“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” The words of Eleanor Roosevelt undoubtedly sound familiar to the instincts of many Americans who’ve persevered against the economic challenges of the last three years, but perhaps none more so than women entrepreneurs. Roosevelt also wrote, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”
In the world of business, daily challenges can take on many forms. But once a fear or challenge has been isolated and defined, the path to overcoming the difficulty becomes clearer. For some who desire to succeed in business, the challenges go beyond what can be easily isolated or defined. For women entrepreneurs and business owners, the barriers they’ve historically confronted — and in many instances still face — remain ingrained in our collective psyche and are found among our gender biases.
Whether it’s securing access to capital, gaining entry or credibility in historically male-dominated industries, finding willing suppliers and vendors or a whole host of other business-related challenges, women entrepreneurs have continued to persevere, sometimes against great odds. Despite these monumental barriers, women-owned companies represent a significant and growing portion of business startups in today’s economy.
As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day as well as Women’s History Month in March, we must not only acknowledge and celebrate how far women have come, but also look forward to even greater achievements by women in business during the months and years ahead.
Important advances have been made on multiple fronts that enable more women-owned companies to start, grow and succeed in today’s economy. Access to capital has steadily increased, but we have more work to do in this arena. Government contracting opportunities are growing with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s new woman-owned small business contracting initiative, which is being implemented over the next several months. More industries are seeing successful women-owned businesses that offer a model for others to follow in their footsteps.
Women throughout the country are sharing their successes with peers, providing mentoring and educating others on the growing opportunities and resources available from private and public sources, including SBA-sponsored Women’s Business Centers throughout the country. We applaud the dedication, resourcefulness and drive of women to achieve their goals and realize their dreams.
Along with the 10 million U.S. women business owners who have overcome many barriers in their efforts to improve their own lives and the lives of their families, employees and customers, we echo the words of Eleanor Roosevelt to all women who have the dream of starting and growing a business: Do the thing you think you cannot do.
Daniel Hannaher, the U.S. Small Business Administration Region VIII administrator, works out of Denver. Reach him at (303) 844-0505 or Daniel.Hannaher@sba.gov.