Women make up about 50% of the world population and 40% of the global workforce, but they only own about 1% of the world’s wealth says Kevin Vlietman of Transaction Capital Business Solutions.
That is slowly changing as in the United States, according to The National Association of Women Business Owners, more than 9.4 million firms are owned by women, employing nearly 7.9 million people and generating $1.5 trillion in sales as of 2015.
And locally we are seeing good growth as the gender gap noted in 2015 is starting to reverse, where South Africa is showing a healthy level of gender parity in terms of entrepreneurial involvement.
Despite the improvement, female entrepreneurs are still faced with some challenges in a business environment. So let’s take a look at 5 challenges female entrepreneurs are face with and how can they overcome these.
- Access to funding: The reality is, money doesn’t grow on trees, and as with everything in life, having your own business, or starting a new business, comes with a lot of associated expenses and a need to closely manage your business’s money. Without a solid cash flow strategy in place or that extra cash to fall back on, it’s most likely that your business won’t be able to grow as fast as you would like – never mind sustain itself. As a small business, cash flow is king and given that many clients pay 30 – 90 days, the risk of not having that extra cash is large. However, there are options available to you that will make your business’s cash flow work better for you so make sure you understand your options:
- By making use of invoice discounting for example, you never have to wait 60 or 90 days to get paid by debtors. Rather you are able to convert existing invoices into instant cash, through the payment of a small monthly instalment – which is one of the simplest ways to keep the cash flowing and the growth happening.
- In addition, trade finance or property backed lending is another way that you can increase the cash flow and capital management within your business. Through this service, you can take out a business loan against your personal/business assets/collateral. This solution will lend you the money that you need against your residential property for example, which means that, should you need that extra cash but just can’t seem to get the finance, then this is the right solution for you. And let’s be honest, how many traditional banked models will offer a new business the funding they need?
- Mentorship – it’s important for any woman who goes into business to have a mentor – someone to talk to when the going gets tough. It’s always advisable to have a sounding board, preferably from someone who has been in your shoes, a person that will not sugar coat the journey you are embarking on. This is where networking also becomes important because often you find a mentor in the relationships you build with other women you might meet for example, someone whose journey resembles where you want your career to go.
- Finding your feet in a male dominated environment – It is challenging for women to be accepted in any industry that’s deemed “male dominated”. As an entrepreneur, once you have decided on an industry, don’t be swayed to disband your dream because of the competition. Arm yourself with as much information as possible, build your own network of support, know the options that are available to you and very importantly, believe in yourself.
You must also be willing to put in the hours and prove your worth – in some industries, you will find that your male counter parts have been in the industry for over 40 years with the mentality of not taking orders from a woman.
- Work life balance – many entrepreneurs struggle with striking a balance between work and their personal and/or family life, but it seems to be more of a struggle for female entrepreneurs as somehow when you have children it is automatically expected that your home life will overshadow your abilities to succeed in business.
Being a “mompreneur” is achievable – what is essential is taking the time to plan out your days, schedule everything including what you have to do with your kids in your diary. And if you need help, reach out to family or friends or hire someone to help you with the kids at home. No man is an island and asking for help does not mean you are failing.
- Defying social expectations – female entrepreneurs entering a space full of men automatically feel the need to adopt male behaviours related to how they conduct businesses – these usually mean being aggressive, overly harsh and competitive. This does not have to be the case, be yourself – use who you are, your personality and your views to achieve your goals in business. You don’t have to become someone else to get your point across, your hard work should be what speaks for you – this is the only way we will change the perception of women in business.
So for all those women that took a chance by starting their own business, for all those that dream of expanding and taking their business to the next level, or those that need the encouragement to take the leap to turn their dream into a reality – don’t let these challenges keep you down. There are corporates out there like Transaction Capital Business Solutions who are willing to help you overcome these challenges by providing alternative funding options that suit your needs – so that you can focus on what matters – leading your business.