SCORE: A woman's place is in business

If you’re a woman interested in starting a small business, one thing’s certain: You already have a lot of company.

According to the National Women’s Business Council, there are nearly eight million woman-owned businesses in the United States today. While women own more than half of all health care and social assistance businesses, they are also well-represented in educational services, retail, and recreation. Women are also increasingly heading technical and research-oriented companies.

In other words, there’s nothing that a woman with a good idea, a determination to succeed, and a solid business plan cannot do.

While the steps toward becoming an entrepreneur are not gender-specific, women often face unique issues and decisions.

For example, small business ownership represents an exciting opportunity, but who really wants to give up spending time with the kids, family members, and friends? As such, time management is essential. You may need to create a new support network (e.g., spouse, family members, neighbors, trusted friends) who can take some family logistical roles off your hands.

Many households also need multiple incomes to get by these days. Careful budgeting is essential to make sure your family can accommodate the loss of that paycheck until the business begins generating revenue.

Then there’s the matter of choosing what type of small business to pursue. Prior experience in a certain area is always a plus, but there’s no reason not to consider a new field that interests you. Just remember that such a move may require additional preparation time and research.

Speaking of research, count on doing a lot of it as you assemble your business plan. With so much information now available online, much of your prep work can be done at home. But learning more about a small business opportunity typically raises more questions. You may need to take time out from home or work to visit off-site resources.

Of course, every aspiring entrepreneur needs a sound financial plan and credit history, and lending institutions are required by law to treat men and women equally when it comes to small-business loans. Nevertheless, the recent financial market upheaval has caused many lenders to be more selective about whom they lend money to, requiring all entrepreneurs to be very meticulous about every detail in their business plans.

Finally, don’t be afraid to think big. “Sometimes women are uncomfortable with risk, or worried about disappointing others if they fail,” says Chicago-based author, consultant, and entrepreneur Carol Roth. “Women need to have more confidence in their ability to succeed, and understand that if the risk/reward tradeoff makes sense, there is no reason why they can’t go bigger.”

If you need business advice or mentoring, visit SCORE at or call 203-831-0065.

Hiro Hiranandani, of Wilton, is a counselor in the Fairfield County chapter of SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated to entrepreneur education.