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Empowered in 2013 and Beyond: Helpful Assistance Programs for Women in Business

We've all heard the saying, "It's a man's world." Well into twentieth-century America, the great majority of business owners and chief breadwinners were men. When women worked, many of those jobs tended to be in what was then considered traditionally feminine roles as teaching, nursing, or cosmetology. For the most part, women were employees, not employers. According to SBA Administrator Karen Mills, 30 percent of all businesses now are owned by women, and the revenue from those companies tops $1.2 trillion annually. From childcare to technology, women are blazing a trail in business ownership. This increase in female-led enterprises has spawned a sector of lending and assistance programs that cater specifically to women in business.

Types of Programs Available for Women

Women have always had entrepreneurial spirit, but financing for women in business still can be hard to attain at times. The following assistance programs are specifically tailored for women who want to start or build their small businesses.

  • 8 (a) Business Development – The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers a nine-year program to help women succeed in business. In a mentor/mentee-type setting, the program is broken down into two parts: Years one through four make up the development stage. Mentors help new business owners navigate through the start-up and growth of a new business. Years five through nine make up the transition stage, where mentors help a business that has made it through the first tough years continue to thrive. Having access to an experience business owner who has already been through the process is invaluable.
  • Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Concern (SDVOBC) – Also formed by the SBA, this program helps disabled veteran business owners procure contracts in both the public and private sectors. If you are a woman and you were disabled while serving in the military, the programs for women offered could be of great benefit.
  • WOSB Federal Contract Program – The Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program allows contracting officers for federally funded projects to set aside a certain number of contracts for women-owned businesses. To be eligible for this program, a business must first be classified as a WOSB. To qualify, the business must be at least 51 percent women-owned, be owned by a U.S. citizen, and be classified as a small business by the SBA.
  • HUBZone – This program was developed to help women-owned small businesses located in underrepresented areas receive government contracts. For example, if your business is based in Walla Walla, Washington, and you wish to bid on a government contract, this program can help you be as competitive as a company in Chicago or Philadelphia.
  • Women's Business Development Center – If you are a woman with a business in the Midwest, this organization's assistance programs have a wealth of information, contract leads, and tools to help you grow your business. In December 2012, it also became a micro-lender for women-owned small businesses.

How These Assistance Programs Help

Owning a business is not easy. Sometimes you need help to stay afloat, whether your business is new or already established. These assistance programs can help with all aspects of business ownership, such as attaining financing, networking with other women business owners, and finding sounding boards for new ideas. Your business does not operate in a vacuum, so as its owner, you shouldn't isolate yourself either. Take advantage of these assistance programs for women and help your business succeed.

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