3.3 AGYW Require Specialized Support to Make the Jump from Entrepreneurs to Employers

Research shows that women entrepreneurs are over-represented in micro-enterprise and under-represented in growth-oriented enterprise. Many women remain self-employed or run very small businesses rather than expand their businesses sufficiently to hire employees. Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence, a leading U.S.-based not-for-profit provider of resources, business education and community support for women entrepreneurs seeking to grow micro businesses to million dollar enterprises, noted that while 50 percent of privately-owned companies or start-ups are run by women, only 17 percent of women-owned businesses in the United States have an employee. Over 70 percent of women-owned businesses are at U.S. $50,000 or less. Only four women led businesses are in the Fortune 500.

Women’s under-representation as employers is a global phenomenon. While types of employment vary depending on a country’s GDP, the likelihood that women will become employers remains consistently low across countries. Globally, women are more likely to run informal or small firms. Women are represented in the labor force; the challenge lies in supporting them to move into higher-value and more formalized types of labor, either as wage-earners with access to social benefits, or as growth-entrepreneurs.

Within the United States, Count Me In found that women need specialized support that includes tools, coaching, and community to create profitable and sustainable businesses. They have also found the following to be critical:

  • Access to female role models who have built growth-oriented enterprises and million dollar plus businesses.
  • Support to overcome internal barriers such as the ambition and vision necessary to imagine a larger business.
  • Concrete mechanisms to increase their comfort discussing financial information and learning how to sell their business plan.

Box 3.3.1 explains how Count Me In launched a specialized program to support women growth-oriented entrepreneurs as they jump from start-up to growth phases.

3.3.1 Bright Ideas: Count Me In Realized that Women Need More than Micro-Lending

Make Mine a Million $ Business is an initiative of Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence. Count Me In began in 1999 as an online microlender for women. Founder Nell Merino decided that women needed more help moving to the next level of entrepreneurship. Make Mine a Million $ Business organizes business competitions styled after the hit U.S. TV shows, “American Idol” and “The Apprentice.” The competitions identify women entrepreneurs

who have the potential to grow their business to $1 million in revenue in 18 to 36 months. Today, Count Me In’s community of 70,000 highly motivated and commercially active women entrepreneurs together employ more than 200,000 people, making it equivalent to number 20 on the Fortune 500 list.

For more information about Make Mine a Million, see www.makemineamillion.org.