Women entrepreneurs are on the rise. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of female entrepreneurs around the world rose at double the rate of their male counterparts.
This is good news for economic health generally, and not only because it means the female half of the population is moving closer to economic parity. Statistics indicate that companies helmed by women:
- Perform twice as well as those led by men
- Generate over 60 percent more value for investors
And yet, the unfortunate truth is that many of those in powerful gatekeeping positions in finance and elsewhere haven’t caught up. The evidence is extensive:
- Women struggle much more than men to find funding for their business ventures. In 2016, venture capitalists invested $58 billion, and only $1.46 billion of that went to women-led businesses.
- “Analysis of Barriers to Women Entrepreneurship,” published in the Journal of Entrepreneurship in 2017, highlighted the five biggest obstacles to female entrepreneurs:
- Educational disparities and lack of experience and training opportunities
- Lack of family support
- Weak institutional support
- Difficulty obtaining entrepreneurial management
- The struggle to acquire financial resources
Several powerful groups, individuals, and networks around the country are aware of these disparities and are working hard to address them. Even better for ambitious women in Ohio, many of them are in the Buckeye State. In fact, a 2013 Forbes list of the best places to be a female entrepreneur ranked Columbus seventh, in part because of the number of loans available from the Small Business Administration. Furthermore, the number of women-owned companies in the state grew by 25 percent between 1997 and 2012.
All of this bodes well for female Ohioans hoping to flex their entrepreneurial muscles. The catch? To be part of the rising tide of female business owners, women have to know about the opportunities in their own backyards and take advantage of them. This guide and its collected resources will help them do just that.
Ohio’s Resources for Success
Across Ohio, targeted resources exist for women looking to start and grow small businesses. Some of them are government-sponsored, some are private, and some are partnerships between the two.
SUPPORT, MENTORING, AND NETWORKING
This Columbus-based nonprofit organization offers support to female entrepreneurs through workshops on topics such as business literacy, finance, HR and employment, and marketing; a mentoring program; and office space.
These centers, scattered across the state, are the only such SBA-funded initiatives in Ohio. Each location offers one-on-one counseling sessions with staff and volunteers, in which aspiring female business owners can get advice about any stage of business development.
NAWBO is a national organization with over 7,000 members and 70 chapters across the country. Its Columbus chapter organizes an annual leadership conference, networking events, and regular membership meetings.
YBI’s Women in Entrepreneurship initiative offers three accelerator programs. WE Create (Phase I) is a four-week program of four workshops for women who are in the idea-generating phase of entrepreneurship. Phase II is WE Launch, which spans nine weeks of classes that teach entrepreneurship fundamentals. Included in the program is a chance to win a $5,000 grant. The third and final phase is WE Grow, which offers four weeks of marketing strategy and a $1,000 grant to put toward marketing efforts.
The ORV-WBC provides a certification to women-owned businesses in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia. As ORV-WBC explains on its website, various major corporations and government agencies use this certification when they’re seeking women suppliers for procurement. Currently, 786 women-owned companies are certified in Ohio.
Though it’s not based in Ohio, this organization invites women who work — or hope to work — in data analytics to participate in quarterly calls, online networking forums, thought-leader conversations, and WiA events.
Ohio’s Development Services Agency offers an impressive array of bonds, grants, loans, and tax credits to help fledgling businesses in the state get off the ground. Various types of women-owned businesses are good candidates for these funds — it’s just a matter of doing the research to learn where they qualify.
Pipeline Angels is a group of angel investors who invest only in women and nonbinary femme social entrepreneurs who identify as women. Pipeline offers angel-investing boot camps, with locations in Cleveland and Columbus, through which entrepreneurs learn valuable skills and pitch to investors, with the chance of receiving funding.
The JumpStart Focus Fund is a $10 million venture capital seed fund that invests only in women- and minority-led tech startups based in Ohio. Each startup chosen by the fund’s investors receives $500,000 — half of it from the state of Ohio.
Highlighting Female Entrepreneurs of Ohio History
The promise to be found for emerging women business leaders in the Buckeye State is a testament to the many women who have helped shaped Ohio’s history and business landscape. Below are introductions to a few of them.
Eliza Bryant was born into slavery in North Carolina. In 1848, her mother was freed, and the family moved to Cleveland. In the home they purchased there, the family provided food and shelter to other black families. As an adult, Bryant would continue this work and expand it. She worked on behalf of elderly African-Americans, many of whom had nothing when they were freed from slavery and were denied access to the city’s homeless shelters. In 1893, she began to work toward opening a home for elderly African-Americans, mobilizing the community to help and eventually receiving funding from business magnate John D. Rockefeller. The home opened in 1897 and still operates as the Eliza Bryant Village in Cleveland.
Helen Chatfield Black
Helen Chatfield Black, a member of the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame, co-founded the Cincinnati Nature Center in 1965 and Little Miami, Inc., a nature conservancy. She served as president of the Ohio chapter of The Nature Conservancy for two years.
After earning a degree in nursing, Mildred Bayer went on to found two clinics in Lucas County for migrant farm workers. She then co-founded Mobile Meals, serving as the organization’s first volunteer coordinator. Two decades later, in 1984, she founded Health Clinics International to serve the homeless and other marginalized populations.
Ohio women aspiring to become entrepreneurs are part of a powerful legacy that, statistics indicate, is poised to grow even more powerful. Drawing from inspiring stories about women who worked hard to make their business or nonprofit dreams a reality, as well as from the various forms of support available to them, Ohio women should feel encouraged to take the leap into the great unknown that is an entrepreneurial adventure.