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The dawn of the New Year provides an excellent opportunity to review the successes of 2014, and to assess areas of improvement for 2015. The National Women's Business Council's annual report, "Building Bridges: Leveraging Research and Relationships to Impact the Business Climate for Women" does exactly that, providing us with an overview of women entrepreneurship, including a summary of key research findings, policy recommendations and the Council's agenda in the year ahead. The report rests on NWBC's four pillar platform- access to capital, access to markets, job creation and growth, and data collection- and confirms what many of us already know, that the full economic participation of women is essential to economic growth in the U.S. 


Access to capital remains a key issue for women business owners. In order to better understand the ways in which women business owners accessed capital, NWBC worked with the SBA to analyze loan data, partnered with Walker's Legacy to host a round-table specific to women of color and access to capital, and commissioned new research on under-capitalizationThe research shows a direct link between access to capital and revenue generation, with men starting their businesses with nearly twice as much capital as women, a disparity which increases among firms with high growth potential. The report highlights crowdfunding as an important new resource for women business owners seeking capital.

The NWBC also focused much research on access to markets for women business owners, using WIPP's own ChallengeHER campaign as a building block for identifying best practices in government procurement. Thanks to the Women Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program, more and more federal contracts are being awarded to women owned small businesses. However, disparities still remain in regard to award amount between WOSBs and non-WOSBs, most likely as a result of different contract types. 

In 2013, the Council called for an increase in the number of women owned or led firms in incubators and accelerators in an attempt to increase job creation and growth. In 2014, the Council honored this commitment, through championing the SBA's Office of Investment and Innovation's Growth Accelerator Fund Competition, convening a public meeting on STEM, entrepreneurship, and women, and commissioning new research on micro-businesses and accelerators and incubators. Research shows that women with dependent children are less likely to add additional employees, indicating that child care burdens are still a significant obstacle to the growth of women owned small businesses. 

The report concludes with a number of different, concrete strategies for each pillar, building off of past success while also acknowledging areas for improvement. Among many other things, the NWBC recommends: tax credits for investors who finance women-owned and led firms; creating opportunities to align women business owners with government and corporate procurement officials; improvement of the availability and timeliness of government and private sector data on women owned small businesses; the implementation of the sole source authority for the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program (yay!). 

The National Women's Business Council is a crucial resource for women entrepreneurs and business owners. The research and recommendations they provide acts as a road map for the success of women entrepreneurs, success which is reached through hard work, partnerships and persistence. 2014 was a great year for women entrepreneurs, and 2015 looks just as promising. 

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A new report issued by the
National Community Reinvestment Coalition found large, unsettling inconsistencies in lending patterns for small businesses starting in the years following the Great Recession. The report, Small Business Lending Deserts and Oases, outlines the ways in which access to credit for small businesses is affected by geographic and demographic characteristics. Although overall lending to small businesses plummeted during the Great Recession, women and African-American owned small businesses were found to be disproportionately affected, along with small businesses located in the Midwest and the South. Importantly, the NCRC found that counties with little access to Women Business Centers (WBCs) or Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) had the lowest rates of lending for small businesses. The report spanned both the private sector and federally funded lending, painting a comprehensive picture of the barriers that small business owners are facing today.

The NCRC made several recommendations for leveling the playing field when it comes to small business loans, among them increasing the number of WBCs and CDFIs in the so-called "lending deserts". The NCRC also recommended additional research, especially on the lending patterns in the private sector. Although this report affirms the findings of studies before it, it sheds a new light on both the geographic and demographic disparities in small business lending, and confirms the need for proactive programs such as WIPP's Women Accessing Capital program. 

The report was funded through the WE Lend Initiative, established by the Sam's Club Giving Program to increase access to capital for women entrepreneurs. WIPP partners with NCRC on the WE Lend Initiative, which also is assisting Women Business Centers in becoming micro-lenders and preparing standardized financial education curriculum for women business owners utilizing these Centers. 


Women Impacting Public Policy joined a recent White House Business Council Meeting to share how various policies are affecting women business owners across the country. The meeting included several White House staff along with top officials from the Department of Commerce and the Small Business Administration.

 

At the meeting, WIPP stressed the importance of capital access as the critical issue for women business owners looking to start and grow their companies, and highlighted WIPP's 2013 Annual Survey finding that it takes an average of two attempts for women business owners to secure funding.

 

Commerce Undersecretary for Economic Affairs, Mark Doms, agreed that the economy would be best served by giving business owners more access to capital. The Commerce Department's new strategic plan, America is Open for Business, reflects that priority by stressing innovation and investment.  

 

SBA Associate Administrator for Capital Access Ann Marie Mehlum concurred, saying her office will continue to identify opportunities to expand access while strengthening SBA's already available capital access programs. She went on to highlight the 7(a) loan program, which supported more than $15 billion in small business loans in FY13.

 

The meeting closed with a discussion of how trade can be used to fuel growth for businesses of all sizes. The Administration agreed there is a need for streamlining and simplification in exporting as well as engaging the women's business community on the value of selling goods and services abroad. Both of those priorities are at the front of WIPP's ExportNOW program that encourages women entrepreneurs to grow beyond our borders.

 

These meetings are open dialogues with policymakers, giving WIPP's advocacy team the opportunity to share ideas and concerns raised by WIPP's members.

It's time to be heard and be counted!

3:03 PM March 12, 2014

On behalf of the women business owner community, Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) is conducting its Economic Survey for Business Women. The survey provides important information about our economic impact, and your response as a member of this community is vital. The survey results allow us to speak authoritatively on YOUR behalf with Members of Congress, key officials in the White House, federal agencies, and renowned national reporters.  

When the question is, "What do women in business want?" the survey lets WIPP, on behalf of its coalition of 4.7 million business women including 75 organizations, answer with the greatest impact. And "impact" is what it's all about.

Please take a few minutes and complete the survey. It covers a variety of policy issues and your business growth and lets you tell us what issues are most important to you and how you are doing. All surveys are confidential and must be completed and submitted by March 23rd.

It's time to be heard and be counted!

ITC's new guide for businesses and policymakers explains in clear and jargon-free language how businesses can benefit from the new WTO rules.   It is expected that the agreement will cut red tape and simplify customs formalities.    The Peterson Institute for International Economics said it is expected to increase global GDP of US$ 1 trillion and create 21 million jobs.  The International Trade Center issued this press release .  WIPP entrepreneurs have expressed strong interest in exporting as a growth opportunity.

 

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