Jennifer Regelski, Vice President, Capital Region, KeyBank
In honor of October being National Women in Small Business Month, here are a few statistics I’d like to share.
Clearly, women in business are making an impact on our economy—both regionally and nationally. In fact, if you combined all women-owned businesses in the U.S. and made them their own country, that country would have the fifth largest GDP in the world.
In the Capital Region alone, there are more than 3,500 women-owned businesses. However, representations of women business owners in society still don’t reflect the makeup of business ownership in the United States. For example, when conducting a search on Google for “real life bosses,” fewer than five images of women appear in the top 50 results, even though women occupy half of leadership roles.
Now more than ever, it’s time to shift the narrative about real life bosses and celebrate contributions from women in leadership positions.
When starting a small business, entrepreneurs invest significantly to turn their vision into a reality. From ideation to execution, aspiring business owners strive to identify and showcase what makes their business unique to stand out among the competition. This is especially true when seeking investors.
According to recent data from KeyBank, most business owners—men and women—are confident in the financial health of their business (64 percent). But when looking for outside capital investment, studies show investors ask men and women different questions when discussing funding opportunities in relation to their business objections. Typically, men are asked ‘promotion’ oriented questions (e.g., hopes and dreams) and women are asked ‘prevention’ oriented questions (e.g., responsibility and carefulness), which presumes women must focus on potential downside while men can put their energy toward gains and growth.
In some cases, there are guardrails in place to mitigate financial inequality among female business-owners. For example, the U.S. government has created the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting program to award at least five percent of all federal contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses each year.
We can do better. Women in leadership positions and those who champion them must combat common misperceptions and subtle (or not-so-subtle) biases about women in business through inclusive language, counter-stereotyping and mentorship. For the millions of female-owned and operated businesses today, they are a leading example of how to achieve inspiring careers. Together, business leaders can use their collective voice to advocate on behalf of all women in business.
According to a recent KeyBank survey, 65 percent of female business owners have experienced gender-based barriers-to-success and almost half believe the media portrayal of women in business is one of the leading barriers. What’s more, business loan approval rates for women are 15 to 20 percent lower than they are for men, while men receive 16 times more venture capital funding than companies run by women. Whether conscious or not, it’s no surprise that under these circumstances, female entrepreneurs may be more risk-averse or more likely to experience imposter syndrome than their male counterparts, perpetuating a slower growth cycle in their business.
Still, no truly successful entrepreneur operates in a silo. Women absolutely can capture funding opportunities that lead to high growth companies, but it is critical for female entrepreneurs to seek out mentors, overcome self-doubt and embrace leadership opportunities, especially in industries like technology, banking and manufacturing where women are underrepresented.
Whether combatting external factors or looking inwardly, women entrepreneurs and supporters are leading the charge to move our business world in the direction of gender parity. And arguably the richest resource to advance women business owners is an activated professional and personal network—not just for support and guidance, but also for loans and investments.
Since 2005, Key4Women® has been helping women leaders and entrepreneurs through advocacy, connections and empowerment to help their careers and businesses grow. The program seeks to connect even more women to other like-minded entrepreneurs both in the Capital Region and across the nation. By scaling the Key4Women® program and creating platforms for women in various cities to connect, we are broadening the conversation and sharing more female perspectives to shift perceptions and representations of women in business.
To continue opening doors and breaking glass ceilings, whether a manager, executive or business owner, this Women in Small Business Month we invite you to join KeyBank in celebrating the many faces of #RealLifeBosses. Share a photo of women in leadership positions who have influenced your career using #RealLifeBosses on social media and, together, we’ll show the world what #RealLifeBosses look like.
About the author: Jennifer Regelski is vice president, Business Banking, and Key4Women Chair for KeyBank’s Capital Region. She can be reached at either 518-218-2264 or [email protected].
Think you can’t succeed in business? Here are 5 reasons why you can!
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are nearly 30 million small businesses in the U.S. If you’re like half of all working adults, you’ve dreamed of joining their ranks. The good news for you is the primary obstacles most people cite—lack of finances, training and leadership experience—may not be as difficult to overcome as you may think.
Here are five reasons why you can successfully launch and grow a small business.
- The odds are not against you. More than half of all business start-ups survive five years or more, approximately one-third of start-ups survive at least 10 years and nearly one-third of “failed” businesses are successful when they stop operating.
- People are on your side. SCORE (score.org), chambers of commerce, your bank and local economic development groups can help you both in the development of your business and its growth, as well as provide you with great opportunities to network with other business owners and potential customers.
- Affordable financing is available. Banks want to invest in successful businesses, but you’ll need to provide the bank with good documentation—financial statements and a business plan—and demonstrate that you can repay the loan. If you have trouble obtaining traditional financing, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has a number of loan programs designed the help new and existing businesses secure the financing they need.
- Competition is healthy. Think you need a completely unique idea? Facebook was not the first social network. It succeeded largely because it made connecting and communicating with friends and family easier than any other service. So don’t be dissuaded by your competitors. Instead, learn from them. Analyze your strengths—and theirs—and identify gaps in products, services or delivery that you can leverage to differentiate yourself from the competition.
- The Internet is an equalizer. The Internet may not completely level the playing field for start-up and growing small businesses, but it provides a punchers chance by making previous budget busters—infrastructure, marketing and advertising—accessible and affordable.
Every day, people like you—and many not like you—start their own business. Most who have succeeded will tell you they did it from a strong financial foundation. So if you’re considering starting a business, one of your first steps should be to meet with your bank. You might be surprised by how much they support your idea and how far they go to help you make your dream a reality.