Women-Owned Businesses are Succeeding During the Pandemic. Here’s Why.
Going into 2020, the 2019 American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses Report found the number of women-owned businesses was growing at two times the rate of all US businesses, representing 42% of all businesses.
By the time 2021 rolled around, a survey by Guidant Financial and the Small Business Trends Association (SBTA) found that 44% of women-owned businesses plan to expand or remodel their business, 43% intend to increase their staff and 76% report being somewhat or very happy. It concluded, “Despite all the challenges of 2020, women business owners have triumphed.”
So why are women-owned businesses seeing more success despite a rough economy? Here’s what three founders have to say is the key to building and maintaining a remarkable business.
Use adaptability as a superpower.
One secret of businesses that have triumphed is their adaptability. While small businesses have always had to be adaptable, 2020 demanded more from them as they turned gyms into virtual training sessions, swapped cozy restaurants for take-out stands, transitioned from in-person to all online, and for some, kept moving forward even as their plans were delayed.
Grace Stone, founder of boutique fitness studio Peach Bum, is one such business owner who has demonstrated extreme adaptability after signing a lease on her space in Austin, Texas in late 2019. The first six months were rent-free, giving her time to build out the studio. When COVID hit, she continued to work more slowly, hoping things would blow over and she could open her doors. Of course that didn’t happen.
Needing to fund the work plus open an online retail store for additional revenue, Stone required extra capital but was turned down by two banks. “I had excellent credit. Maybe it was because I was a young business owner in my 20s.” Thinking through her options, she realized that she already had lines of funding—her credit cards. She just needed to figure out a way to leverage them. Stone got creative and turned to the fintech space to help her solve this problem.
While Peach Bum is on track to open soon, sales are already coming in from pre-booking of sessions and an online shop of custom activewear and lifestyle accessories.
Find your purpose and stick to it.
Another way many businesses have thrived through the economy’s ups and downs is by being purpose-driven toward improving the lives of women.
These days, Ruby Love CEO Crystal Etienne is on the Inc. Female Founders 100 list, but she started the company in 2015 with a single product—period underwear. She built the business from the ground up and it grew quickly, adding swimwear, active wear and pajamas.
Despite her success creating a brand with a purpose, Etienne ran into what the Guidant/SBTA survey identified as a top challenge faced by small business owners, a time crunch. She no longer had time for banking, so she sought out vendors that could help relieve her of this category of responsibilities. In doing so, she freed herself up to focus on her products and customers.
Ruby Love continues to grow. Its latest product, a “First Period Kit,” is selling well and more products are on the way. “We don’t believe that anyone will ever love their period but there is a way to make it better. This is our ‘why,’ said Etienne.
Stone recently shared her philosophy about the past year on Instagram:
“When I started on this journey to create Peach Bum, I had no idea that the company and its values would receive the outpouring of support that it did on social media. I had no clue how to do so many things when I first started out, but what I came to learn is that people whom you encounter along your business’ journey will teach you lessons, both in practical business knowledge and interpersonal skills. And so, I say to our audience, don’t stop chasing your dreams and setting goals. No matter what. There will be obstacles and challenges that will come your way, but stop at nothing and nothing can stop you. Your strength is limitless and the energy you possess is divine and powerful beyond measure.”
The success of businesses like Ruby Love and Peach Bum are the reason the CFA Institute has concluded that “the future is female, diverse, and purpose-driven.”
With adaptability, and flexibility being the key takeaways from 2020, women all over the world will continue to be a driving force in the economy, product innovation and leadership. They’ve shown us how to grow and iterate on a business during tough times. The future is indeed bright. And now, thanks to the success of women-owned small businesses, it is also increasingly female.
Hilary Wolfe is a dynamic and versatile creative director and designer who has led results-oriented branding and award-winning creative campaigns at her own boutique agency and many of the most renowned ad shops in the country. Past clients include renowned brands such as Levi’s, Saturn, Ford, Hewlett Packard, 7UP, Dr Pepper and more. Hilary is currently the Vice President, Brand at Plastiq, an intelligent payment platform designed for businesses to better manage their payments and cash flow.