Last month was National Women’s Small Business Month – one of the fastest growing segments of the small business community. Today, about 30 percent of small businesses are owned by women, compared to about 5 percent in 1970 – that’s 7.8 million businesses growing at twice the growth rate of men-owned businesses.
Despite this growth, women business owners continue to face very particular challenges such as gender and racial discrimination from vendors, investors, and even employees while juggling the demands of maintaining a work / life balance.
Access to capital is also an issue, according to a member survey conducted by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) survey. It revealed that women rely on personal savings as their main source of business financing and often don’t apply for business credit because they believe they will be turned down.
Likewise, 50 percent of African American women business owners have encountered obstacles or difficulties when trying to obtain business financing.
Being your own boss doesn’t mean you have to literally go it alone, and for women business owners, there are a wealth of assistance and training resources across that can help. Here are five free and membership-based resources that women business owners can tap into:
1. Women’s Business Centers 
Located across the U.S., Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) provide women entrepreneurs with in-person assistance and business counseling programs that can help them start and grow successful businesses. Each center is tailored to the needs of the specific community and offer guidance and training on a variety of topics including:
- Preparing for business ownership
- Business planning
- Business management
- How to navigate the business loan process
- Opportunities for selling to the government
WBCs can specifically benefit women who are economically or socially disadvantaged and wouldn’t otherwise have access to comprehensive training and counseling offered in many languages.
2. Mentoring and Counseling Services from SCORE 
With a network of over 13,000 volunteers (all of whom have business management and ownership experience), SCORE provides free and confidential counseling, mentoring, and advice to startups and small business owners nationwide. SCORE’s volunteers have business experience across 62 industries. SCORE also offers low cost seminars at its local chapters and online training
NAWBO is a membership organization that provides resources (conferences, training, regional chapters) and networking opportunities for women in business.
As one of the largest associations for women business professionals, NAFE has a robust website full of resources, blogs and articles, as well as discounts on business equipment and services.
If you are passionate about the success of women in business, WIPP might be the organization for you. This nonpartisan public policy entity advocates for and on behalf of women-owned businesses in legislative and policy matters. In the above image, taken during WIPP’s Give Me 5 Advanced Procurement Workshop, organizers Lourdes Martin Rosa, Karen-Michelle Mirko, and Gloria Larkin stand for a photo.
WIPP also offers a wealth of training and knowledge on everything from exporting and gaining access to capital.