2016 has been an exciting year for women: female leaders have been reelected to office around the globe, the U.K. now has a female prime minister and in the U.S., Hillary Clinton became the first woman to win the nomination of a major political party for president. While these successes in government make headlines, there’s been another current of successful business women who haven’t shown up on the nightly news – the thousands of women micro business owners working in cities and towns throughout the country.
Ownership of these businesses (defined as a business with fewer than 10 employees, a majority of which are run from the home) is contributing to a large part of the U.S. economy. To better understand the challenges and opportunities presented to micro business owners, Vistaprint conducted a survey of 1,200 respondents in the U.S. and U.K., focusing on women. Based on this research and my many interactions with our customers, here are my top tips for women-owned home businesses:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Similar to larger, high-performing businesses, women micro business owners in the U.S. are hoping their business will grow over the next five years. In fact, 69 percent of respondents think they will achieve more financial success during this time.
Yet, in order to grow their business, women micro business owners need to have the right support – from new business development and proper marketing tools to the ability to network with peers.
The challenge is finding the support that allows their businesses to grow. 73 percent of women micro business owners indicated they would like additional support, ranging from networking opportunities, to advice, to funding. We hear this a lot from our customers, and it is so important to not be afraid to ask for help, whether it is from another business owner or even a family member. Starting and owning a business is very demanding, and asking for help is not a sign of weakness. And there are countless places you can turn to for help. Look into your local SCORE chapter, Chamber of Commerce, or reach out to a group in your field on LinkedIn.
- It is okay to say no
We hear from customers running a business from their home that it is not uncommon for friends and family to not truly understand the effort it takes to run their business. There is a perception that if their office is at home, they have complete flexibility with their time to come to the aid of others– which is not true. It is okay to say no.
62% of women micro business owners in the U.S. and U.K. expect their businesses to do better financially in 2016. But that won’t happen if you are giving your services away for free, or charging less than you are truly worth.
- Follow your passion
There are a lot of reasons why women start their own micro business – from financial security to independence – but what keeps motivation high is following their passion. And often, the business owner’s passion is directly correlated with delivering top-notch customer service – which results in happy, loyal customers.
When you are following your passion, it helps to keep you motivated to work through the bad days. It happens in the corporate world, too. I’m motivated because I know I am able to help business owners do what they do. That is what gets me up in the morning, and helps me give my all every day.
And it’s working. In fact, 78 percent of respondents would recommend starting a business to someone else, giving women the ability to follow their passion and do something they truly love.
- Network, network, network!
Our research shows that 63% of women micro business owners in the US look to their peers in the micro business community for inspiration rather than well-known business owners or celebrities. They certainly have the right idea; The benefits of networking are endless!
The “it takes a village” proverb is a good way to capture the importance the role a community can play in helping new business owners establish and build a business. From many interactions with business owners, I’ve learned that many of them feel like they are on an island. A professional network allows them to interact directly with people who are dealing with similar issues and challenges.
Having a network of professionals to rely on for advice and to compare notes with is invaluable. They can even be helpful in providing referrals for other local businesses, or be great sounding board as your work to develop your business and explore new ideas.
Professional networks, like The Chamber of Commerce or Business Network International (BNI), are comprised of business owners from their local community who are well suited and have it as their mission to help business owners prosper. Many others require no fee to attend and can be equally as valuable. Look into local industry or trade associations that have strong networking elements. The opportunities are endless. This is a great list of places to look.
What the survey from Vistaprint tells us is, despite challenges, women micro business owners will continue to be a major part of the U.S. economy. The accountant, caterer, lawyer or jeweler working from their home office can be sure their business will be thriving with proper support and services to help their business grow. With the amount of progress we’ve seen over the past several years, there is no telling what women will be accomplishing years from now.
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