People and prosperity

Women entrepreneurs: catalysts for growth

From breaking down barriers to making the right plan – tips for female business owners

Did you know that if women founded growth businesses at the same rate as men in China, 74 million jobs would be created in the country over the next two years?

This fascinating estimate from a recent study by ACG Inc. and Dell underscores that women entrepreneurs could be powerful job creators. This should be particularly poignant for governments looking to stimulate growth by encouraging entrepreneurship.

Female business owners have the ambition and confidence to become global market leaders

I recently met some of Asia Pacific’s most successful women entrepreneurs at EY’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women (EWW) conference in Shanghai – sponsored by Standard Chartered – and can testify that female business owners have both the ambition and the confidence to become global market leaders.

Making access to finance easier

Of course, it’s not as simple as saying ‘let’s encourage more women to launch high-growth businesses’. Recent research into the business growth challenges facing women entrepreneurs across Asia Pacific, commissioned by Standard Chartered and Ernst and Young (EY), showed access to finance is a major barrier. Of those who had sought external finance to scale their business (almost half had not), 73 per cent said they found the experience ‘mildly’ to ‘very intimidating’.

So how can we make it easier for women entrepreneurs to access finance? This is what some of Asia Pacific’s most successful female entrepreneurs had to say at the EWW conference:

  • Hire a strong CFO: many female entrepreneurs said this was the most important hire in the life of their business, as the right person can help decide when it’s time to expand, and how to secure the best financing options
  • Create a five-year plan: entrepreneurs reach a stage where they need to be on top of the business, rather than in it. This means taking a longer-term view. As part of this, creating a five-year plan is critical in determining the finance you’ll need, putting the business owner in a better position to secure it from banks
  • Have multiple banking relationships: most of the entrepreneurs had one banking relationship: with their local bank. But they felt they were no longer getting the right advice or the right pricing. Give local banks some competition, with an eventual goal of moving to a panel of banks which can help the business achieve scale domestically and internationally

Creating an ‘ecosystem’ of support

A recent report by Standard Chartered’s economists – Entrepreneurship – A growth tonic – found that ‘opportunity entrepreneurs’ in particular are key catalysts for growth, as they create hundreds or thousands of jobs for their economies. Many of these will be women, so creating the right conditions for their businesses to flourish is vital.

But if we want to encourage more women entrepreneurs, it takes more than finance. Tapping the huge potential they present requires a holistic approach across governments, enterprises and the entrepreneurs themselves.

It’s about creating an ‘ecosystem’ of support that encompasses the right policies, financing solutions and advisory networks to accelerate the growth of women-led businesses. Only then can we really help female business owners achieve their full economic potential.

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Are you a female business owner looking to grow your business? Discover how Standard Chartered can help.