Fed-up with garbage jobs and trying to be some kind of superhero at home and in the office, doing everything for everyone and working harder, but making less, women are flocking towards entrepreneurship… and guess what? They are C-R-U-S-H-I-N-G it! They are generating terrific amounts of revenue and creating more jobs in the economy than male entrepreneurs.
If you’re a woman in business, or thinking of starting your own thing, here are a few ways for you to get the money you need to launch and grow your business.
Applying for grants and incubator programs
Depending on where you live, you may be eligible for thousands of dollars of funding through government grants and grants from public and private organizations. These grants are geared specifically toward supporting female entrepreneurs. Sometimes the grants are also linked to incubator programs.
Incubators, also known as accelerators, offer formal business mentorship, tools and resources for female business owners. Like the names suggest, these growth oriented programs typically happen during a compressed period of time, say 90 days, to help the entrepreneur take her business to the next level. Though not all incubator programs are linked to grants, they have massive intrinsic value from all the learning and strategy work that takes place.
The next evolution for incubator programs across the board is to make them way more women-friendly; on-site child care or a child-care subsidy, and a living wage, would go a long way.
Loans and lines of credit
Women entrepreneurs can apply for a business loan or line of credit at just about any financial institution. BUT, in my first hand experience with financing my own businesses, the traditional banks tend to have a qualification structure better suited to more established businesses. So, you may want to hunt around for lenders who just deal with entrepreneurs. Examples are Alberta Women Entrepreneurs, Women Entrepreneurs Saskatchewan, Business Development Bank of Canada and more.
At a minimum, to begin the loan or line of credit application process the woman entrepreneur needs to produce her business plan, a cash flow statement (or projection) and her personal net worth statement. That last item is inherently biased to extend money to women with more money, but I certainly hope to see more lending start to happen based on the business model itself, not on the size of the entrepreneurs’ TFSA or whether she owns a home.
Winning pitches with investors
Just like what you see on TV, this is where the woman entrepreneur pitches her business idea to a group of investors (or people who make the decisions about where to invest). Of course, if it’s televised, this can be great for PR for the business….think about the little labels on websites that say “as seen on Dragon’s Den”. But, just about any pitch platform is going to be good for getting the word out about your business, televised or not.
Recently I learned of Total Mom Pitch, which is a business pitch competition and a program that offers a forum for women entrepreneurs to share their business ideas and gain access to expert advice. These kinds of women-oriented pitch platforms will help to break down barriers that women face when launching and growing their businesses. We need more of them.
If you’re ready to pitch, these are the ingredients you’ll need; clear communication about the vision for the business, the numbers (your current and future growth story for your revenue, and how you’re planning to manage your margins) and what the opportunity for the investor is (how much will they make and what will the investment money do for the business). Don’t be surprised if you get asked what your true motivation is to be in business? …and though it might not be deemed very ladylike by dinosaur investors who you won’t want to take money from anyways, it isn’t wrong to say ‘to make money”!
Watch for strings! Anytime you mix family or personal relationships with money, you open yourself up to relationship challenges. My advice is to pitch family members who understand what you’re doing, and set out a clear framework for how you’ll either pay them back or reward them with dividends or potentially equity.
Grow with your cash flow
As you start building your revenues, you’ll want to ensure a portion gets reinvested towards your business growth — new product lines or talent, for example. But, this needs to be balanced with you paying yourself. That business model is called “profit first,” and I recommend studying up on it.
Of course you can use your savings to boost your business too, and you will almost certainly have to use some. But, don’t overdo it because as a woman, you need to take care of your personal finances so that you’re properly prepared for emergencies and ultimately retirement. In other words, use other financing options, too, to accelerate your business growth.
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