Forget Oktoberfest, October is Women’s Small Business Month

This is a guest article by Shannon Suetos of ResourceNation. For The NextWomen she describes a variety of tools how to plan your business, including peer-to-peer lending, business plan writing and bootstrapping your company.

Womens Small Business MonthOctober marks the beginning of fall, Halloween, Oktoberfest and a little known fact that it is women’s small business month.  According to the Center of Women’s Business Research, there are in the US, “10.1 million firms owned by women, and generate $1.1 trillion in sales.”  More and more women are being recognized for their great accomplishments, and women in tech are finally getting their dues.

Within the last 5 years or so, women have started getting more recognition in the male dominated tech world.  A quick search on Google and you can find lists of women in web design and the most influential women in technology.

Carla Thompson, an emerging technology analyst and the CEO and Founder of Sharp Skirts, wrote a guest post on Mashable and states the following:

  • Women-owned or led firms are the fastest growing sector of new venture creation, representing nearly 50% of all privately held businesses.
  • Women-owned businesses are more likely to survive the transition from startup to established company.
  • The number of U.S. software patents held by women has increased 45-fold since 1985; three times the national average.
  • Women currently make up more than 30% of the technology workforce, but receive less than 10% of venture funding.

So now we know who some of the women in technology are, and that they are extremely successful—but how did they do it? Of course had work and determination, but they also had to have a plan—and so should you.

Funding your company: Peer-to-peer lending
If you are going to start up a company, you need to research not only your competition and key demographic, but also how you will get funded.

Financing?Banks might not be lending, but that doesn’t have to stop you.  There are plenty of other ways to get the financial backing you need to get started.  One great alternative is peer-to-peer lending (P2P lending).
The idea is simple—one person needs capital and the other is looking to invest.  Think match.com, but instead of finding your soul mate you’re finding your perfect investor.  Prosper, LendingClub and Peer-Lend are just a few sites to look into.
Obviously thinking outside of the box is going to be necessary if you are going to be an entrepreneur.  LendingTree is another great source because it puts banks in a competitive environment, and can be another great option for attaining capital.

Bootstrapping your company
Elizabeth Charnock, the chief executive and founder of Cataphora, bootstrapped a 60-employee firm that makes software used to track and analyze computer users’ online activity and communications, reports The New York Times.  Charnock goes on to say, “here in Silicon Valley, everyone assumes that larger start-ups are venture-backed and swimming in money… Even very smart, senior people have been known to ask me, “When do you run out of money?” I then have to explain that real businesses don’t run out of money. They go make more.”

Bootstrapping is a viable option, but remember you could go a year or more (a year and a half in Charnock’s case) without receiving a paycheck.  So make sure you have other income or enough savings to get by at home before going this route.

Business Plan? Tools

If you are going to go the VC route, you need to have a great business plan in place.  If you don’t know how to write a business plan you have two options—research how to do it, or outsource.  Investing time and money into your business plan should pay off. Bplans.com, the SBA and PlanWare all provide business plan templates and offer assistance on research.  These are good places to start, but make sure you don’t rely just on the templates themselves.  Do the work and find the data you need to get the attention of investors.  Templates can range anywhere from $10 a template to $200 for template software.

You can also have someone write the entire business plan for you. Business plan writers can be found on websites such as USBusinessPlan, Ethos360 and MasterPlans.  Depending on the size of the company you are starting, you can hire a business plan writer for $200-$5000.

There are many steps to starting a business, and writing a business plan and finding capital are two great places to start.  Take the lead from all the other women who have gone before you and tell yourself you can do it.

October might be women’s small business month, but you can be successful in any month.

Shannon Suetos is an expert writer on phone systems based in San Diego, California.  She writes extensively for an online resource that provides expert advice on purchasing and outsourcing decisions for small business owners and entrepreneurs such as VoIP phones at Resource Nation.

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