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How to Celebrate Women’s Small Business Month

October is Women’s Small Business Month (WSBM), and truly deserves to be celebrated. Women have made tremendous strides as small business owners, although there are still many challenges ahead. Here are some ways you can draw personal meaning from WSBM as you celebrate the occasion.

  1. Learn About the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC):

    The Council was formed in 1988 with the mission to help end discriminatory lending to women. The Council continues to this day, giving important non-partisan advice to the federal government about issues vital to women business owners. It’s refreshing to see how much progress has been made as people of good will dedicate themselves to extending progress to today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.

  2. Identify Your Business as Woman-Owned:

    You can get the word out on your website and on social media. Include figures and statistics about the rising presence of women-owned small businesses. For example, did you know that almost 40% of U.S. businesses are owned by women, comprising more than 11 million female business owners? Add a page to your website discussing how you created an innovative service or product, and any obstacles you had to overcome as a woman.

  3. Offer and Encourage Mentorship to Young Women:

    If you are a role model for female entrepreneurship, consider mentoring the next generation of women business owners. You can speak to local groups, form an organization with other local businesswomen, and bring in interns to learn how a business works.

  4. Schedule Special Sales and Promotions:

    Make October a month your customers will remember by sponsoring sales and promotions tied to WSBM. This can be especially effective if you offer products or services that are helpful to women and families. Consider running an essay contest and awarding prizes to young women who describe their passion for starting and running a business.

  5. Get Involved in the Political Process:

    There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that women get equal pay for equal work, and that businesswomen get the same access to credit that businessmen do. Support candidates and initiatives that can help women overcome obstacles and increase the availability of capital.

  6. Publicize Grants to Women Owned Businesses:

    There are many national, state, and local grants available to female entrepreneurs, such as these five leading examples:

      1. InnovateHER Grant:
        This grant, sponsored by the Small Business Administration, awards three grants annually totaling $70,000 to businesses that develop offerings that empower and influence women and their families.
      2. Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program:
        Ms. Fisher had but $350 when she launched her clothing business in 1984. The company now annually earns more than $300 million in revenues, and it pays its success forward with 10 annual grants totaling $100,000.
      3. FedEx Small Business Grant Contest:
        Although not exclusively for women, females have had great success receiving hundreds of thousands in grant money, including several women grand prize winners.
      4. Girlboss Foundation Grants:
        Since 2014, the Foundations has granted over $120,000 to women entrepreneurs in the fields of music, design, fashion, and the arts. Grants are awarded quarterly in amounts ranging from $500 to $15,000.
      5. Amber Grants:
        WomenNet launched Amber Grants in 1998 to commemorate a young woman who died before achieving her entrepreneurial dreams. Grants are small, numerous, and easy to apply for.

The ways you can recognize WSBM are limited only by your imagination. If you are a woman growing your own business, remember that IOU Financial is an equal opportunity lender that has lent millions of dollars to female entrepreneurs. Contact us today if you’d like to take your business to the next level!

Women in Business: Grants for Female Entrepreneurs

The federal government offers a number of grants to small businesses owned and managed by women. Most of these grants allow flexible use of the money as long as it doesn’t go toward startup expenses. The two major houses for information about federally sponsored grants are:

Grants.gov: This is the main databases of federally sponsored grants. You can search it with a keyword of “women” to identify grants of interest. If you’d like to apply for one of these grants, you’ll have to secure a DUNS number from Duns & Bradstreet, register at the System Award Management website and then create a Grants.gov account.

Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs: This website from the Small Business Administration can be used to identify grant to small businesses involved in federal research and development. A dozen federal agencies pool their grant information here for businesses with up to 500 employees.

There are also a number of national, regional and state grant programs that female entrepreneurs can tap. These include:

  • Eileen Fisher: Until 2018, this company offered a grant program for women in business. It is currently reformulating its grants program and plans to reintroduce it in 2019.
  • Amber Grant Foundation: The foundation awards $10,000 grants to women-run businesses. It is dedicated to a young woman named Amber who died before realizing her entrepreneurial dream. If you are passionate about your business, this program might suit you well.
  • The Girlboss Foundation: Grants of $15,000 each are awarded every other year to female entrepreneurs. In addition, you receive marketing assistance and press exposure for your business. Grant winners must be women owning businesses in the art, music, fashion or design industries.
  • The Halstead Grant: This $7,500 grant is awarded annually to female emerging silver jewelry artists. The program is designed to boost an artist’s career as she starts out. You must submit your design portfolio and answer 15 business questions to compete for this grant.
  • FedEx Small Business Grant: This is a grant contest for women entrepreneurs and businesswomen who are involved in logistics, trade and other related industries. Ten winners are chosen each year with prizes ranging from $15,000 to $50,000.
  • Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards: This program drives change by empowering women entrepreneurs. Each year, 21 women finalists (three from each continent) are awarded. The focus of the program is to support women who make concrete contributions to solving problems that challenge the planet’s future.
  • Grants for Women: This is an online guide for women grants and scholarships. You can search by entering a keyword, or you can peruse the site’s directory of foundations and organizations that offer grants to women. The website filters out schemes and scams to protect applicants from fraud.
  • Open Meadows Foundation: This organizations offers grants of up to $2,000 each to women who run projects that promote economic, racial and gender justice. It is an activist organization that encourages the building of community power through projects implemented for girls and women who have limited financial access. Recipient must have organizational budgets that do not exceed $75,000.

Grants are a wonderful boost for any small business, but unfortunately, aren’t always enough to go around. The next best thing is to obtain funding through a convenient, affordable small business loan, such as the ones we offer at IOU Financial. If you need up to $500,000 funding for your small business, contact IOU Financial today and we can have your money available in days.

Women in Business: How to Get Certified as a Woman-Owned Business

If you are a woman who owns or runs a business, you can gain a competitive advantage by having your business certified as women-owned. Although the process can be time-consuming, it’s well worth the effort, because many governmental entities and public corporations have quotas for women-owned businesses. So don’t despair if you are not part of the “old boys’ network.” Celebrate instead, and fight for you share of the pie by getting certified.

The federal government  likes women-owned businesses, and has a requirement to award 5% of eligible prime contracting money to women-owned small business. Government agencies and large companies distribute requests for proposals through organizations like the National Association of Women Business Owners (NWBOC) and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), who in turn distribute the requests to members. In addition, many state and local governments offer opportunities for women-owned businesses, as do large corporations such as Starbucks and Target.

Who Qualifies?

In general, a business is considered women-owned if:

  • Women control at least 51% of the company, and they are U.S. citizens
  • Women must manage the daily operation of the company and must occupy the highest executive office on a full-time basis
  • A woman and man can jointly own a women-owned business as long as the woman owns 51% and can demonstrate her control and management of the company

Four Certification Programs

There are four major, nationally-recognized certification programs for women-owned businesses:

  • Small Business Administration’s Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) designation: This is an excellent certification for businesses wishing to bid on federal contracts. The WOSB designation helps women-owned businesses in industries where they are underrepresented.
  • Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification: This is a federal designation provided by your state. It can help you win contracts from the U.S. Department of Transportation. States that issue contracts that use federal money must include DBE businesses at a predetermined level. DBE certification is not just for women – it also applies to minorities.
  • Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certification: This is probably the premier non-governmental certification, accepted at federal, state, and local entities as well as 1,000+ corporations. Certification requires significant paperwork and a personal interview, but there isn’t any requirement for the size or age of your business. The SBA accepts the WBENC certification for the WOSB program. By joining WBENC, you gain access to thousands of other female business owners.
  • Nation Woman Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC) certification: This program is similar to the one offered by WBENC. In addition, NWBOC offers training and mentoring opportunities.

Women in Business: Five Podcasts for Female Entrepreneurs

Women are increasingly gaining a rightfully earned space amongst entrepreneurs. In fact, in 2017, more women started businesses than men (47% of women compared to 44% of men).

Female entrepreneurs know that they tend to face unique challenges and barriers that most men don’t have to think about in the business world. As such, it’s important for women to group together to support one another and provide advice. Podcasts are a great way to connect female business owners and professionals around the world: below are five of our favorites:

Recode Decode

With just 26% of professional computing positions in the U.S. held by women, it’s vital for female technology professionals to connect with other female colleagues. Recode Decode is a podcast by well-known tech journalist, Kara Swisher.

Each week, Swisher interviews business leaders and journalists, politicians, investors and other entrepreneurs with her brazen questions and comments. She is not afraid to discuss controversial topics or voice her opinions, which is a breath of fresh air for women, many of whom think they have to stifle their voices in the business world to get ahead.

ZenFounder

The ZenFounder podcast is a great resource where Sherry Walling, Ph.D. and clinical psychologist, shares strategies for finding a good work/life balance for females. This podcast helps listeners with facing their fears, managing their stress levels and growing their businesses!

Failure Factor

One source found that females disproportionately fear failure more than men, which affects their success at work! Failure Factor is a podcast by psychotherapist Megan Bruneau that addresses this very issue.

Bruneau interviews successful figures in the business world as they explain how failure offered up new opportunities and reconfigured their thinking process. She provides tips on dealing with failure to come out on top and not letting it stop you from fulfilling your dreams.

Women Taking The Lead

Jodi Flynn helps women stop doubting themselves and trying to be perfect, and simply try to be the best versions of themselves. Her podcasts cover topics such as conflict resolution, networking, goal setting, branding and more!

She interviews other business leaders who discuss their struggles to succeed in their professions, and how they overcame them.

Boss Girl Creative

This podcast targets those women who are considering starting a business, or are in the start up stages. Reina Pomeroy and Christina Scalera provide ideas on how to turn a mere idea into a successful company.

The hosts and their guests offer advice on branding, social media, planning, networking and marketing to get your brand known worldwide.

Looking for other resources to help your business grow? Check out IOU’s Business Budget Sheet to get a grip on your finances!

3 Excellent Online Communities for Women Entrepreneurs

Women in the U.S. are taking their careers more seriously than ever before as well as the necessary steps to become entrepreneurs. Since 2007, there are 45% more female-owned businesses—which currently employ 9 million people in this country.

Although women have been making significant progress in the business world in recent years, it is still mostly run and controlled by men. As such, females need their own communities to help them with the motivation to succeed, resources to start their own business and support to meet the challenges head on. The following online communities are great choices for women entrepreneurs:

Chic CEO

This community targets those females who want to become entrepreneurs, or are in the first stages of developing their ideas. A common barrier to the process is fear and the belief that they can’t do it, so Chic CEO provides resources to help women conquer their fears.

The site offers tutorials and advice from actual business owners that is easy to understand and follow. Check out the following resources:

  • 3 Day Chic Start: an online tutorial that focuses on customer service and brand development
  • Business Plan format guide
  • Blog
  • Resource Center that recommends books, interviews with other professionals and more

Yes She Can

As the name itself suggests, this online community empowers women to follow their dreams and live up to their full potential. This site targets female Los Angeles business owners and professionals, sharing local events, stories, advice and resources to empower females.

Started by professional writer, Lydia Mack, Yes She Can offers several cool features:

  • Sole news source for female LA entrepreneurs
  • Calendar with hand selected events, such as conferences, lectures, meetups and workshops to help women advance in their careers
  • Weekly newsletter with strategies to improve both the personal and professional lives of women
  • Monthly meetups where members meet on the first Friday of every month to network and share their thoughts and advice

Note: Although this group is Los Angeles based, it is a great example of local groups throughout the country. With an easy online search, females can find meetups and meetings in their areas.

Lean In

This organization was created by Facebook’s Founder and Board Chair, Sheryl Sandberg. Named after a book she wrote, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, this site is dedicated to aiding women in their quest to follow their ambitions.

They accomplish their goal in three ways:

  • Create Circles, where over 37,000 different groups of women meet throughout the world to discuss their objectives and create plans to succeed
  • Create awareness campaigns to educate the public about important issues surrounding the success of women, and men’s role in this process
  • Create tutorials, videos and discussion guides for both men and women on helping females succeed in the business world

If you are a female entrepreneur who has a great idea for a new business, but lack funding, turn to IOU Financial. Our company is committed to helping both men and women follow their dreams and ambitions. Contact us today at www.ioufinancial.com to find out about our easy business loans of up to $300,000!