2019 Trends – Women In Business

A look at women-owned businesses in 2019

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inforgraphic of 2019's Women in small business trends

Who are Female Small Business Owners

Four of every 10 U.S. businesses are owned by women, with female-led businesses having grown a spectacular 58 percent from 2007 to 2018. Businesses owned by women generate $3.1 trillion in revenue. The last few years have been a time of political upheaval for women — from the rolling back of a rule designed to help shrink the wage gap to a record number of women elected to both state and federal offices in the 2018 midterms.

bar graph showing confidence in the political climate
bar graph showing the happiness levels of women in business in 2019

Despite more women in politics, female small business owners are less confident in today’s political climate impacting small business than their male colleagues, with 31 percent of women reporting their political confidence as five or less on a scale of one to 10 (with 10 being the most confident), compared to 21 percent of men who own small businesses. Both men and women have decreased confidence year over year, with women’s confidence dropping 6 percent and men’s confidence dropping 16 percent.

Though happiness as a business owner averages an eight on a one to 10 scale (with 10 being the happiest) for both the male and female segments, only 33 percent of women report their happiness at 10, compared to 38 percent of men.

three comparative bar graphs showing the generational breakdown of happiness levels of women in business for 2019

piechart showing the distribution of age ranges for women in business

While boomers rule small business ownership as we saw in the 2019 Small Business Trends report, women in small business skew younger than their male counterparts. Fifty-two percent of female small business owners are over 50, compared to the 59 percent of men. Women overtake men in the 40 to 49 segment at 29 percent to 24 percent. While there is a larger percentage of female millennials than male, the difference is lower than other segments, with just 19 percent women versus 17 percent men.

Women tend to be more educated than men as well. Seventy-two percent of female business owners have a higher degree, compared to 64 percent of male small business owners. Thirty-eight percent more women have Associate’s degrees than men, and 20 percent more have Master’s degrees. Men do have three percent more Bachelor’s degrees than women, and four percent of both male and female small business owners have Doctorate degrees.

two bar graphs comparing male and female education levels in small business

Industry Trends for Female Small Business Owners

This year saw significant increases in female ownership of health, beauty, and fitness businesses with a 55 percent increase in share from the prior year. Nineteen percent of woman-owned small businesses were in the health, beauty, and fitness industry versus only six percent of male-owned small businesses. Food-related businesses and restaurants also increased, at 45 percent growth of share. Fourteen percent of female-owned small businesses were food-related or restaurants, compared to 10 percent of male-owned businesses.

Top industry statistics for women in business

Women are more interested in starting new businesses or franchise locations instead of purchasing pre-established businesses of franchise locations, with 58 percent of women starting their business from scratch. Comparatively, 51 percent of male small business owners purchase existing businesses or franchise locations. Women also favor independent businesses more than men, with 10 percent of women owning franchises versus 13 percent of male small business owners.

Financing Trends for Female Small Business Owners

The profitability of woman-owned businesses is up by 3 percent from the prior year but still lags behind male-owned businesses. Seventy-one percent of female-owned businesses reported profitability, compared to 80 percent of male-owned businesses. Seventy percent of female-owned businesses are acquired at under $100,000. Meanwhile, only 61 percent of male-owned businesses are acquired at under $100,000.

Female small business owners report their greatest challenge is a lack of capital and cash flow (35 percent), followed by marketing and advertising (16 percent). A plurality of female business owners, 21 percent, would direct additional funds to marketing and advertising purposes if more cash was available. Eighteen percent of male business owners would use additional funds for marketing and advertising, with the largest shares of male business owners focused more on equipment (22 percent) or expansion (21 percent) instead. In addition, more women would use additional capital to invest in education (8 percent) than men (5 percent).

top challenges for women in business in 2019

Likely due in part to the struggles of traditional financing for women-owned businesses, more female entrepreneurs use cash (36 percent) than their male counterparts (32 percent), making cash the most used method of funding for women. The next most popular is funding from friends and family at 17 percent, while only 11 percent of male small business owners use funding from their friends and family.

top funding methods for women in business

While unsecured loans are only the fifth most popular form of financing, they have increased in popularity year over year, from 7 percent to 9 percent. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans didn’t make the top five funding methods for woman-owned businesses this year, but they did grow from 4 percent of the share to 6 percent.

Growth in Representation, Growth in Profitability

Funding is more difficult to attain for female small business owners than male owners — in 2014, women received only 16 percent of all conventional small business loans. Financing becomes even more of a challenge for women of color. While women work to bring equality to systems that create these challenges, non-traditional financing can offer assistance.