Women entrepreneurs: Overcoming 4 small business challenges

January 29, 2024 | 6 minute read

Rieva Lesonsky

Written by

Rieva Lesonsky
President and CEO
GrowBiz Media

Rieva Lesonsky is president and CEO of two companies focusing on small business and entrepreneurship—GrowBiz Media and SmallBusinessCurrents.com. She’s a nationally-known speaker, best-selling author, award-winning journalist, and authority on entrepreneurship who has covered the industry for more than 40 years.


Running a small business can be challenging and owners will face many different obstacles throughout their journey. Fortunately, women have shown they’re adept at leading and navigating challenging situations. A recent multi-year, global study of leaders and employees, Potential Project, found that employees were most satisfied when they worked for leaders with two key traits: wisdom (defined here as the courage to do what needs to be done, even when it’s difficult) and compassion. In fact, job satisfaction was 86% higher among those who worked for a wise and compassionate leader.


A deeper dive into the data shows that 55% of the women in the study were ranked as wise and compassionate, which proved to be the same characteristics needed to lead a business through a crisis. In comparison, only 27% of men were rated similarly.


Women still face challenges

Women entrepreneurs report “challenges with caregiving responsibilities that impact their ability to run a business, with 31% having to take time off from their business,” according to the latest Bank of America 2023 Women & Minority Business Owner Spotlight.


So it’s critical that women business owners focus on implementing the right strategies and maintaining a forward-thinking mindset.


Let's look at four common challenges women entrepreneurs face and strategies for overcoming them.


Challenge 1: Lifting sales

Most businesses faced revenue challenges in the past few years. How can women business owners increase revenues?


Consider these three ways:


Get certified

Getting certified as a woman-owned business gives women a better chance to win contracts with federal, state, and local governments and major corporations.


To compete for federal contracting opportunities, you must get certified as a Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB). You can apply for certification at the SBA’s certification site or go through one of the four government-approved third-party certifiers:


  • National Women Business Owners Corporation
  • U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce
  • Women’s Business Enterprise National Council
  • El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce


Before bidding for corporate contracts, you need to be certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE). WBE certification is only available through one of the four organizations mentioned above. Costs vary.


Work your networks

Start with the people you know, both professionally and personally. Craft an elevator pitch (a 30-second description of what you do and what you need), so you’re prepared whenever the opportunity arises.


Get social

Social media has emerged as a powerful sales venue. If you own a B2B company, LinkedIn is a must, but surveys show X (formerly Twitter) delivers the most engagement. Over 40% of internet users use social media as a product discovery tool. And e-commerce businesses are finding success selling directly on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook.


The Bank of America 2023 Small Business Owner’s Report shows that small business owners are focusing on digitization and technology with 37% creating or strengthening their social media presence while 35% implemented a more digital-first marketing strategy.


Challenge 2: Access to capital

In the 2023 Women & Minority Business Owner Spotlight, 31% of women business owners said they have experienced challenges accessing capital. Of those, 42% said they do not have a relationship with a lender and 31% feel they do not have the proper information/qualifications to feel confident applying for capital.


But there are plenty of funding opportunities if you know where to look:



Challenge 3: Education, support, and mentorship

If you want to learn more about business, there are various places women business owners can learn, get advice, and find a mentor. Here are a few:



Women entrepreneurs can also learn from one another by joining networks of other business owners. Some popular networking groups for female entrepreneurs include:



There are also networks for women who work or own businesses in the same industry, such as the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and Women in the Housing & Real Ecosystem (NAWRB).


Challenge 4: Confidence

It’s often noted that women lack confidence which hinders their success. Sharon Miller, President, Small Business, Head of Specialty Banking and Lending, believes confidence matters and that having “role models who have achieved and accomplished at the highest levels” helps instill confidence in women business owners. So she adds, “We need to keep breaking glass ceilings so we can show what can be done.”


Confidence comes from many places, including the language you use. Studies show that overusing certain words and phrases, such as “just” and “I’m sorry,” can undermine your confidence and impact how others perceive you. Examine your communication style and commit to striking undermining words from your vocabulary. Avoiding certain words, especially in a work environment, will help you sound more confident and self-assured.


Similarly, women need to embrace success. “As women, so many of us learn to play it small and call it being humble…We learned to dim our light to get along. I realized I was dimming my light and thinking that was the right thing to do,” Jamie Kern Lima, the founder of IT Cosmetics who sold her company for $1.2 billion, said in a Forbes Ask the Expert.


Instead, she advises, “Learn how to hear yourself and trust yourself.” And if you don’t feel it, fake it. Research is clear: when we act confident, it changes how others react to us, which builds our confidence.


The future looks brighter

Entrepreneurial women are optimistic right now, according to the 2023 Women & Minority Business Owner Spotlight. Over the next 12 months:


  • 67% expect revenue to increase
  • 46% plan to expand their businesses
  • 34% are confident that the national economy will improve


After the last few challenging years, this positive outlook reflects just how determined and resilient women business owners are.

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