Women now own about 12.3 million of the 30.2 million small businesses in the U.S., according to a 2018 American Express report. Of those businesses, Working Mother magazine estimates that as many as one in three are controlled by moms—around 4 million companies.
Despite the tremendous growth in numbers, mompreneurs continue to struggle on a number of fronts, one of the biggest being support, or lack thereof. The Guidant Financial 2018 State of Small Business survey reported that 31% of women find that "lack of a support system" makes the process of starting and growing a community daunting. Tapping into a community or support system is the second-biggest hurdle—behind financing—to successful business ownership for women.
Finding like-minded mom entrepreneurs
Feeling like you could benefit from some resource sharing and moral support? Seek out existing business communities to join. To find groups of women business owners and mompreneurs, you'll first need to decide if you want a group that meets regularly in person or if you're after a more geographically diverse group that may be online-only.
You can find local communities by searching your local area or town plus the words "group," "community," or "networking," to name a few. Your local Chamber of Commerce also may have suggestions. Facebook and Meetup are other tools for finding business owner groups for women.
Tracking down existing groups is the quickest and easiest way to connect with women who likely have had similar business experiences and can counsel you on how to handle situations that come up.
Join existing collectives
The notion that support is frequently lacking in local business communities isn't new. Fortunately, mompreneurs across the country are taking steps to create support networks for women business owners to join.
Some are in-person groups, such as the Creative Business League (CBL), which meets in person monthly and keeps its members connected online in between get-togethers. Founding member Alana Rivera, CEO of Etta + Billie artisan skincare line, became active in CBL seven years ago when she was struggling with juggling her newborn and keeping her growing business on track. She turned to other women facing many of the same challenges for advice and camaraderie. "The women in the group helped tremendously, providing support, suggestions, and a safe place to share," she says.
In the metro Detroit area, Agnieszka Palarz saw a need for a women's networking and empowerment group, so she started one in 2018. Called Shine On, the group holds monthly Shine Socials for networking, hosts fundraisers for local women's charities, holds leadership training seminars, and looks for ways to bring women in business together for mutual support.
Other gatherings are virtual, like Elna Cain's Mom to Mompreneur 11,000-member Facebook group, which was created to help women "grow your blog, make a biz, and raise kids." Using a question-and-answer format within the group, Cain says, "many moms feel safe to open up and share their failures, ideas, and successes."
Recognizing the need for an "old girls' network" to provide similar connections and support that men have received for decades through their "old boys' network," an increasing number of women entrepreneurs are building business communities and collectives. For many, the goal is to link female business owners to each other and to information, products, services, and business resources that can benefit them.
Tenin Terrell, CEO of Fashion Works, started a free monthly women-in-business support group at the company's offices in early 2019 and says already, "The outcomes have been life-changing." Women in the group have increased sales thanks to marketing advice and peer coaching that naturally occurs, while others benefit from the networking and connecting with women facing similar challenges and dueling roles.
About 10 years ago, Laura Barta formed an entrepreneurs group called Hershey Entrepreneurs' Resources & Support (HERS), for business owners in the Hershey, Pa., area. More than just a networking group, HERS "is a working group that acts as an informal board of advisors for each other," Barta explains.
Being a business owner can be an isolating experience—or you may think you're the first person to be facing the particular challenge you're facing—so reaching out to other women business owners can be critical to your longer term growth and happiness. Rivera adds, "Being part of a group of women that are going through similar triumphs, growing pains, and struggles has been one of the reasons I've been successful."