What makes being a woman business owner different? Utah women are unique in both how effective they are at starting and operating businesses, but also the reasons behind why and what they sell. What is truly amazing is how women in Utah are starting businesses 5 times faster than the national average, despite barriers that men do not experience. This is according to the American Express OPEN Report, which also revealed that Utah women are in the top 10 for growth in new women-owned businesses, the money they earn and the number of people they employ.
A powerful female voice in the marketplace is making Utah’s economy more diverse and vibrant. Their new products and services offer increased value to local, national and worldwide customers. The OPEN Report, based on U.S. Census data, also estimated that nearly 84,000 Utah businesses are majority owned by one or more women. And, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked Utah #2 in the number of self-employed women. Utah women are doing business and doing it well!
The Women’s Business Center, a nonprofit entrepreneurial center for women, has worked with Utah women business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs for the past 18 years, and has seen an increase in the quality and number of women starting and growing businesses. Utah women are unique in how they approach problems and brainstorm solutions, and they are driven more by flexibility and work-life balance.
Considering this and other factors, the WBC has identified a recipe for success, which seems to be centered in a blend of four elements, which every woman entrepreneur needs in order to be successful: 1- Technical Knowledge, 2- A Network 3- Resources & Support and 4- Good Examples.
No one is born knowing how to start and operate a business. Most small and micro business owners “wear many hats”, and learn-as-they-go about vital principles of business ownership and operations such as finance, accounting, management, marketing and sales. Not knowing or understanding a principle could jeopardize the potential for success of a business. All women should learn the principles and apply them in their businesses.
If a woman has a business idea, the first step is to validate that idea by answering the question: What problem will the product solve or what increased value does their innovation bring? Next, discover the needs and preferences of the target audience who will most want or need your product followed by the consideration of how your product will be distinctly different from what is already in the marketplace. If there is potential for success, then a business can be born. And with technical knowledge, a business owner will be in the driver’s seat of their business.
Relationships are vital to growing and advancing a business. A woman is not able to run and grow a business by herself and commonly does not have a strong network of relationships needed for growth. She must build a network of contacts so that she is able to connect and make deals that will benefit the business. By building key relationships, she will find ways to give and receive as well as collaborate on and create new opportunities. There is real power in knowing the right people and having a set of strategic alliances.
Resources & Support
Understanding what and how to access relevant and sufficient specialized business counseling and training can make the difference between stagnation and advancement. Many entrepreneurial resources offer free services and can provide technical training, facilitate connections, and be an accountability partner. A good set of counselors and mentors can assist a business owner through various phases of business and provide essential mentor-ship to develop confidence and get their business going. These resources and services can result in more successful outcomes for new businesses including increased job creation, revenue and profitability.
Women generally need to see another successful woman business owner before they decide to step off the edge to start their own enterprise. Good examples are needed to inspire and show that an everyday Utah woman can start and build a thriving business. Being a business owner is not easy, but it is possible and can be well worth the time and effort.
When a woman is able to learn technical skills, build her own network of connections, access resources, be supported and see good examples, her potential for success is strengthened. With the freedom to create a flexible business, women are able to take care of family responsibilities but also create profitable businesses that not only benefit their families, but also benefit their communities and the state of Utah as a whole.
A woman who is tenacious and persistent in applying the principles of business has the opportunity to join the group of Utah women business owners who are working hard and making a major impact in our state’s economy. It’s a great time to think about and start a business!
Ann Marie Wallace is the executive director of the Salt Lake Chamber Women’s Business Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization funded in part by a federal grant from the US Small Business Administration. Ann Marie provides an atmosphere of mentor-ship and resourcefulness needed for an emerging entrepreneur through one-on-one consultations, mentoring and networking. She ensures the Women’s Business Center provides valuable and accessible resources for women entrepreneurs, collaborates in the local business community and influences the center’s impact of new businesses started, jobs created and increase in revenue.
Before becoming the program director, Ann Marie was the business consultant at the WBC and provided over 1,600 hours of one-on-one consulting to client business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. Her specialties are business plan writing, cash flow projections and government procurement.
Prior to joining the Salt Lake Chamber, Ann Marie spent ten years in the hotel and hospitality industry in the areas of program coordination, hospitality management, graphic design, sales and marketing where she successfully partnered and contracted for large and small public and private conference, meetings, trainings and special events.
Ann Marie has first-hand experience with the WBC, as a client starting her own alcohol-free beverage catering company in 2010.
Ann Marie represents the WBC as a Resource Partners for the US Small Business Administration and currently serves on several boards including National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Salt Lake City, Entrepreneur Launch Pad (ELP), Jr. League of Salt Lake City Community Advisory Board. She also serves on the credit committee for Salt Lake City’s Economic Development Loan Fund and appointment by Governor Gary Herbert to serve on the Women In The Economy Commission, representing small business.
Ann Marie holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Utah State University.