, Congress and the Small Business Administration, that we continue to hear from you.
Last week, in recognition of National Women’s History Month, the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) hosted a Small Business Roundtable in Pella, Iowa with Senator Joni Ernst, NWBC Chair Liz Sara, Council member Barbara Kniff-McCulla, Owner of KLK Construction, and over fifteen local women business owners.
The roundtable began with NWBC Chair Sara welcoming Senator Ernst and the fifteen women business owners, representing various business sectors from construction and manufacturing to an online floral business and a brewery owner. NWBC was honored to have Senator Ernst join the conversation, where she discussed her work on the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship and outlined her legislative priorities including increasing sole source contracting opportunities and paid family leave. Senator Ernst also touched on workforce training efforts and opportunity zones.
The highlight of the afternoon was a fireside chat between Senator Ernst and Council member Kniff-McCulla. They discussed topics ranging from broadband access to digital commerce and infrastructure. Kniff-McCulla remarked on the importance of the roundtable “for our rural community of Pella, to have a variety of women’s business owners sitting around the table, being able to tell their stories, and we appreciated Senator Ernst being a part of this.”
The discussion developed into introductions of the various small business owners and representatives from the Small Business Administration (SBA), the SBA’s Office of Advocacy, the National Association of Women Business Owners (a representative of which also serves on the Council), Women’s Business Centers, and Small Business Development Centers. It was an incredible collection of women, all with unique stories of their own. The roundtable conversation also explored topics such as access to capital and markets, crowdfunding, technology, and infrastructure.
With an estimated 12.3 million women-owned firms, 89,000 of which are located in Iowa, NWBC recognizes the unique contributions that women-owned businesses make to the economy and remains committed to continuing to advocate for a platform to expand and improve opportunities for women business owners and their enterprises. This Women’s History Month, NWBC was intent on highlighting and exploring the successes and opportunities that rural women entrepreneurs.
NWBC will be releasing a research report on rural women’s entrepreneurship in May of 2019. Preliminarily, the report finds that despite the declining rate of entrepreneurship in rural areas, there remains great opportunities for women’s entrepreneurship. The Council looks forward to highlighting and sharing those successes, and making accompanying policy recommendations to the President, the Congress, and the SBA.