Women are starting more businesses than ever.
An average of 849 per day, in fact, with 114% more women-owned businesses in the U.S. existing today than 20 years ago.
Though that’s exciting, the dark side is that women face significant financial challenges — especially when it comes to financing their businesses. On average, women entrepreneurs get 50% less funding than men, and account for less than 5% of all venture capital deals.
Using Women’s History Month as a reminder to keep progressing, we decided to get some advice on these financial challenges from female entrepreneurs in a variety of industries.
We asked them what they wish they’d known when starting their businesses. Here are the seven smart financial insights they shared.
You won’t make money right away
Think you’ll launch your website, print some business cards — and immediately start bringing in the cash? Think again.
“I wish I would’ve known I’d have to invest a lot of work and time into my business before I started making any money,” says Leslie Fischer, founder of Sustainable Slumber, a site that helps consumers find eco-friendly mattresses.
Fischer, for example, worked on her website every day for six months before earning her first commission.
“Creating an online brand requires so many different skills: SEO, writing, social media know-how, etc.,” she says. “They all take time to hone and perfect and are necessary before you see any real money.”
Businesses require startup capital
And you won’t just need money to cover your personal expenses — you may need it to fund the business side of things, too. When Keisha Rivers launched The Kars Group Ltd., a facilitated outcome consulting firm, she neglected that aspect.
“I mistakenly thought I wouldn’t need any capital because my expertise was the ‘product,’” she says. “I didn’t consider website expenses, advertising, professional memberships and a host of other expenses.”
Rivers used credit cards to finance her business, and said her financial worries made for a “very stressful” and “difficult” experience. She recommends other entrepreneurs secure enough capital to cover their expenses for six months to a year.
Ann Butler founded Edible Education, a program that provides hands-on cooking lessons to children. Her wish is simple: that she’d kept better records.
As a nonprofit, Edible Education has access to grant funding, but to receive it, she would’ve had to track how its programs affect kids: whether they eat more fruits and vegetables after completion, for example.
Whatever type of business you run, you should keep careful records, if not for grants, then for banks. “You’ll need funding to go bigger,” says Butler. “And a keen understanding of all your measurables is imperative.”
Securing funding is challenging
When it comes to that funding, Kirsten Curry says you might need more than you think.
The founder of a full-service retirement plan provider called Leading Retirement Solutions, she wishes she would’ve known “that starting a new enterprise would take twice the amount of funding than originally anticipated.”
That’s what Curry and her partners experienced, having underestimated how long it’d take to gain brand recognition and attract new clients.
And, citing statistics like those we mentioned above, Curry believes “women-owned businesses face far greater barriers in obtaining business financing.” Though she self-funded to start, she attempted to go the bank route last year, and called the experience “an entertaining fiasco.”
Using a government tool called Lender Match, Curry applied to nine lending institutions. Even though her business’ revenue has increased 20% each year, the lenders said it wasn’t profitable enough to qualify for a loan. “We finally threw up our hands and put the financing on the backburner,” she says.
Her experience is far from unique. Curry says, “Women account for only 16% of conventional small business loans and these loans account for only 4.4% of the total dollar value of loans according to a U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce Policy Brief, February 2017.”
Things are changing, but it’s slow going, so it’s best to be prepared and aware from the get-go that finding financing can be a challenge.
Accountants can save you money
We know, we know; bookkeeping isn’t sexy. But it’s vital to running a financially-successful business. That’s especially true when it comes to your taxes.
“It wasn’t until I had been in business for several tax cycles that I wasn’t shocked when the bill came around,” admits Kim Kohatsu, founder of Charles Ave Marketing, an agency that provides copywriting, social media and paid search services.
Kohatsu recommends finding a trustworthy accountant who can walk you through everything from business expenses to estimated taxes and retirement accounts.
“Naturally, you want your bottom line to be profitable, but the more profit you make, the more you pay in taxes,” she says. “It’s important, therefore, to understand how to maximize what you can claim as expenses.”
Hiring can help you grow
“I was a one-woman show for too long,” says Kiné Corder, a psychotherapist who specializes in financial therapy. “Aside from a web designer and a few apps, I was doing all the work.”
Corder wishes she would’ve hired a marketing person, CPA, administrative assistant and attorney during her second and third years of business — instead of waiting until year five.
Now that she has those experts on her side, she’s honed her marketing message, reduced her tax burden and delegated social media management — leaving her more time to generate income.
“I’m glad there are so many apps that kept me afloat until I could afford to make the commitment,” she says. “But hiring gave me a team, and that’s what it means to be a business owner.”
Value yourself first
When Emily Reynolds started RPR Firm, she was a single mother on food stamps, putting nearly all her expenses on a credit card.
And, desperate to feed her kids, she undercharged for her services. “I look back and see the people I attracted didn’t value me or the service I provided,” she says. “Because I didn’t value myself.”
Today, RPR Firm offers public relations services in four cities and has a staff of more than 12. And Reynolds wishes she’d known her value from the start.
“No matter how far along I was in my business, I had something to offer,” she says. “Something that was worth charging more than a ‘trade’ or ‘whatever you think.’”
Cheers to these women entrepreneurs for sharing their wisdom and for blazing their own paths to success.