It is difficult for most of us today to realize how far women business owners have come in a fairly short time. As late as the presidency of Ronald Reagan, some major banks refused to give credit to women business owners without a male co-signer. At the national NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) Conference in Columbus, Ohio last month, one woman recounted that in 1986, her 17-year-old son had to cosign a business loan for her. At the time, Congress was being inaccurately advised by government bureaucrats that women-owned businesses made less than $10,000 a year and were engaged primarily in candle making and macramé.
In 1988, at a political fundraiser over the shrimp bowl on the buffet, a NAWBO member cornered the chairman of the Congressional committee overseeing the Small Business Administration. That discussion started a campaign resulting in the passage of HR5050, a law which opened up credit to millions of women entrepreneurs and garnered national attention for NAWBO. NAWBO advocates’ motto, emblazed on buttons as they walked the halls of the Capitol, was GIPOGOB – Get into politics or get out of business. They were featured on the front covers of countless business magazines, hailed for their bold and effective advocacy efforts. Before cell phones and social media, they devised brilliant cohesive plans for educating and rallying support among Congress. They humorously called their communication efforts VSPITS – velvet, silk, and pearls infiltration tactics. These politically-savvy women business owners became so revered for their wise policy proposals that during the 90s, a member of NAWBO was testifying daily before Congress, often as part of the White House Council for Small Business and as a founding member of the National Women’s Business Council, an advisory board funded by Congress, which still researches and advises the legislative and executive branches on public policy. NAWBO’s voice continues to resonate on Capitol Hill to this day.
According NAWBO, women-owned businesses in America employ more people than the Fortune 500 companies put together. From 2007-2016, women-owned businesses created five times more jobs than the national average. Of the eleven million women-owned businesses in America, 44% (roughly 5 million) are owned by women of color. Women-owned businesses in the U.S. garner $1.5 trillion in revenue annually. Clearly female entrepreneurs are an important factor in the overall economic prosperity of America.
Let us celebrate women-owned businesses, remembering the strides we have made thus far and be all the more resolved to continue the journey for all of us toward success.