We must support our women-owned businesses

As daily business creation hits a record pace, the number of women-owned firms also reached a new milestone in 2014. There are more than 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States (compared to 8.6 million in 2013). These businesses generate more than $1.4 trillion in revenues, employ 7.9 million people and account for 30 percent of all enterprises.

Owning a business brings great responsibility, but it can also be satisfying and rewarding. Business owners in Washington are achieving the best work/life balance in 2014, reporting the highest likelihood to take at least two weeks of vacation and the most who “work to live” instead of “live to work.” In addition, Washington business owners are less likely to say their business is their life, according to the 2014 Fifth Annual U.S. Bank Small Business Survey.

Additionally, among the top 25 most populous metropolitan areas, the Portland/Vancouver area ranked fifth in combined economic clout for women-owned businesses – a measurement averaging the rankings in growth in number, revenues and employment of women-owned businesses.

Women tend to bring many years of experience to a new business. On average, women start businesses about 10 years later than men, so they have worked as an employee for several years, gained experience, established business connections and earned a reputation before going out on their own. There is a new talent pool of women entrepreneurs today who have developed expertise through on-the-job experience in finance, manufacturing or nontraditional fields, which is expanding the number of opportunities for women to create and establish businesses. These businesses are in addition to the concentration of women business owners in the retail and service sectors, and in traditional industries such as cosmetics, food, fashion, and health and personal care.

If you are planning to start your own business, consider the following steps:

  1. There is a lot to know about starting a business. To begin the process, meet with a financial advisor or banker who can serve as a financial mentor, establish a relationship with you and your business, offer access to a network of other owners, provide access to capital and adjust the level of service to meet your individual needs. Both an attorney and CPA can work in tandem with the financial advisor to help during the process.
  2. Create a business plan that defines the brand and the type of business, services or products offered. Determine the target consumer – helpful information when creating a marketing plan – then figure out the costs involved and the best location to attract this consumer. Projected balance and income sheets should be included in the overall plan.
  3. Finance the business. Consider government-backed loans, venture capital and research grants to help you get started.
  4. Determine the legal structure of the business. It can be a corporation, LLC, sole proprietorship, partnership or other structure.
  5. Apply for a master business license and permits with the Washington State Department of Licensing and city business license with the city of Vancouver.
  6. Get a Tax Identification Number from the IRS.
  7. Announce the launch date. Join the local chambers of commerce and other local networking groups. Creating a network with other women business owners can act as a sounding board through the various stages the company.
  8. As women work and excel in various fields and industries in Vancouver, it is vital that our economy supports women when they decide to start a business. For our community, it means job creation, a sense of ownership, new ideas and families building legacies.

Cindy Luckman is senior vice president, managing director for The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank in Vancouver and a small business owner.

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