The United States has fostered an atmosphere of ambition, ingenuity, and enterprise for decades, if not centuries, making it one of the best countries in the world for the entrepreneurially-inclined. The Global Entrepreneurship Index actually ranks the U.S. as the best country in the world for entrepreneurs — and interestingly, Delaware is considered to be the most entrepreneur-friendly state. Not only do citizens have the drive and mindset for entrepreneurship, the “prevailing social and economic ‘infrastructure’” in the U.S. is well-suited to encourage and support those who choose to strike out on their own in the business world.
More specifically, women who are interested in pursuing business ownership are in good company. Between 1997 and 2017, the number of businesses owned by women in the U.S. has increased by more than 114 percent, and the revenue earned from these businesses has doubled in the same amount of time. The modern era is possibly the best time for female entrepreneurs in all of American history.
Of course, starting a business can still be demanding, and women face a unique set of challenges when doing so that their male counterparts do not. The path forward can be intimidating for women business owners, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from pursuing your goals. By learning about other female entrepreneurs, the ways they overcame obstacles, and what you need to do to start your own business, you’ll be well-armed with the knowledge necessary to begin a successful career as a female entrepreneur.
Plenty of women have become entrepreneurs and found success despite, or perhaps because of, the challenges involved. Not only are their collective accomplishments incredibly impressive, they reflect the improving conditions and growing success for all women entrepreneurs in the United States.
There are thousands, if not millions, of wildly successful female entrepreneurs around the world. Each of these women started with an idea, and with patience and hard work, were able to transform that idea into a prosperous business. Some women business owners have transformed online media, while others have revolutionized the fashion industry — a few of them are even household names. Some of the most successful business women in America and around the world include:
Of course, you don’t have to become a celebrity or a billionaire to be a successful female entrepreneur. In fact, many women report that increased flexibility is the primary reason they want to work for themselves; 74 percent claimed that flexibility is more important than making more money.
To become a successful female business owner, try to determine your personal goals for your business and define what entrepreneurial success means for you. Part of becoming an entrepreneur is going down your own path, instead of following others’ footsteps. Let these women and their journeys be an inspiration to your own efforts, rather than a rulebook you need to follow.
You can choose to start any type of business you want. You shouldn’t limit yourself based on a perceived lack of qualifications, knowledge, or business acumen. There are countless types of women owned businesses that can be explored, but if you have an idea you’re excited about and believe in, don’t hesitate to pursue it.
Some women may want to become, or may already be, a mother. Raising a child and taking care of family responsibilities can be demanding, and finding the right balance between your family and your business may seem impossible. There are still many entrepreneurial options for women with children; many of them are highly flexible and even allow you to work from home. Business ideas that can accommodate motherhood include:
The Internet has provided numerous new business opportunities, and few are more popular than blogging. A blog is an informational website where a contributor writes posts that are then readable by other Internet users. Blogs are often informal and may even be akin to an online diary, but you can also use your blog to make money.
There are several ways to make money with your blog, but among the most lucrative is affiliate marketing, which involves selling another person or company’s products on your own site. It’s relatively simple: you put a link to that product or service on your website, your readers click it, and if they make a purchase, you receive a percentage of that sale.
How much money you can make from blogging and affiliate marketing varies greatly depending on a number of factors, such as how popular your blog is and how much effort you put into it. 10 percent of bloggers report making no income whatsoever from their blog, while 13 percent of surveyors reported making at least five figures each year from blogging. If you monetize with affiliate marketing links and make blogging a full- time job, you might be able to turn a hobby into a career.
You don’t have to go into the office to work as an accountant. Telecommuting is becoming an increasingly popular option for many bookkeepers, as much of this type of work is done online and does not always require you to be active during normal business hours. While companies may want to hire remote bookkeepers, you can also start your own online bookkeeping company. The average salary of online bookkeepers is $58,749 per year, but pay can range from $14,000 to $146,000. What you can make as a work from home bookkeeper depends on your previous experience, as well as your clientele. As you gain more clients, you can increase your earnings.
Opening a childcare facility may be an especially exciting option for mompreneurs. Not only is it easy to bring your child to work with you, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the demand for preschool and childcare directors to grow by 11 percent between 2016 and 2026. This is faster than the average growth rate for all occupations. Also according to the BLS, the median salary for directors of childcare facilities is $47,940. You may be able to increase your earnings more dramatically working in childcare than some of the previously suggested positions. It can take time to build up a clientele as an online bookkeeper or make money from affiliate marketing, but there is always a demand for childcare.
Dropshipping is another relatively popular Internet-based business venture. Dropshipping is a retail fulfillment method in which a business does not store its products; when a customer makes a purchase, a third party ships the item directly to them. You can get involved with dropshipping by acting as that third party.
The amount of money you can make with dropshipping varies greatly, as it all depends on how many (and what type of) items you sell, and how much you sell them for. This type of setup is ideal for women who can make or oversee production of a product, but don’t want to store all of their revenue personally.
Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is a program designed to help you do just that. You simply ship the products you would like to sell to Amazon, and they pack and ship them to customers once they’ve purchased it. Amazon also provides customer service support for you. You can also look into other dropshipping platforms, such as Oberlo, or start doing it on your own.
Luckily, you can put as much time and effort into dropshipping as you like. If you want to use the Amazon FBA program to make extra cash, you can — if you want to make it your full-time job, you can do that as well. Generally speaking, the more time and effort you put into dropshipping, the more money you will make from it.
There are a variety of employment options for graphic designers. Of course, you can work in-house at a variety of organizations, but you can also be a self-employed graphic designer and work on a per-project basis. Working as a freelance graphic designer is a great option for mompreneurs who want to stay at home with their children; you can work on your project when you have the time and the hours as a contractor are incredibly flexible.
The average salary for a freelance graphic designer is about $40,000 per year. Your salary can vary greatly depending on your clients, your projects, how much you charge for your time, how long you take to complete a project, and how many projects you take on. Naturally, if you choose to charge more or take on more projects, you will make more money than if you treat graphic design as a part-time job.
You can choose to become a self-employed mompreneur and work as a photographer. No formal education is necessary (though it may be helpful), and similar to a graphic designer, you can easily work freelance as a photographer. In fact, working as a freelance photographer may be better than working as a professional photographer; while traditional positions are expected to decrease by six percent by 2026, the demand for freelance photographers is expected to increase by 12 percent.
Similar to other freelance positions, your pay can vary greatly depending on your level of experience and what type of photography you specialize in. Entry-level photographers can expect to earn anywhere from $19,850 to $76,360, though the median annual salary is $34,000. Luckily, freelance photography will give you the freedom and flexibility to decide when and how much you would like to work, and if you take on more work, you will be able to earn more.
Software development is a field that allows for flexible work hours, has plenty of work from home opportunities, and often offers higher-than-average pay. Simply put, software developers create and develop computer programs, such as mobile apps and video games. There are two main types of software developers: software applications developers and systems software developers. The main distinction comes from what they work on. While software application developers typically work on a specific program or app, systems software developers create much larger networks or underlying systems that power smaller programs.
Software developers can earn anywhere from $77,710 to $128,960 per year, depending on level of experience. Not only that, but the BLS projects 24 percent growth for software development positions between 2016 and 2026, which is significantly faster than the average of all occupations. There may be as many as 302,500 new positions available by 2026 to meet the increased demands for computer software. The high pay combined with the high demand makes software development a great choice for women entrepreneurs.
There are certain financial and legal actions you must do to get your business started, regardless of what idea you decide on. All entrepreneurs have to take these steps, but for women starting a business, it becomes even more important. Gender bias is one of the biggest, overarching challenges you may encounter when starting your business, and it can take many different forms, making it something you will likely have to deal with frequently.
It is an unfortunate reality that people may think less of you because of your gender, which can present a variety of problems when you’re looking to fund and set up your women-owned business. Not only will it help protect against the extra scrutiny you may face as a woman, proper planning will give you the tools and knowledge you need to help your business succeed.
Once you’ve picked your business idea, market research is the next thing you need to do. Market research involves gathering and analyzing information about the niche you would like to enter. This is a crucial component of business strategy, as it can help you identify potential customers and determine whether or not your business idea is feasible. You can then leverage that research to your business’ advantage.
Conduct research on your customers’ demographic information, the level of demand in and the size of your market, and any potential competitors. The information gleaned from market research can range from large-scale trends, such as your customers’ spending habits, to specific feedback about your business.
There are two primary ways to do market research: you can either do your own research or use existing resources, though neither option is perfect. Using existing resources for market research can save a lot of time and money, but isn’t very specific; some of the information may not be relevant to your business. On the other hand, doing your own research is usually much more expensive and time-consuming. One or the other — or some combination of the two — may be more useful for your business; it simply depends on your needs and available resources.
After completing your market research, you need to create a business plan. Your business plan will map out how you intend to structure and run your business. It shows what you plan to do, how you plan to do it, and the thought and effort you’ve put into starting your business. Business plans typically consist of several different components, such as your business concept, marketplace analysis, and financial information.
How much of this information you choose to include is up to you, and will depend upon how you want to write your plan. Generally, there are two formats for a business plan: a traditional business plan and a lean startup plan. Both are commonly used in the modern business world, though one may be better suited to your needs. Traditional plans tend to be more comprehensive and are more useful if you want to request funding from traditional sources, while startup plans are best if you want to start your business quickly or regularly update your business plan.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a business plan. They can be incredibly useful for your business, both internally and externally. A good business plan can help you secure funding, establish the structure of your organization, and determine how and when you expect to grow. This makes it an invaluable asset both to you and anyone who may get involved with your business.
As the old saying goes, you need to spend money to make money, and this rings especially true when starting a new business. Without an initial investment, you likely won’t have the chance to get your business started.
There are a few main ways you can secure funding for your business:
As with most aspiring business owners, securing enough funding is one of the biggest difficulties most women entrepreneurs face when starting their business. There is no one single or perfect way to get funding; depending on your needs and financial situation, one option may be better than another. You may even want to combine different methods to meet your funding goal, if that’s what it takes to get your business up and running.
Next, you must decide where your business will be incorporated. Whether you’re opening a retail store or building an online business, its state of incorporation will affect everything from the taxes you have to pay, to the laws you have to follow while operating your business.
Delaware, for example, is a popular state for incorporation; in fact, it’s hailed as one of the most business-friendly places in the world. Common reasons businesses choose to incorporate in Delaware include low startup costs, ease of raising capital, and flexible corporate laws. On the other hand, heavily-regulated states like California can make it more difficult to start and grow your business.
Think carefully and strategically about the state of incorporation, as it can and will affect most (if not all) aspects of your business. Keep in mind that as your business grows, you can always incorporate in other states, too.
As the owner and founder, you must also decide the structure your business will take. This will influence many aspects of your business and how you can run it, such as your taxes and your personal liability. The most common ways to structure your business include:
Your needs as a business owner will help you determine which structure is the right fit for your business. What works well for others may not be the right choice for you. Consider the differences between similar structures, such as an LLC and a corporation, and look for clarifying information or answers to common questions about those structures, to make your decision.
You also have to choose a name for your business. The name should align with your brand identity, as well as the goods and products you offer. Your name has to be unique, and you should try to select one that is free of any legal issues or red tape. You can easily check the availability of business names online.
Not only do you need to pick a name, you must also register that name. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to register your business’ name online. You may also need to register your business with different agencies at the federal, state, and local levels, depending on the type of business structure you chose. Not only will this protect your business and its name, it will ensure your business can operate legally.
Next, you will have to obtain a federal tax identification number. You cannot pay taxes, hire anyone, or apply for necessary business licenses without a federal tax ID number, also called an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Obtaining the necessary licenses and permits is the final step you have to take before officially opening your business. The type and number of licenses you need will depend on your structure, location, business activities, and the laws in your area. Most likely, you will need licenses and permits from both the state and federal governments. You may also need to get permits at the local level.
Congratulations! Once you’ve gotten all of the above in order, you’re ready to launch and grow your new business.
Though female entrepreneurs are increasing in numbers and their businesses are becoming increasingly profitable, women still have several unique considerations to deal with when starting a business. Depending on your attitude and reasons for pursuing entrepreneurship, these could represent hurdles to overcome, or reflect precisely why you feel business ownership is right for you. Either way, it pays to plan ahead and think beyond the logistics of opening and operating a company, to prepare for how being a business owner will affect other aspects of your life:
Women of color who want to start their own business face additional potential obstacles, real or perceived, due to their race and ethnicity. In addition to the above considerations, female entrepreneurs of color may also contend with:
Though they have been hailed as “The Future of Entrepreneurship,” female service members and veterans who want to become entrepreneurs have their own unique set of both advantages and challenges to work through:
Whether you’re just getting started or want to take your business to the next level, there are many resources available for women in business that can help you become a successful entrepreneur. Consider the following resources for additional services and information.
Consult the following sources for more information about common business terminology:
Many female entrepreneurs opt to have their businesses certified as women-owned. Some of the many benefits of this certification include obtaining government contracts, improving marketing efforts, and receiving additional resources and opportunities from the government. You may choose to self-certify, or enroll in one of the following programs:
Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB)
The Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program Certification is offered by the federal government. There are several requirements to qualify for this certification:
Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB)
You must meet all of the above requirements, as well as the following ones, to qualify for the Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business Certification (EDWOSB):
You can self-certify at the Small Business Administration website. You can seek third party certification for these programs at:
There are a number of grants available exclusively to women entrepreneurs, such as:
You may also want to consult the federal government’s grant website, Grants.gov, to continue your search.
Some organizations also offer business loans to entrepreneurs, or offer loans designed specifically for them:
There is also support available specifically for female entrepreneurs of color and minority entrepreneurs. Consult the following resources and organizations for more information: