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Cindy Bates

Vice President, US Small and Midsized Business & Distribution of Microsoft

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3 Must-haves for Women Entrepreneurs

December 21, 2016

Women, like the majority of small and medium business (SMB) owners, need a mix of three ingredients for success: community, growth and capital.

The face of entrepreneurship is changing in the United States.

More and more women are taking the leap from employee to owner, and the number of women-owned businesses grew 74 percent between 1997 and 2015 – that’s one-and-a-half times the national average, according to the 2015 State of Women-Owned Business Report, commissioned by American Express OPEN.

During October, which was National Women’s Small Business Month, this growing small business sector was in the spotlight, leading many inspirational entrepreneurs and communities to ask, “What can we do to help you succeed?”

Interestingly enough, the answer hasn’t changed much over the years. Women, like the majority of small and medium business (SMB) owners, need a mix of three ingredients for success: community, growth and capital.

1. Community reigns

When it comes to community, women have long been the gatekeepers. The same skills that organized neighborhood events and activities and led to the founding of women’s organizations in the 1970s continue to be crucial to the future of entrepreneurship.

Jo Burston, an entrepreneur, author and founder of Rare Birds, is a great example of a woman using the power of community to fuel success. Through storytelling, mentorship, and funding, Rare Birds is a community of inspiring women entrepreneurs who challenge the existing cultural values and attitudes that hinder global economic growth. Jo, who is aiming to inspire 1 million more women entrepreneurs, is giving women entrepreneurs a voice, allowing them to shape their stories and share it with a global community. When women join together to assist and inspire a new generation, anything is possible.

2. Growth matters

In business, many would say if you’re not growing, you’re failing. When growth is the name of the game, it’s imperative to constantly seek new ways to succeed.

Technology has become a top priority for SMBs looking to grow. What technology has made possible for entrepreneurs and business owners is astounding. Of course the advent of the internet generated entirely new industries in which to establish new businesses and tore down geographic boundaries that separated business from customers and markets. But on a more individual basis, technology now delivers a level of flexibility and mobility that enables every female entrepreneur to define her own workstyle and lifestyle.

With technology, businesses grow faster and smarter. Studies have shown small businesses that use modern technology, such as the cloud, outperform their peers, create jobs twice as fast and see an increase in their revenues 15 percent faster than their competitors. Women like Ingrid Vanderveldt are taking that message to the masses with EBW 2020, which gives women access to technology, education, and a powerful network to help them succeed as leaders and entrepreneurs.

3. Capital is key

No conversation about women entrepreneurs is complete without discussing the challenges and key developments pertaining to issues like women’s access to credit and cultural expectations that have, to a certain extent, limited many women’s ability to pursue entrepreneurial ventures. These uphill battles, which could, even today, become deterrents, have instead fostered new strengths and determination that are integral to business success.

Previous restrictions on credit led women to seek out additional funding sources. Social norms that designated business as an arena exclusively for men motivated women to form the networks and alliances that are now critical sources of support for women entrepreneurs. Today, there are women-backed venture capital firms and great resources like the Small Business Association (SBA.) Its LINC tool connects entrepreneurs to prospective lenders with just a few clicks.

Across the United States, women are breaking down barriers to fulfill their dreams of entrepreneurship. With access to capital, community support and a plan for growth, women will continue to rise up the entrepreneurial ranks, fuel the economy and achieve the unachievable.

This article originally appeared on Cindy Bates’ Blog.

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