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As an active member in a community of women business owners, one of the questions I’m often asked is what key piece of advice I would give to women who are looking to launch their own businesses. For me, the answer is clear: capital, capital, capital.
The importance of capital and having a crystal clear understanding of your financial situation cannot – and should not – be underestimated. I remember reading the findings of a Department of Commerce survey a couple of years ago which said that women-owned businesses start life with a third less capital than those owned by their male counterparts. What’s more, as their businesses grow, the subsequent level of funding they get is overall lower than that of male-owned firms. From recent conversations I’ve had, I think this is still a real issue.
A lack of small business funding can be enormously limiting – you can’t invest in infrastructure in the same way and you are constrained to short-term thinking, dealing with issues as they arise instead of being able to invest in solutions that may cost more upfront but are far more beneficial to the business in the long run.
Additionally, a lack of financial backing can be hugely stressful. You may have to tap into personal resources, which, depending on your circumstances, could be an extra burden financially and emotionally for you – and your family – to bear.
When creating a business, it’s crucial to have a detailed business plan and to work on financing from the get-go. Be realistic – ask yourself whether you’re building a business, or is it just to tide you over until another opportunity arises? How capital-intensive is it? Getting into the details not only puts you in better control, it also provides you with essential information you’ll need for approaching banks, potential financial partners or investors.
Having a tight grasp on the financials is also a huge confidence booster. For anyone launching their new business, it’s inevitable that there will be varying elements of uncertainty, particularly in the early stages. A blurry financial picture should not be one of them. It’s not easy to ask for money and everyone should be prepared for some amount of rejection, but being able to talk numbers with clarity and certainty is a sure way to get your foot in more doors and at least start the conversation. If the financial side of things really does feel like a major blind spot, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The support of a well-placed, well-informed mentor can be a real game changer for the long-term success of your business.
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