It’s that time of year again. Time for us to give thanks and to reflect on the year’s accomplishments and gifts. And to learn from the year’s stumbles.
I came to entrepreneurship late, having built my career on Wall Street. Being an entrepreneur is exhilarating, terrifying, exciting, challenging, rewarding…I could go on and on. But what defines entrepreneurialism most for me is that, as entrepreneurs, we each have the opportunity to build businesses that have an impact in the world. And we can build the types of businesses at which we each would like to work: businesses that respect our employees and partners.
Today, there are 9.4 million women-owned firms in the U.S., and they are growing faster in number and employment than most other firms. While we’re still nowhere near parity with the guys, the pace of change in women’s entrepreneurialism picked up tremendously in 2015.
Reflecting on the past year, I am thankful for…
1. Increasing recognition that start-ups with female leadership are more successful than those run by only men.
First Round Capital recently reported 63% better performance by its companies with women leaders than by all-male leadership teams.
2. Successful women entrepreneurs that are leading and inspiring others.
They’ve founded and run businesses such as Tory Burch, Drybar, The Honest Company, Lynda.com, Huffington Post, Soul Cycle, The Muse, MomCorps, Plum Alley, ClassPass, Mighty Bell, Net-a-Porter, One Kings Lane, TheSkimm…You get my point. And the list grows every day.
3. The growing ecosystem supporting women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses.
These organizations provide some combination of coaching, networking, instruction and introduction to funding sources; they include the Tory Burch Foundation; Astia on the west coast; Springboard on the east coast; and EY’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women Initiative. And women’s networks that can provide entrepreneurs with valuable peer and business connections include my own Ellevate Network, as well as other professional women’s networks, such was Upward Women, Women 2.0, and Levo League.
Underpinning the emergence of these organizations, and entrepreneurial women supporting each other, is a growing recognition that it’s not just one or two or three women entrepreneurs who can be successful, as in the old days of one-seat-reserved-at-the-table-for-a-woman in corporate America. Instead, there is room for the pie to grow and for us to lift each other up. A strong women’s entrepreneurial network may be just as important as any other network, given the idiosyncratic challenges that women entrepreneurs face.
4. Running a business is becoming more affordable.
Think freelancers for certain functions, instead of full-time employees. Think short-term shared workspace rentals, at places like WeWork, rather than crushing long-term leases. Think outsourcing some of the HR and accounting functions.
5. Sources of funding for women entrepreneurs.
Crowd funding is now being opened up to more investors, and women entrepreneurs are as, or more, successful than male-run businesses in this arena.
Add to this the growth of women-focused crowd-funding venues —such as Plum Alley —women-focused angel investing groups —Pipeline Angels, Portfolia, and Golden Seeds to name a few —and for-women business loans from Tory Burch Foundation, and you’ve got real momentum.
The impact of all of this? It is all positive!
6. Success begets success.
As more of these companies are successful, the bigger venture capital dollars will come into these businesses.
7. Women-owned businesses will provide great places for other women (and men) to work.
The women of Ellevate Network tell us that they often start businesses in order to build the businesses at which they want to work. And the number one reason they accept a job is “meaning and purpose.”
As we look back on 2015, I am grateful for all of this, and I am hopeful for more positive change in 2016.