While I consider myself a female entrepreneur, most of the attendees represented women owned businesses – I’m talking about the kind that employs other people and that produces a product. In addition to being a GREAT networking opportunity, it was eye-opening to learn of the problems facing women-owned businesses. Some of the issues we discussed can affect men-owned businesses, but there were a few that predominately affected women:
Do I grow my business?
I’m at capacity, either with space or staff. There is the demand, but do I invest (where do I even find the $ to do this) and take the risk to expand or scale back a bit to something that is manageable.
Is it worth my time to become a Targeted Small Business?
The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA) certifies businesses owned, operated, and actively managed by women, minority group members, or persons with disabilities as targeted small businesses. Certified TSBs are eligible to apply for low-interest loans and equity grants through the Iowa Department of Economic Development (IDED). State purchasing officers also consider TSBs when seeking bids for state-purchased goods and services. While a business does need the TSB designation to apply for particular loans and contracts, one of the women I talked to had purchased an existing business and was told she needed to wait two years to receive her TSB designation (I received mine in one week). While waiting, the existing business she had purchased lost the opportunity to bid on state projects that they had been winning 90% of the time before the sale.
Access to capital
The woman who purchased the small business I mentioned above needed to have her husband co-sign on her loan to purchase the business. She had more assets than he had and was in an outstanding financial position to more than repay the loan (she paid back a 10 year note in 10 months). But she still needed her husband to co-sign. What if a woman doesn’t have a husband to co-sign? What then?
Who are the SBA and SBDC? What do they do?
In the small group discussion I participated in, it was agreed that the SBA and their local SBDC offices need to do a better job of creating awareness for their services. I learned of SBDC after I started my business and have been promoting them to everyone I know. I was informed that the West Des Moines SBDC office has recently hired a designated Marketing professional to take on this challenge.
Are you a women-owned business? What barriers or challenges are you facing?