NEW YORK (
) -- Women-owned businesses represent nearly 50% of privately held companies in the U.S., however, three quarters of these businesses are not able to grow their businesses past $50,000 in annual gross revenue.
This is a challenge that Nell Merlino, the founder and CEO of
, would like to solve. Count me In is a not-for-profit organization providing resources and support to women-owned businesses in need of funding for growth.
Consider that 17% of women-owned business owners don't have employees -- a major influence on why they can't increase revenue, Merlino says, citing U.S. Census statistics.
This finding is a main reason Merlino's organization is expanding its efforts to help grow women-owned businesses across the country.
"Our goal is growth and sustainability and obviously
to increase employment," she says.
A big problem when it comes to women business owners is that many don't think of themselves as a CEO. Instead they think of themselves as sort of a chief multi-tasker and the person who should be doing everything in the business. While that may at times work on the home front, in a business that is not the best way to go. A CEO of a growing company has to be able to step back and make plans and engage other people in doing the work.
"Too many women limit their vision and opportunities by getting overwhelmed," Merlino says. "They end up walking away from opportunities or clients or more work because they know there is only 24 hours in their day -- as opposed to, 'Who can I get to help me so I can go out to sell the company?"
Women who start out as seeing themselves as the boss are likely to get to the $1 million revenue mark quicker.
"If you think you have to do everything yourself you limit your vision to what you're capable of doing," Merlino adds.
Women-business owners also need help thinking about creative approaches to financing, instead of choosing not to do projects. Count Me In spends a lot of time counseling women on finding creative financing, particularly in the post-recession economy.
Count Me In is the organization behind the Make Mine a Million $ Business Competition, in which women compete to be a part of a business accelerator program that helps with financing, coaching and marketing. Applicants pitch their businesses to an audience and panel of judges. The mission is to inspire 1 million women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses to the $1 million mark.
Now its bringing its mission to women business owners lower down the revenue scale.
Earlier this year, the organization expanded the business accelerator series by launching
. Count Me In wants to help women-owned businesses at the $50,000-$150,000 revenue threshold and located in hard hit economic areas to reach revenue of $250,000 within 12-18 months. The initiative is funded by a grant from
Sam's Club as part of the Sam's Club Giving Program.
Last week, Count Me In held its Urban Rebound-Los Angeles Conference and Competition. Women entrepreneurs from Southern California participated in the event by pitching their businesses to a panel of experts for a spot in the nine-month program.
It plans to repeat the series in Detroit in September and in Charlotte in November.
Merlino says the most important thing the panel of judges looks for in the pitch competition is clarity in what the business is selling, a strong understanding of how it can hit the $250,000 revenue goal mark and the ability to walk the panel through the business revenue model so far and projected revenue. Most importantly, women business owners need to understand the importance of communicating all of this as being a pivotal part of their company.
This week, the organization is also launching a mobile app called Pitch Perfect to help business owners perfect their pitches.
Merlino's three suggestions for women-run startups:
1. Think of yourself as CEO.
2. Make sure you've got something people want to buy.
3. Be very clear that you're in it
not only for the problem solving or passion you have, but you're in it for the money.
-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.
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