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Five Tips for Women Starting a Business

In today’s economy, small business owners face historic challenges. For women entrepreneurs, these challenges are compounded by the mere fact of gender—study after study shows that even in the 21st century, females face unique obstacles in the business world. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners, women own 7.8 million companies in the United States, roughly 28 percent of all businesses in the country. However, female-owned companies account for less than 4 percent of the overall revenue.
These numbers, while daunting, shouldn’t frighten off women interested in owning their own business. In an attempt to spur more business development by women, numerous organizations and government agencies are making an effort to support female company owners. In fact, in some ways, this is the best time in history for a female to open a business.
Here are five tips for getting started:

1. Choose a business that fits into your life
Many women dream of owning their own business but believe their lives won’t allow them the time or the flexibility to do so. Entrepreneurship can be especially daunting for women who are raising children or who are expected to run a household. With the explosion of the Internet-based economy, though, more and more women are finding that owning a business doesn’t have to mean finding someone to watch the kids. Whether it’s a home-based company or a traditional storefront operation, being realistic about the time and energy you’ll have to put into your business is the first step to success.

2. Create a strong network
Finding and connecting with other female business owners on sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter can create a virtual support network that can make entrepreneurship less intimidating. Even better, many of these connections will be able to offer tips and advice based on their own experiences, saving you from making beginner mistakes.

3. Find a Women’s Business Center
In an effort to promote female-owned companies, the Small Business Administration (SBA) runs nearly 100 Women’s Business Centers around the country. These centers are goldmines of information and support for the budding female entrepreneur, offering training, coaching and technical assistance. Check out the SBA website for more information.

4. Get support from nonprofit organizations
There are a number of nonprofit organizations that exist to promote the interests of female business owners. Perhaps the best known of these is the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, which offers a wide range of support services for women interested in starting their own companies, including seminars, mentor programs and international business strategy support.

5. Get certified as a Woman-Owned Business
Though owning a business as a woman presents its challenges, it also offers some benefits. Many companies and government organizations have guidelines that state they must provide a certain percentage of their business to female-owned companies each year. However, to qualify for these special contracts, you’ll need to be certified as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE) or Women-Owned Business (WOB). Certification can come through private certification agencies or, depending on your geographic location, your city or state government. The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council offers a checklist of certification requirements on its website.

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