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SBA begins new focus on mid-range women entrepreneurs

Posted in NEWS by msceonet on January 4, 2010

United States SBA Office of Women’s Business Ownership begins new focus on overlooked mid-range entrepreneurs

Women entrepreneurs who reach more than a million in annual revenue find big success comes with equal challenges

By Felicia Joy
Senior Correspondent 

In the eight months that she has been President Obama’s czar on women’s business ownership, Ana Harvey has come to a few conclusions.  Chief among them is the fact that more women business owners need to hire.  Harvey, who leads the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership says, “There is a big gap between women entrepreneurs who are starting and growing their businesses and those whose companies have arrived at maturity.”  She says key to bridging the gap between starting and maturing is building a workforce.  “This is simply the impact of having more hands on deck,” Harvey said.  “More people can do more work, but owners are often hesitant about whether their revenues can support this.”  

Ana Harvey


Harvey defines woman business owners in the middle ground between starting and maturing as those with revenues in the $1-5 million range.  She says they must make changes in their businesses that move them from lone owner-operated entities or small informal organizations to scalable systematic corporate structures.  

“By virtue of [the Office of Women’s Business Ownership] mission, we have been forced to deal only with women in start-up or at the first levels of business,” Harvey said.  “But there is a great deal of potential in the middle-ground companies that have a proven business model but aren’t sure how to maneuver critical business aspects that change once you grow, like healthcare costs, taxes, financial management systems and technology,” Harvey said.  “Above all, it is important for these women to hire—and workforce development has proven to be the valley of death,” she said.  

(Hear how to hire smartly for your business.) 

While some women business owners are stuck in the middle because they don’t know how to grow and aren’t sure how to retain the best employees, Harvey admits that some of them just aren’t interested in growth at all.  “I was in New York for a conference recently and a woman there said to me, ‘I just don’t want to grow.  I don’t have the time.  I am more concerned about my family,’” the woman confided.  

Are big business success and a happy, healthy family life mutually exclusive?  Harvey says the answer is different for everyone but she believes you can have both, though she says it’s tough; and she speaks from experience.  

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 “When I was growing my business I took my children to school and then I worked while they were there.  Then I picked them up from school and brought them home to feed them and help with homework.  After a little time together I would put them to bed and I would work some more—sometimes all night into the early hours of the morning,” Harvey said.  “I did that because that was what I needed to do.  Women handle what’s on our plate.  It’s there so we do it, and think about it later,” she said.  “I have a good husband and he helped when he could but he traveled a lot for work.”  

Despite the lack of sleep and other sacrifices, Harvey says it was worth it.  “The pride you feel when you build your own successful business and are able to hold your own financially and socially is amazing.  And all the knowledge you gain is amazing too,” Harvey said.  “It was tough sometimes but everyone in my family is happy.  I was able to build a business and my kids are now in college.” 

Chuckling while noting that women need two of themselves, Harvey says, “As more women decide to take the path of business ownership, attitudes about family, marriage, child-rearing and responsibility are going to have to change and that will happen over time.” 

 For now, Harvey says the Office of Women’s Business Ownership’s 112 development centers across the country will continue to work with start-up and growing entrepreneurs, while also strategically collaborating with key organizations—like Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence and Women Impacting Public Policy—to make sure business owners in the middle ground get access to capital, proper training, and advisors who can help them implement the systems and practices that will take their companies to the next level. 

Harvey points to higher loan guarantees and fee reductions offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration, and planning meetings with key partners, as signs that progress is already underway.


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