4 Ways to Accelerate Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs

During the newest Equality of Opportunity in Action event, business leaders discussed ways to create equal opportunities for female entrepreneurs.


Air Date: March 23, 2022

Moderator: Latricia Boone, Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Jeanette Mulvey, Editor-in-Chief at CO—, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: Natalie Madeira Cofield, Assistant Administrator, Office of Women’s Business Ownership, U.S. Small Business Administration, Luz Urrutia, CEO, Accion Opportunity Fund, Betsy Fore, Co-Founder, Tiny Organics, Kisha Mays, President and CEO, Just Fearless

According to the National Women’s Business Council, women-owned businesses represent 42% of all U.S. businesses — about 13 million total. Business leaders must understand their part in accelerating the success of female entrepreneurs and how to position them for success.

During the newest U.S. Chamber of Commerce Equality of Opportunity in Action event, “Accelerating Impact for Female Entrepreneurs,” women business leaders from the public and private sectors shared their stories and insights on creating equal opportunities for women.

The Private and Public Sectors Need to Work Together to Empower Women

As the assistant administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Natalie Madeira Cofield has created opportunities for women by expanding the Women’s Business Center. Cofield explained that to truly advance equity, the private sector needs to deepen its relationship with the federal government, especially in difficult times.

“We have to build COVID- and recession-proof businesses that allow you to have access to your customers anywhere you are and anywhere that they are,“ said Cofield. “That's going to require a collaboration between the government, nonprofits, and the private sector community [as well as] understanding this collaboration and the ways in which these resource partners are supporting national networks and national communities across the country.”

Funding Is Still a Challenge for Women

One of the biggest obstacles for women entrepreneurs is access to funding. Even though women could get an introduction at a venture capital firm a decade ago, they weren’t given the same timeline as men. Today, funding is still an issue, though women are presented with more opportunities now.

“Women are multifaceted — we run businesses, run homes, run families, do everything all at once and make it look good, no matter how stressed we are,” said Kisha Mays, president and CEO of Just Fearless. “For funding, doors are opening up in terms of VC firms … making it so that you can invest at [the] seed round, not just when you're already an Uber unicorn level or an established level.”

Women Should Be Encouraged to Build Their Version of a ‘Founding Family’

A common theme of all the speakers during the event was their support systems. Whether it was mentorship, funding, or familial advice, these entrepreneurs noted they gained confidence through others.

Betsy Fore, co-founder of Tiny Organics, used the term “founding family” when she asked for funding from others. She advocated for entrepreneurs to build their own founding family of people where they can seek emotional or financial support.

“Whatever that looks like, [you need] customers that have come alongside you to build [your business] … that's just going to inform the whole process and save you a lot of heartache in the long run,” said Fore.

Don’t Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste

Luz Urrutia, CEO of Accion Opportunity Fund, advised fellow professionals to “not let a good crisis go to waste,” meaning that crises can forge opportunities for innovation and new styles of leadership. This happened for women during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We're seeing an increased recognition of the merit that women have to our community,” said Urrutia. “[Women] build valuable goods and services [and] they bring economic vitality to our communities.”

“I think there's a recognition of what a difficult time we have accessing capital and growing our businesses,” she continued. “More individuals and more organizations that we speak with are more focused on helping close this gap of women having access to capital, to the resources that they need and the disparity that has gone on for so many years not getting approved for debt funding at the same pace.”