According to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO.org), more than 11.6 million companies in the United States are owned by women. These firms generate some $1.7 trillion in sales and employ more than nine million individuals. Also, women-owned firms (51% or more of the ownership is women) account for 39% of all privately held firms. Twenty percent of all firms with annual revenues of $1 million or more is woman-owned.
Aside from celebrating the advances of women in business in this, the centennial year of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women in the United States the right to vote, it’s important for women entrepreneurs to know about any special opportunities presented by government policy or non-government entities that can help more women-run business grow and thrive.
Unfortunately, the US tax code is pretty unisex in its approach. Taxation of businesses and individuals is pretty much the same across the board, regardless of gender. This is largely true on both the federal and state levels, for those residing in states that collect income tax.
On the other hand, the federal government and some states do offer some programs intended specifically to encourage women entrepreneurs. One of the biggest programs is the awarding of government contracts to companies that qualify as either a Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) or an Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOB). The government has designed the program so that it more heavily incentivizes industries where women are historically under-represented. The government’s aim is to award at least five percent of all federal contract dollars to women-owned businesses each year. If your business meets the guidelines for qualification for either of these programs, it could give you a significant head start on doing business profitably with the US government. You can learn more at the US Small Business Administration website.
Additionally, the SBA sponsors about 100 women’s business centers around the country, designed to help women entrepreneurs with business development and access to capital. Some lend money directly to small businesses, while others can help you find grants and loans. You can learn about women’s business centers in your area here.
Various states also offer grant and loan programs for qualifying small businesses, though most are not specific to women-owned businesses. In California, for example, qualifying small businesses can take advantage of the California Small Business Loan Guarantee Program, which is aimed at helping businesses create and retain jobs while providing services to low- or moderate-income communities.
In addition to state and local resources, the US Chamber of Commerce also offers special small business loans to women-owned enterprises. You can learn more about the programs they have available at https://www.chamberofcommerce.org/best-small-business-loans-for-women.
In addition to governmental programs, several private organizations offer grants and other awards to women-owned businesses. For example, the Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program offers five grants annually to women owned businesses focused on creating environment and social change. Your business must be majority owned and led by women, be beyond the startup phase, and have revenues of under $1,000,000.
I specialize in helping women entrepreneurs and other women in transition plan for a more secure financial future. If you’d like to learn more about how I can help your enterprise, please contact my office for a no-obligation appointment. And to read my article, “Financially Fit over 50: Tips for Women,” please click here.
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