December 28, 2009
Is 2010 A Good Year for Women to Start a Business?
By Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS
President and Founder, At Your Home Familycare
It is always been a risky proposition to start your own business. Just how risky is hard to say. The statistics concerning survival rates of new businesses vary considerably depending on who is doing the reporting. The reported failure rate during the first three years ranges from 10% to 85%. Wherever the truth lies, with the economy remaining sluggish at best many of the nearly million new business start-ups this year will fail.
What we do know is that business failure rates have jumped. According to the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration, business bankruptcies increased 79 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the first quarter of 2009. The self-employment rate is now below pre-recession levels.
But the unemployment rate is at a record high level. Many people are struggling to find meaningful work. Some are considering taking their fate into their own hands. Starting up a business is a viable survival option, especially if an individual has a great idea, the drive, and sufficient capital.
I admire and support entrepreneurship, especially for women who lack employment opportunities worthy of their skills, experience, and drive. How do you know if you will be one of the few women who succeed in business?
Based on my own 25 years of experience, I have found there to be unique challenges for would-be businesswomen. Being a successful woman who makes money on her own terms is still a rare commodity and not a social norm. If you are not driven to succeed despite what others may say, stopping at nothing to ensure your success (without the bounds of the law and good ethical practices, of course), it will be tough for you.
But do not make the mistake of thinking you must succeed in a “man’s world.” Any businesswoman would find this dismaying. You are succeeding in a world that you create for yourself. Women often suffer from a lack of courage to stay the course for fear of harming relationships with friends and family. Women value relationships and tend to be “people pleasers.” It is a fear particularly difficult to overcome. Congratulations if you’re one of the courageous ones.
It helps if you had someone close to you that was a successful entrepreneur providing you a solid role model. But it is never too late to find one. Women need mentors and role models to help influence your mindset, offer you support and advice, and help you develop the confidence it takes to succeed.
It would be wonderful if the playing field had leveled for women in business since I started At Your Home Familycare 25 years ago. It has not. The Small Business Administration finds that women-owned businesses account for just one in four of all privately-owned businesses. Only 1.8 percent of women-owned businesses such as At Your Home Familycare produce $1 million and above annually in revenue. Seventy percent are concentrated in service industries.
It is only going to get tougher as the competition for resources continues to increase. Funding is in shorter supply. Established “Old Boy” networks (gender notwithstanding) still exist. Anxiety and fear are at an all-time high and being an entrepreneur will be more challenging than ever before. It will require a strong internal compass and unsurpassed resolve.
Every aspiring businesswoman must find a way to balance the caring, nurturing side of herself with her strong desire to succeed in business with all that it requires.
Despite all this, nothing is as powerful as a great idea combined with the passion to make it a reality. For some, it’s a great time to start a business. You may be in the position that you have nothing to lose, and taking control of your destiny is as powerful a decision as you will ever make.
Do NOT start a business unless you believe in your idea or product and your ability to succeed one thousand percent. Expect to work harder than you ever have in your life. Expect setbacks and unforeseen obstacles and costs. Be sure you have a fall-back position financially... and emotionally.
But above all you must have relentless perseverance. There is NO finish line when you are responsible for the ongoing success of any enterprise. So lace up those running shoes and best of luck in this marathon called entrepreneurship!