March is Women’s History Month, and what better way to celebrate women than by highlighting women-owned businesses?
Women-owned businesses are growing at a historic rate, with more than 800 new women-led businesses started daily in the United States. Approximately 30 percent of companies in the marketplace are women-owned, and there are more than 9 million people employed by women-owned businesses nationwide.
Following in the steps of the historically celebrated local hero Esther Short, a female pioneer who opened a restaurant and hotel on her North Bank property in 1853, many Washington women are starting businesses, and it shows. Oregon and Washington rank in the top 10 for states with the most women-owned businesses in 2016.
This is an encouraging forecast for the women-owned business landscape overall, and as our culture advances through the 21st century, women-owned businesses will continue to thrive. This progress benefits the business sector at large, expanding the reach of all underrepresented business leaders and paving the way to greater success.
Nevertheless, She Persists
While we celebrate the substantial gains women have made, serious challenges remain. In the same 2016 report, only 4 percent of venture funding went to women-owned businesses, despite the vastly expanding demographic and successful outcomes of women as business leaders.
Founders, regardless of gender, find ways to make a business successful despite the bevy of hurdles they encounter. Women-owned businesses face unique challenges, including lack of access to standard financing channels, as well as limited venture capital. Some of those challenges may be due to the specific business model or growth management. However, we would be remiss to ignore the propensity of funders and investors to overlook the economic strength of women and their contributions to a diverse and flourishing marketplace.
As the founders of R2R Strategic Recruiting, we’ve had to face those challenges head on. We saw an unmet need in our field and chose to launch our startup without the aid of investors or venture-funding.
We knew a service-oriented business would not have the appeal or funding sustainability of other models – but we also had the expertise to know the real need we could meet. For us, it was worth the risk of self-funding this venture and bringing our services to market.
Women entrepreneurs are beginning to find a measure of parity. Private investment firms like Goldman Sachs and business leaders like FedEx are leading the way to level the playing field with micro-grants for women-owned businesses. Several states are following suit with economic growth plans that include investment money for women- and minority-owned businesses.
Connection Creates Commerce
The learning curve for any business owner is steep. Once funded, women business owners face typical leadership challenges like finding, recruiting and retaining their most desired talent, as well as forging strong partnerships.
The business world is deeply rooted in relationships – either utilizing existing supports, making new alliances or being welcomed into established networks. Here, as in other workplace situations, women leaders – especially in male-dominated fields like tech, manufacturing and engineering – are often excluded from the prime relationship-building times at the office or co-working space.
But the times are changing and male colleagues are recognizing and acting on the wisdom and value (relational and economic) of including and respecting the “Boss Lady” next door. Regardless of gender, connection makes a business grow.
Aligning Values and Investing Wisely
With more than two decades of combined experience in hiring and recruiting, we’ve witnessed the struggle women face as either employers or job seekers.
For owners, the uncomfortable truth is this – hiring new employees can cost a growing business more than $4,000 and a month of productivity between the staffing gaps and the additional costs of onboarding. With smaller margins or available cash flow, hiring can be quite a risk for smaller companies. It can be difficult to find the right mentors, resources or guidance.
A 2018 article in Forbes described the best business alliances for women as those whose “messaging, core values and objectives are all in alignment with one another.”
We wanted to ensure company leaders and job-seekers had a trusted resource to build skills and resilience as they navigate recruiting or the job market. One of our deepest values is being a resource to other businesses, especially women-owned companies.
Success in any venture relies on relationship, resilience and developing an ecosystem of partners who align with your values and company direction. Women entrepreneurs and business leaders understand that striking a balance in building those alliances cannot rely on the old way of doing things nor on outdated stereotypes that create barriers and hinder growth.
Growing a resilient economy relies on a diverse and well-supported small business sector. Today’s women leaders in business, whether it’s us here at R2R Strategic Recruiting or the tech startup down the block, are investing wisely – in growing our company, community and the relationships that make everything else possible.
Raine Lunke and Richeal Royal are the duo behind R2R Strategic Recruiting. With nearly 30 years of combined talent acquisition, sourcing and HR experience, R2R understands the difficulties that companies face when it comes to recruiting. Visit us online at r2rrecruiting.com.