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June 09, 2015

After the recognition of last week’s National Small Business Week, I dove into research on the contributions of women owned businesses to the Vermont and US economy. I also began to contemplate how women contribute to the success of other women in business. The results are mixed yet show that we have tremendous opportunities to do more for our peers.

Good and Bad News About Women Owned Businesses

The recent report by Womenable highlights the accomplishments of women owned enterprises from 1997 to 2014. To meet the definition of a woman owned business, ownership must be at a minimum 51% in the hands of women. The good news is that the number of women-owned firms increased by 68%, which is 1/5 times higher than the national average of 47% for all firms. Women owned businesses excelled in other metrics such as employment and revenue among all other privately held businesses.

“… as of 2014, there are nearly 9.1 million women-owned enterprises, employing nearly 7.9 million workers and generating over $1.4 trillion in revenues.” Source: Womenable ‘The State of Women Owned Businesses 2014′ 

Since women owned businesses are typically smaller than men owned or equally owned firms, it is safe to argue that women lead the small business sector that is heralded as the backbone of our economy

What could be the bad news then? Even with adding approximately 274,000 jobs to the economy, women owned businesses account for only 6% of the US workforce and 4% of revenue. In Vermont, the numbers are worse as we are in the bottom 5 states in terms of women owned business growth (30%) and revenue growth (47%).

“The states with the lowest growth in the number of women-owned firms between 1997 and 2014 are Alaska (11%), West Virginia (23%), Iowa (23%), Kansas (30%) and Vermont (30%).”  Source: Womenable ‘The State of Women Owned Businesses 2014‘

Vermont Women Business Ownership Peer Support

With so many women in business, supportive Vermont communities, and local resources, the natural question is: why, then, is Vermont ranked at the bottom for women owned businesses? There are many thoughts and speculations among the business sector. But there’s also the challenge that, maybe, we as women business owners don’t do enough to support one another in our ventures. We all say we want our peers to achieve success and we truly mean it. But we also can get caught up in our own businesses, our family lives, and the myriad other things we juggle.

Peer support doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as just listening to another’s challenges, frustrations, successes, or the latest bookkeeping system over a cup of tea or coffee. Or making a commitment to mentor another woman business owner who may just be getting started or is taking the next step to grow her business. We can always serve as a connector to help women meet others that have skills, services or products they may need. It’s also called networking and we Vermonters do that well here in our small state.

Vermont is fortunate to have a variety of small business resources and some specifically for women business owners. It’s something we do well and I’m fortunate to be a woman business owner here. But we have much work to do.

Resources for Vermont Women Business Owners

  • WBON – Women Business Owners Network: Near and dear to my heart (having been the director for three years), WBON is one of the leaders and a peer support resource for Vermont women owned businesses.
  • Women’s Small Business Program – Mercy Connections
  • Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility – (VBSR): Find liked minded businesses committed to the “triple bottom line” (People. Planet. Profit.).