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10 Million Strong – National Women’s Small Business Month: A Report Back

“Our theme this year is 10 million strong because we know women are launching businesses that create value and solve problems. These businesses are innovative, scalable and are creating jobs and strengthening our economy. Women-owned and women-led businesses are truly a force to be reckoned with,” said Carla Harris, Presidentially-appointed Chair of the NWBC.

October was National Women’s Small Business Month. The past month was both a celebration of the growth and momentum of women’s entrepreneurship and a call-to-action for continued support of women entrepreneurs and their business dreams. It was a busy time for the Council – we hosted events, we participated in a variety of others, we celebrated the Council’s 27th birthday, we championed new policies, like sole source, and more. Here’s a report back from the Council’s month of tribute.

Events

In celebration of 10 million strong women-owned, the NWBC hosted and participated in a number of different events. The first stop was New Orleans, Louisiana for a Women Power Social Change Roundtable, hosted by Propeller, the NWBC and the SBA District Office.  The event was inspired by a conversation on social entrepreneurship that the Council had in Detroit, MI and a previous roundtable in New Orleans with Senator Vitter. The roundtable discussion focused on how to better support female entrepreneurs interested in launching social ventures (read: businesses that create both social and economic value). Propeller is a local accelerator with a great track record of female participation -- 60% of the fellows in their Social Venture Fellowship are women. Through the Accelerator program, Propeller helps entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable businesses. Meredith West, the Policy Director for the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship joined too and formally presented the bipartisan resolution declaring October as National Women’s Small Business Month.

The second stop was Baltimore, Maryland. Amanda Brown, the Council’s Executive Director, participated in the Athena Powerlink’s Baltimore Business Women’s Roundtable. There, Amanda presented on the trends in women’s entrepreneurship and then participated in a panel about social capital and networking. We also debuted the Council’s Social Networks Toolkit, a resource for women to strategically build and leverage their social networks. Julia Pimsleur, CEO and founder of Little Pim, and friend of the Council, joined for the afternoon keynote: “Going Big is Going Home,” drawing upon the parallels of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and a female entrepreneur. 

Next – a trip to Stamford, Connecticut for the CT WBDC’s 14th Annual Business Breakfast. Council alumna Fran Pastore is the Director of the WBDC, so we were pleased to be a part of this special event. Amanda participated in the panel discussion by sharing the opportunities available in corporate supplier programs and their important key pathway for growth-oriented women entrepreneurs to increase their sales significantly. While in town, Amanda met with the co-founders of The Refinery -- Janis Collins and Jennifer Gabler; The Refinery received a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration in its first Growth Accelerator Fund Competition. The Council’s current research portfolio includes projects on women’s participation in accelerators & incubators and corporate supplier diversity programs, so NWBC is eager to learn best practices from these programs in terms of supporting women entrepreneurs.

The NWBC also participated in NIH’s SBIR/STTR Conference in Seattle, Washington. Erin Kelley, Director of Research and Policy, participated in the Translating STEM Expertise into Entrepreneurship: Breaking Barriers for Underrepresented STEM Professionals panel. Speakers shared insights on national initiatives to close the gender and underrepresented gap in life science entrepreneurship. The NWBC also shared research findings and policy recommendations to support women researchers in their path to commercialization and business ownership.

Another big moment was the celebration of the Council’s birthday! It’s been 27 years since Congress passed H.R. 5050 Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, which established the Council and the Women’s Business Center program, and gave women the right to sign for loans on their own. Time flies when you’re working hard – and for that reason we made sure to look back and celebrate our journey and the many that have shared in this journey.

We concluded the month with the She-Suite Secrets from The Spotlight Empowerment Experience Conference in Arlington, Virginia. As a panelist for the Own the Future: Lessons Learned from Bold Career Life Transitions panel, Amanda shared her own story and spoke about the bold decisions that women entrepreneurs make every single day.

Media

ICYMI:  NWBC also made an appearance on local news and a radio show sharing the importance of the celebration and the call to action for the 10 million strong and the work that we do. Don’t miss Amanda on News Channel 8 “Women’s Business Report” and Behind the Mind Radio Show!

Momentum

We have to thank Senator Vitter, Senator Shaheen, Senator Fischer, Senator Hirono, Senator Ayotte, Senator Cantwell, Senator Gardner, Senator Cardin, Senator Risch, Senator Peters, Senator Enzi, Senator Rubio, Senator Markey and Senator Coon for submitting and passing the bipartisan Senate Resolution 280 declaring October as “National Women’s Small Business Month.” This bipartisan and unanimous recognition is tremendous and much appreciated.

That was not the only piece of legislation the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee was working on. SBC Chairman Vitter, Senator Cantwell and SBC Ranking Member Shaheen unanimously passed the bipartisan S.2126 Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2015 though the Committee.  A win for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women’s Business Center (WBC) Program with an increase from $14.5 million to $21.75 million and an increase in grant levels available to WBCs from $150,000 to $250,000.  Senator Cantwell said it best: “Today’s legislation will help break the glass ceiling women entrepreneurs face in this country by ensuring the next generation of women small business owners can get the training and counseling they need to turn their ideas into realities.”

There were two other very much anticipated actions that moved this month, both of which will have a great impact for women-owned and women-led businesses. First, the Sole Source Rules became effective on October 14th. Contracting officers now have the authority to award sole-source contracts to women-owned small businesses. Second, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission voted 3 to 1 to approve the 685-page crowdfunding rules from Title III of the JOBS Act. We are thankful for the leadership of SEC Chair May Jo White for completing the final major rule mandated under the JOBS Act. We are excited that women-owned and women-led businesses now have a bigger pool of investors. 365 pages might be too much to read, but take the time to read over the SEC’s Fact Sheet to understand what the rules mean to your business and your access to capital. The Council will continue to update the public as we get more details on these rulings as well as inform on components that will roll out in the next coming months. 

Amanda also attended the National Urban League Washington Bureau's Small Business Roundtable as well as the Kayo Women’s Private Equity Conference. Our Chair Carla Harris participated in Fortune’s The Most Powerful Women Conference in Washington, DC, with this year’s theme being “Leading with Purpose.” A few other ICYMI related items: Fast Company released the top 10 metro areas for female entrepreneurship. Two female sharks Barbara Corcoran and Lori Greiner were on ABC’s Shark Tank this month too, which we know is rare. Don’t miss the NWBC’s Shark Tank Analysis; check out how the Sharks invested by demographic over the course of the past 6 seasons. We’re looking forward to seeing how things change in Season 7 with guest judges like Ashton Kutcher and Chris Saaca. We couldn’t agree more with Chris Saaca’s comment that “As a culture, we don’t treat our girls as potential business leaders.” Don’t you worry Chris, the NWBC is making sure we change that for the 10 million strong and counting.

As an advisory council on issues of economic impact and importance to women business owners, the Council was certainly excited to celebrate National Women’s Small Business Month and see progress happening. We are excited to be part of the movement and to continue the momentum going. Thank you to the women entrepreneurs - for your work, your innovative ideas, for creating jobs, for supporting women in business and for making our economy stronger and our communities better.

“We are excited to recognize the growth of women’s business ownership throughout this month. It’s both a time for celebration and a call to action – the community is growing and diversifying and so too must the ecosystem that supports them. Women-owned businesses have made great strides in the last two decades, despite lower levels of access to capital and markets. Imagine if the doors of opportunity were fully open?” said Amanda Brown, Executive Director of the National Women’s Business Council.

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