What type of American businesses combined exceed the gross domestic product (GDP) of Brazil, Canada and South Korea — or the combined market capitalization of Apple, Microsoft, GE, Google and Sony?

If you answered, “women-owned businesses in the United States,” head to the front of the class! More than one third (36.3 percent) of privately held businesses in the United States are now owned by women, up from 28.8 percent in 2007, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

What makes the statistics especially noteworthy are the unique difficulties faced by female entrepreneurs when launching and running businesses. Here are some of the most common challenges faced by female business owners as well as some special opportunities.

UNIQUE BUSINESS CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN

Besides the everyday, non-gender-related hurdles of starting and running a business, female business owners face multiple unique challenges, including:

1. Funding — On average, men start their businesses with nearly twice as much capital as women ($135,000 vs. $75,000), according to the National Women’s Business Council. Separately, a study by the California Reinvestment Coalition found that small business loans given to femaleowned businesses in California dropped 70 percent from 2007 to 2013.

2. Defying social expectations — Despite the fact that women-owned new businesses are the fastest-growing of any sector in the nation, according to the SBA, there are still societal expectations — particularly in traditionally male-dominated industries — about women in business ownership/leadership roles.

3. Balancing business and family life — Female entrepreneurs with families often experience challenges balancing their professional and personal lives. Women more than men adjust their careers for family life and experience more career interruptions due to family demands, according to Pew Research Center data.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR WOMEN IN BUSINESS

Despite the challenges, today presents several tremendous opportunities for women to start and run a business. Consider the following:

1. Rapid growth of women owned minority businesses — Fueling the growth in women- owned businesses is a significant uptick in the number of businesses owned by women who are minorities. For instance, from 1997 to 2015, the number of businesses owned by African-American women grew by 322 percent, making them the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the United States.

If you’re starting or running a minority- owned business, the SBA’s 8A Business Development Program can potentially help you develop and grow your business through one-to-one counseling, training workshops, and management and technical guidance. The program also provides access to government contracting opportunities. To learn more, contact your local SBA District Office.

2. Considerable networking, development and mentorship opportunities — Corresponding to the rapid growth of women-owned businesses is a dramatic uptick in the number of organizations dedicated to helping female entrepreneurs network, develop and find appropriate mentors. For example, since its start in 1989, Professional BusinessWomen of California (PBWC) has grown to more than 35,000 members worldwide. Visit pbwc.org to learn more. Additionally, nearly every sizable community in California and elsewhere has business networking and development events specifically oriented for female business owners. Some are free; others assess a fee. For a listing of events in your area, simply search online for “Women in Business Events” combined with your city name or ZIP code.

‘More than one-third (36.3 percent) of privately held businesses in the United States are now owned by women, up from 28.8 percent in 2007.’

3. Great government input and assistance — An entire division of the SBA is dedicated to women-owned businesses, offering online and in-person resources, special financing opportunities and Women’s Business Centers (WBCs). In fact, there are a dozen different WBCs throughout California; visit sba.gov’s tools section to find one near you.

As for state assistance in California, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) helps start-up and ongoing businesses of all types. Learn more at business.ca.gov.

Starting and maintaining a business can be challenging for any female entrepreneur. That’s why having access to great resources is so important. For more advice and information, please visit California Bank & Trust’s Business Resource Center.

California Bank & Trust is a proud sponsor of women and California businesses. Our knowledgeable bankers are happy to help you with any of your needs. For more information, please call (800) 355-0507 or visit www.calbanktrust.com

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