Real Small Business

Women-owned businesses have become a significant part of the small business universe, and their influence continues to grow. Over a third of all U.S. businesses are now owned by women, and the growth rate of women-owned firms regularly outpaces overall business growth, according to the National Foundation for Women Business Owners.

Women who want to expand their current business or start their own company have a wide range of resources available to them in the form of trade and professional associations and government assistance programs.

Here are some of the key resources that women entrepreneurs need to know about. (Note: Some require annual membership dues.)

American Business Women's Association (ABWA)

The ABWA's primary focus is to promote entrepreneurial ventures by women.

It offers Women Entrepreneurs member discounts, ranging from car rentals and office products to long-distance phone services. The ABWA also provides education and skill building services to assist members just starting out.

American Woman's Economic Development Corp. (AWED)

AWED's experts have experience in every area of small business -- from financing and wholesale distribution to public relations.

They offer classes in the New York City area, but also dispense advice and coaching to members nationwide over the telephone. Four regional conferences held annually to encourage networking among members.

Federal Trade Commission

If you believe you have been denied a loan or credit because you are a woman, you can contact the FTC's Consumer Response Center for help. The FTC is in charge of enforcing the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which prohibits lenders from denying credit based on gender or marital status.

While the FTC will not act on individual complaints, a large number of complaints against a vendor may force it to take action and investigate further. The FTC also can put you in touch with other agencies that can investigate a complaint immediately.

Mothers' Home Business Network (MHBN)

One of the largest groups for women home-based business owners. MHBN provides information, ideas, and inspiration to mom's who choose to work at home.

The Mothers' Home Business Network publishes two newsletters, Home Working Mothers (annual) and Kids and Career (twice a year). MHBN provides literature on how to juggle your time between raising children and running a successful business as well as a "fraud detector" for evaluating home business opportunities.

National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO)

NAWBO is a lobbying organization aimed at promoting policies that encourage female entrepreneurship. NAWBO also established the National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO), a non-profit research foundation.

NFWBO publishes a wide range of research studies and reports on statistical trends among women-owned firms. Its Compendium of National Statistics on Women-Owned Businesses in the U.S. brings together all the publicly available statistical information on women-owned businesses.

National Association for Female Executives (NAFE)

Provides career counseling, resume services, discounts on travel, insurance, business services, annual conferences and seminars.

National Women's Business Council (NWBC)

Authorized by Congress in 1994, the National Women's Business Council is an independent advisory panel of the federal government. It serves as an independent source of advice and counsel to the President, the Congress and the Interagency Committee on Women's Business Enterprise on matters of importance to women business owners. It also helps gauge the effectiveness of programs and policies designed to support women-owned businesses.

Office of Women's Business Ownership

The U.S. Small Business Administration offers a wide range of services and benefits for women who own their own businesses, or are looking to start one. These include training, counseling, and mentoring services, and local and national resources. It also offers access to the SBA's many loan guarantee programs, including the 7(a) program.

U.S. Department of Labor Women's Bureau

Advocates on behalf of women's work issues and strives to ensure that the voices of working women are heard in public policy arena. Proposes policies and legislation that benefit working women and reports findings to president, congress, and public. Has clearing house resource center that offers information and guidance on age, wage, sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, fair pay initiatives. Also offers variety of free publications for women business owners.

National Women Business Owner's Corporation (NWBOC)

The National Women Business Owner's Corporation is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing opportunities by women business owners for corporate and government contracts. It's NWBOC Network Web site provides information and technical assistance about the corporate and government purchasing markets. Sponsors a National Certification Program to verify the ownership and control of businesses by women. Also collaborates with corporate and government purchasing officials to shape procurement policies, and outreach programs, and educate purchasers about the benefits they will receive in contracting with women business owners.

Help at the State Level

Over half the states have special resources designed to assist female entrepreneurs.

For example, New Jersey has an Office of Women Business Enterprise that helps women who want to open, expand or buy a business, while under Oklahoma's Women-Owned Business Assistance Program, women business owners can get free business planning and marketing assistance.

You can get more information through your state's Office of Economic Development.


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Starting Your Own Business - Small Business Resources for Women Entrepreneurs on the Web

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