JOE ROSENGARTEN / MEDIAPLANET.COM | Thursday, July 18, 2013
Empowering Female Leaders
Giving female entrepreneurs access to capital and vital networks helps them to scale up their businesses.
Female entrepreneurs play a vital role in the economy, but the evidence suggests that businesses led by women are not scaling to their full potential. 46 percent of privately owned organizations are operating with at least half female ownership, yet businesses that are male-owned are three-and-a-half times more likely to reach the $1 million dollar mark in revenues.
“The fact is that most women who start their own businesses don’t have the same resources that men have,” explains Kerrie MacPherson, EY principal and Entrepreneurial Winning Women executive sponsor. “There’s a lack of access to capital, they have fewer important connections into those networks that get you access to advisors, financing and high-end clients, and they don’t have as many natural business mentors as their male entrepreneurial counterparts.”
Breaking Down Barriers
“One of the most important things that we can do is to introduce these women to other successful entrepreneurs, who may then become advisors, mentors or even investors.”
The EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women program is working to break down these barriers. The executive leadership program selects a group of high-achieving women entrepreneurs who are already running businesses that have the potential to be market leaders, and then provides them with the tools that they need to rapidly scale up their companies.
In addition to preparing the Entrepreneurial Winning Women for Strategic Growth Forum — the largest annual gathering of entrepreneurs in North America where they have the opportunity to meet potential investors, suppliers and customers — the Entrepreneurial Winning Women program provides each woman with an EY liaison and, with that, access to EY’s vast business networks.
“One of the most important things that we can do is to introduce these women to other successful entrepreneurs, who may then become advisors, mentors or even investors,” says MacPherson. “It’s about using the power of our network to propel their businesses.”
Ways to Win
The program’s leaders have developed an actionable set of tips to help participants turn their small- or medium-sized businesses into large ones. These include:
1) Think Big and Be Bold.
It may seem like an obvious statement, but being courageous in business is not easy and doesn’t always come naturally.
Founder and CEO of Earth-Kind and member of the 2012 Entrepreneurial Winning Women class, Kari Warberg Block, says, “I’ve always been a big thinker, but without bold actions. Joining the Entrepreneurial Winning Women program reframed in my mind what I thought was possible. I reset my sights on a much larger goal than I previously had.”
Warberg Block’s words are echoed by the responses of other participants: 92 percent felt an increased desire to develop their business and 88 percent said that they had a renewed confidence in their own leadership skills. 70 percent significantly raised their growth targets after joining the program and being exposed to all that it offers.
2) Work on the Business Rather Than in It.
No successful entrepreneur can be responsible for every important role in her business. Installing a well-qualified management team is crucial when looking to scale up and increase revenues. 71 percent of participants say that they’ve made significant changes to their management role since being inducted into the program.
“For the last five years we’ve been growing at an average of 45 percent growth in revenue and 25 percent in jobs,” explains Warberg Block. “I thought, ‘imagine what I could do if I spend twice, or three times as long working on the business rather than in it.’ We now have 300 percent growth plans per year.”
3) Establish Key Advisory Networks.
“The opportunities that presented themselves once I gained access to this elite network enabled me to begin building a public profile, seek advisors and utilize new tools and insights,” said Warberg Block. “All of which have literally changed my life and erased any doubt of what’s really possible as a leader.”
Building these networks is essential to any entrepreneur, and 79 percent of participants say that the program has helped to expand their professional network.
The Proof is in the Pudding
An independent assessment conducted by the Babson College Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership revealed that the revenues of the program participants’ companies have, on average, seen growth of nearly 50 percent each year.
MacPherson, though, is not surprised by the incredible achievements of the program. “When you meet these women you are totally impressed by their skills, their capability and what they’ve managed to do,” she says. “We are thrilled that by providing these connections, mentoring and support, we can help these women achieve what they know is possible.”