October is National Women’s Small Business Month, and it’s when we recognize the accomplishments and contributions that women entrepreneurs have made to our economy.

In the United States, women now own 12.3 million companies — an increase of almost 60% compared to 10 years ago. These women-owned firms employ more than 8 million people and provide $264 billion in wages to employees.

Here are some other eye-popping figures to consider:

  1. 1,821 new women-owned business opened each day in 2017 and 2018.
  2. 5.8 million companies are minority-owned, an increase of 163% since 2007.
  3. In 2018, 208,000 women-owned businesses generated revenues of more than $1 million, an increase of 46% over the past 11 years.

From restaurants and retail operations to manufacturing, medical, law and real estate offices, businesses owned and operated by women in Texas continue to grow and thrive. In Texas alone, there are an estimated 11 million privately held businesses owned by women, and according to the U.S. Census Bureau, out of 63,243 businesses in Denton County, 22,404 (35%) are owned by women.

While there is much to celebrate, there continue to be challenges specific to women-owned businesses — most notably, access to capital.

While capital is crucial for growing a business, it isn’t always easy for an entrepreneur to find funding options — especially for women — and it’s even more difficult for women of color. According to Fortune, women-owned firms received just $1.9 billion of $85 billion invested by venture capitalists last year while businesses owned by men received about $66.9 billion, or 79% (the remaining 19% of funds were raised by mixed and non-specific gender teams). Similarly, the rate of business loan approval is much lower for women than men. The Small Business Administration’s gap analysis of its business loan program found that women account for only 16% of all of SBA’s conventional small business loan portfolio.

There are some great resources to bridge this gap for women business owners in the region. LiftFund, headquartered in Dallas, assists women business owners with limited access to capital by providing small business loans and minority business loans. PeopleFund is also in Dallas and provides small business loans to women and underserved small businesses and nonprofits for equipment purchases, permanent working capital term loans, revolving lines of credit and real estate.

Although Texas Woman’s University’s Center for Women Entrepreneurs does not offer loan financing, we do offer a grant program for women-owned businesses. In order to support and encourage women-owned businesses in Texas to undertake new and innovative projects, the Women’s Enterprise Training and Microgrant Program awards 10 women-owned businesses $5,000 each to start or expand their businesses.

Awardees are required to complete a small business training course hosted by the CWE to receive funding. The course covers topics such as business plan development, marketing, legal and accounting and financing. The next round of funding will be announced on Sept. 30. For more information on this program, visit twu.edu/cwe.

There is no denying that women-owned businesses have a tremendous impact on our country’s economy. However, it is critical that they continue to receive the assistance and access to capital that they need to continue this incredible growth.

SHANNON MANTARO is the director of Texas Woman’s University’s Center for Women Entrepreneurs and can be reached at smantaro@twu.edu. For more information regarding the center, visit twu.edu/cwe.

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