With just days until the midterm elections, you can definitely count on one demographic group to show up at the polls: women small business owners. By an overwhelming margin -- 86 percent -- women entrepreneurs intend to go to the polls to cast their ballots across this nation. And who will win their support? They plan to vote for candidates who have a pro-business agenda that supports policies to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.
In our first-ever women's entrepreneurship survey, we polled our membership -- a growing number of women running their own small businesses -- about the opportunities and challenges they face when it comes to small business ownership. An explosive demographic in the small business community, we wanted to know how they started their businesses, the roadblocks they face and the reasons why they stick with self-employment.
It's no surprise we learned that women entrepreneurs are incredibly engaged, successful, motivated and pleased with owning and operating their own small business. One small business owner offered this reason for why she's an entrepreneur:
...Being completely in charge of my own financial success... how I spend my time and with whom, and the ability to be unabashedly creative...
Representing the true entrepreneurial spirit of America, women are investing their own personal funds to start their ventures. But with less than 10 percent of respondents indicating they secured any type of loan to start their business, it says something about the support of elected leaders and policymakers in helping these "Mom" businesses on Main Street. Women business owners, just like their male counterparts, could benefit from an equal amount of financial assistance, procurement opportunities and sound financial advice available to help them launch, grow and expand their businesses.
Opening a new business involves risk; it involves scarcity of resources; and it involves persistence. Securing a loan could help with down payment on equipment, materials and tools --- and even payroll and health care premiums so crucial to the success of any business. Despite the myriad of issues facing small business owners, women entrepreneurs cite a high-level of satisfaction and happiness with starting their own business. In fact, over 85 percent of the women we surveyed said they were satisfied with their life as a small business owner.
The good news: women are stepping out of the unemployment line to chart their own course. Another small business owner suggested that self-employment gave her a sense of altruism by saying she had the "chance to follow my passion and create opportunities to help people change aspects of their lives that they are struggling with."
Policymakers and elected leaders at all levels of government must create the economic and political environment for women and their businesses to thrive. According to our respondents, the number one concern for women is finding ways to market and growing their business (58 percent), followed by the cost of health care (38 percent).
Women entrepreneurs -- just as others in the small business community -- want to be on an equal playing field with their corporate counterparts. Tax reform is cited as "very" and "somewhat important" of an issue by over 80 percent of women in our survey, and furthermore - they want Congress to do something to address it in 2015. Yet, any meaningful change to the tax code must be comprehensive and include both corporate and individual tax reform. A $3 trillion dollar economic workforce, women entrepreneurs would also benefit from added flexibility to the health care system that fits with their bottom lines. With over 80 percent of women indicating they either provide health care to their employees or themselves, it will continue to be a major policy priority for this emerging small business demographic.
Is running your own small business for you? If you ask a woman small business owner, she's likely to tell you, "Just do it! It's very rewarding... your lifestyle will definitely change."