Women Small Business Owners Grow More Optimistic About Economy

Women entrepreneurs are more optimistic about the economy than they were six months ago, according to the biannual Key4Women Confidence Index survey, conducted by the Center for Women’s Business Research in April and released in June.

Asked if they thought the economy would stay the same, worsen or improve in the next 6 months, 10 percent thought it would worsen (compared to 17 percent in the prior Key4Women survey in November 2010), 43 percent thought it would stay the same (compared to 50 percent in the last survey) and 47 percent thought it would improve (up from just 33 percent in the last survey).

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The women business owners aren’t just talking about improvement—they’re putting their money where their mouths are. Among the other positive signs:

While just 14 percent had added employees in the first quarter of 2011, 42 percent plan to hire within the next 12 months.

In the past year, most entrepreneurial women have made significant investments in their businesses despite the economic crisis. These include:

  • Increased marketing or advertising (57 percent)
  • Creating new products and services (55 percent)
  • Investing in technology (37 percent)

For the first time since the survey was first conducted in 2009 both the revenues and net earnings of the women business owners grew compared to the previous quarter.

Of course, they’re not out of the woods yet. Asked about the single most important problem facing their businesses today, 31 percent say poor sales, followed by competition from large businesses (17 percent) and taxes (10 percent).

Other challenges respondents cited include:

  • High energy and commodity costs. Some entrepreneurs are reluctantly passing these cost increases on to customers.
  • Health care. With the fate of reform uncertain and costs rising, this is a big unknown for many of those surveyed.
  • Cash flow issues. With customers taking longer to pay, maintaining cash flow has been an ongoing concern.

Also worrisome is that fewer women business owners are seeking financing for their businesses. The report notes this could indicate a lack of willingness to grow their businesses, difficulties in obtaining financing, or a belief that financing is not available to them. Just 31 percent of respondents got “all, most, or some” of the credit they were seeking in the last six months, while 16 percent got none, and 54 percent were not seeking credit.

For more information, read the Key4Women Confidence Index.

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.