More women-owned businesses, more money raised to grow those businesses, and peer recognition prove that 2016 was a great year for female entrepreneurs.
Last January, Forbes magazine declared that 2016 would be a great year for women entrepreneurs. Forces would align, they predicted, and women would prosper. Reasons cited included marketplace trends, low interest rates, leadership training, and the positive press that surrounds the story of a successful business woman.
On the surface, 2016 may not have shaped up to be the historic year for women that many had hoped for—a shortcoming felt most keenly following Hillary Clinton’s loss of the US election this November. But when you dig a little deeper, especially in the private sector, it looks like Forbes got it right: not just because of the overall business landscape, but because of the actions of women themselves.
There are three ways women excelled as entrepreneurs in 2016.
First, they got in the game.
In 2015, 9.4 million businesses or firms were owned by women. In 2016, that number grew to 11.3 million according to the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses report, commissioned by American Express OPEN.
The number of women-owned businesses has grown by 45 percent since 2007, which is five times faster than the national average.
It takes careful attention to market opportunities to get started on a viable business. For example, entrepreneur Katerina Schneider realized, after taking a closer look, that too many vitamins have outdated formulations. A savvy business woman with a background in both the investment and entertainment industries, Schneider launched Ritual, a vitamin company. The business landed a spot on Business Insider’s “Top 17 Start-Ups of 2016.”
Start-ups aren’t relegated to big cities. Women all over the country took skills, often learned working for others, to start their own businesses, from restaurants to retail stores and financial firms.
Then, they got the funding.
“Don’t let money run your life, let money help you run your life better.” This quote by John Rampton, CEO of Due, applies to businesses even more than to daily life.
Women-led businesses consistently receive less outside funding than other businesses, but that didn’t stop scores of women from getting the money they needed.
Mary Apple, founder and creator of Pretty Pushers, a line of maternity-specific hospital gowns, struggled to get business loans ever since the inception of her business in 2008. But the need to develop a line designed for, and sell directly to, hospitals drove her on, and this year she secured financing through alternate means: securing a loan through the online “matching” platform Kabbage.
The result was a line of credit that allowed her to move forward.
Karla Fried, CEO and co-founder of NVoicepay, secured her sixth round of venture capital funding in 2016. She’s been so successful at raising money, she wrote an article for The Huffington Post that offers advice to other women.
Finally, they got recognized.
From the prestigious Stevie Awards to more local awards, like New Jersey’s Leading Women Entrepreneurs top 25 list, women were recognized for their innovation and contributions to the world of business.
The types of businesses ranged from tech, to online retail, to real estate, the service industry and just about every other realm imaginable.
For instance, in 2008 Jessica O. Matthews imagined a world where playing would generate power, and that power would change lives. At the time she was working on a class project at Harvard University, and helped invent the SOCCKET ball, an energy-harnessing soccer ball. Matthews co-founded Uncharted Play, a company that “makes energy generating products that power and empower communities worldwide” according to the website. From its launch in 2011 until now, Uncharted Play has used their proprietary MORE technology (scalable, multi micro-generator energy systems) to turn “anything that moves” into a source of power.
In 2016 she was named a Gold Stevie Award winner, and a female entrepreneur of the year. In Matthews’ case, it’s not her first award. As her company grows, so does her list of accolades.
Suji Park earned a Silver Stevie Award for Suji’s Korean Cuisine. The company, based out of Omaha, Nebraska is part of Food Dreams Made Real, “a tight-knit family of professionals who know the food cultures of both Korea and the United States.” Suji’s Korean Cuisine products are marketed in the U.S., where the demand for Korean food is growing.
So, as 2017 begins and goals are set both personally and professionally, remember that the horizon for women in business is a bright one. Get in the game, get your funding in place and someday you, too, could be successful and earn the praise of your peers.