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In this column, I most often write about million-dollar-plus women-owned businesses. Despite the tremendous growth in the number of these businesses, women's companies are about one third as likely to pass the million-dollar mark than their male counterparts. Over the past five years, the rate of growth in the number of women-owned million-dollar firms was 20% compared to 9% for all businesses, according to American Express 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses.*
Working with women entrepreneurs, I see the impact of the intersection of gender and race on growing a business. African Americans/Blacks in the United States represent 42% of new women-owned businesses, three times their share of the female population (14%). Latinas/Hispanics in the United States represent 31% of new women-owned businesses, nearly double their share of the female population (17%). The 80% revenue gap between businesses owned by women and those owned by white men is far greater than the 20% pay gap. And the revenue gap is more significant for African American/Black and Latinas/Hispanic women business owners — 93% and 97%, respectively.
Healthy people and a healthy planet can be the foundation of a solid business model.
Lillian Zhao was an investor in the natural organic food space. The global organic food & beverage market is expected to reach $320.5 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research. Organic farming practices use fewer pesticides than traditional agriculture, and the produce is often fresher and more nutritious. Organic farming is better for the environment. Practices enhance soil and water quality; reduce pollution; provide safe, healthy livestock habitats; enable natural livestock behavior, and; promote a self-sustaining cycle of resources on a farm.
However, Zhao came from a family of Chinese doctors with a tradition of using herbs to heal. She believes not only that natural and organic food could be healthier for people and better for the planet, but that it has the power to heal. In 2014, when her father was diagnosed with diabetes and a good friend had a particularly painful flare-up of irritable bowel syndrome, she moved into the functional food space and launched her own company, Further Food.
The connection between women, entrepreneurship and investing is finally getting the attention it deserves. Women buy stuff, they invest and they launch innovative companies that provide much-needed goods and services. What’s behind this growing realization?
- Women are the primary consumers and their needs have been neglected. Female founders spot big product opportunities that men overlook. It’s not just fashion and beauty, but women’s health and sexual well being.
- Female founders innovate not only women’s products but also highly technical business services.
- Female-founded companies have equity and debt financing needs, and so they are a market opportunity for financial services companies, as Suzanne Biegel — co-producer of Gender-Smart Investing Summit and founder of Catalyst at Large — points out.
Whether you are looking for money, customers, employees, suppliers, or partners, entrepreneurs are always pitching. The point of a pitch is to get prospects interested in you and your company, so they ask for a follow-up. You don't need to reel them in; you just need to get them on the hook.
I met Precious Williams when I moderated a panel on perfecting your pitch. I was dazzled by her performance and the meaty insights she provided. Williams has won 13 pitch competitions. I wished I had her moves. I don't have to wish anymore. She has just published a playbook — Bad Bitches and Power Pitches: For Women Entrepreneurs and Speakers Only.
Williams is a naturally gifted speaker. At 16 years old, without training, she "killed" it when she spoke at a St. Louis Public Schools VIP event, which included the mayor. She attended Spelman College on a full-ride scholarship. Law school at Georgetown and Rutgers was followed by working in a law firm. However, working for others didn't suit her style, so she started her own business.
Launched in 2008, the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women program has supported high-potential women entrepreneurs with know-how, connections, and community. It started in the United States and Canada, then expanded to regional programs around the world.
To be eligible for the program, a woman-owned business must have generated at least $2 million in revenue for each of the past two years. Women entrepreneurs participate in a two-day orientation and coaching session in New York City in September and the Strategic Growth Forum in Palm Springs, CA. It is being held from November 13 to 17, 2019. Since joining the program, companies have averaged a 35% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) and 166% headcount growth, according to the 2017 EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women Global Impact Study.
This is a rarefied group. Only 1.7% of all women-owned businesses (222,100) pass the $1 million mark in the United States, according to American Express 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses.* A tiny percent of these would be able to maintain the year-over-year growth rates of the Winning Women.
Funders invest in people. How do you keep their support when a key person is no longer there?
Dr. Sonia Sousa was inspired to co-found Kenzen when her brother was diagnosed with stage-4 cancer after having been given a clean bill of health three months earlier. Stage 4 means the cancer has spread from where it started to another body organ. Her brother passed away four years later.
As a scientist working in a life-sciences company, she had used saliva as a means to detect the early onset of ovarian cancer. As an MBA, she recognized the huge business opportunity of using noninvasive monitoring technology, such as sweat analysis, to indicate that something wasn’t quite right with someone’s health.
Sousa quit her job and teamed with Steve Pecko, an expert in product user experience (UX/UI), marketing and branding. He had pricked himself tens of thousands of times since being diagnosed at the age of 3 with type 1 diabetes. He understood from firsthand experience just how important noninvasive measurement could be. In 2014, they founded Kenzen to develop wearables to measure physiological signals — heart rate, body temperature, motion, and sweat.