5 Reasons this is the Age of the Minority Woman Entrepreneur

My grandmother, Amy Hayes, was the most influential force in my life. A very proud black woman, she was the pivotal presence who first fostered that early entrepreneurial spirit in me. Amy Hayes only got as far as 6th grade herself, but she was determined to make sure that I finished college and never settled with any single job, but that I would go on to pursue something that called to me.

I can’t help but think that if my grandmother were alive today and saw the progress that black women in particular are making in business, she would be over the moon. And if she had been just setting off on her life journey in this current climate of possibility, I know she would have created something amazing.

The 2012 census showed that 36 percent of all American businesses are owned by women, a jump of 30% since 2007. Between 1997 and 2014, when the number of businesses in the United States increased by 47 percent, the number of women-owned firms increased by 68 percent — a rate 1½ times the national average. And 46 percent of the privately held companies in the U.S. are now at least half owned by women.

Women of color are also seeing huge gains in the business world. From 2007 to 2012, there was an 87 percent increase in the number of small businesses owned by Hispanic women, and a 67.5 percent increase in the number of businesses owned by black women.

My prediction is that these trends are only going to keep accelerating. Here are the top five reasons this is an amazing time to be a minority woman entrepreneur.

1. There are more resources for minority- and women-owned startups than ever before

From Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota (WeMN) to Women Venture to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), there are more business development programs, funds and networking opportunities for women business owners and entrepreneurs than ever before.

The city of Minneapolis even has an entire page of its website dedicated to listing all the local resources available for women-owned businesses. And the Minneapolis chapter ofMEDA provides business development services, business financing and access to market opportunities to support entrepreneurs of color.

Mentorship, education and funding is out there, waiting to be tapped.

2. The message is reaching young women and people of color that entrepreneurship is for them too

In my last post I argued for the importance of every kid in America learning entrepreneurial skills and called out some of the great organizations that are already doing this important educational work.

For far too long, business has been a de facto boys’ club. A quick Google search results in a staggering list of books, articles and blog posts dedicated to tips and tricks women can use to “break in,” “navigate,” or “take down” the boys’ club of business.

By now, so many trailblazing women have taken the clubhouse by storm that young women and girls no longer have to absorb the unspoken cultural message that business is a man’s world.

And young women of color in particular have a whole new wave of role models to look up to: The number of businesses owned by African American women has grown 322% since 1997, making black females the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S.

3. The media is on board

Representation matters. When we see people who look like us embracing their identity and achieving success, it opens up doors of possibility in our minds.

With more and more news outlets dedicating airtime and print space to telling the success stories of women entrepreneurs, more and more women are getting the chance to visualize themselves kicking ass and taking names in the world of business.

In order to do it, you have to dream it. Every story in the media celebrating the success stories of women entrepreneurs and minority business leaders plants dream seeds in the minds of more young people across the whole spectrum of race and gender.

And every story that holds bad actors accountable, shines a spotlight on the gender pay gap and explores issues of access to childcare, maternity leave and flexible work schedules is a step toward a more equitable and open business landscape.

4. Intrinsic motivation overlaps with current & future marketing trends

A 2013 study in the American International Journal of Social Science found that women are generally motivated more by intrinsic factors like self-fulfillment, meaningful work, interpersonal relationships and flexibility than by external factors such as money or advancement.

This obviously doesn’t mean that women don’t care about money or promotions. But the study found that most of the women interviewed agreed that intrinsic factors that offer higher-level fulfillment such as competence, growth and self- esteem, and determination and expression were more important in motivating their choices than material factors.

This is good news for women entrepreneurs, as intrinsic motivation is much more likelyto lead to a successful business venture.

“In my experience mentoring new entrepreneurs and aspiring business leaders, I see far too many who seem to be driven by all the wrong reasons. Everyone seems to espouse extrinsic motivations, such as getting rich, having power, and fulfilling parent dreams, when in fact a focus on satisfying internal interests and desires will likely lead to more success, as well as satisfaction.” — Martin Zwilling, Forbes

In another recent post, I wrote that the future of marketing lies in “leaving a legacy that will continue to resonate long after you turn out your company’s lights. That’s the kind of thing that organically influences people, gets them to evangelize on your behalf to their networks and social circles, and leaves the world better than you found it.”

There’s a reason so many of my favorite clients are women small-business owners and entrepreneurs. They have an innate and intuitive grasp of this concept, and it makes all the difference in how they approach their business.

5. The money is there

Women-owned and operated businesses represent a great return on investment. While women still lag their male counterparts in venture capital fundraising, they outperform them on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, and more and more female venture capital investors are starting their own firms.

Female-owned startups tend to outperform those led by all-male teams. An analysis by venture capital firm First Round found that their investments in companies with at least one female founder outperformed their investments in all-male founding teams by 63 percent.

With results like that, the market should be clamoring for more female-led ventures to fund.

If my grandmother were alive today, I’d grab the opportunity to return the gift she gave me in nurturing my entrepreneurial spirit. I’d encourage her to seize this unprecedented moment for minority women entrepreneurs and unleash her own potential.

My grandmother changed my life, and I’ll be forever grateful. Now it’s my turn to help ensure that the next generation of minority women entrepreneurs can change the world.