Key takeaways

  • Small Business Saturday is a way to support local businesses and your community
  • Even when underserved or underrepresented, many women-owned businesses still work to give back
  • Funding and access to capital are some of the largest challenges women-owned businesses face when entering the market or growing

According to the latest data from the 2022 Annual Business Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2021, there were 1.3 million women-owned businesses with an estimated $2.1 trillion in receipts and 10.5 million employees, making up 22 percent of the total number of businesses in the United States.

While this number has continued to grow, women are still disadvantaged as business owners and entrepreneurs. Bank of America’s 2023 Women and Minority Business Spotlight found that 31 percent of women business owners have experienced challenges accessing capital, with 51 percent believing they currently have equal access to capital as male business owners and 31 percent believing they will never have equal access. On average, women-owned businesses believed they would achieve equal access to capital by 2037, up six years from the 2022 survey.

Similarly, national experts in the 2021/2022 Global Entrepreneur Monitor Women’s Entrepreneur Report found there were three concerns for female entrepreneurs: family support services, favorable regulations for women entrepreneurs and equal access to finance.

With the differences in access to capital and opportunity, it would be easy to assume that underserved communities and women-owned businesses hold on tightly to the resources they have. But, through interviews with small business owners and survey data, we’ve found that many women-owned businesses strive to give back to their communities.

As we approach Small Business Saturday, we’ll look at key statistics, the struggles women-owned businesses face and the positive impact they have on their communities.

What is Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday is celebrated the Saturday after Thanksgiving or the day after Black Friday to counteract the sales and mass shopping that larger retailers often promote.

Small and locally-owned businesses are often overlooked based on the deals big-box stores advertise. But many small businesses offer sales and promotions on Small Business Saturday to encourage customers to come out and shop.

By participating in Small Business Saturday, you can support your community while shopping for high-quality, handmade goods that aren’t always available at larger stores. You’ll also help support your local economy, which helps create a more resilient community.

Key statistics on women-owned small businesses

  • In 2021, women-owned businesses had an estimated $2.1 trillion in receipts, 10.5 million employees and $499.4 billion in annual payroll.
  • Women represent 25 percent of all small business owners, whereas men represent 75 percent. 
  • The top plans in 2023 for women-owned businesses were increasing staff, investing in digital marketing and expanding or remodeling their businesses. 
  • In 2021, 61 percent of women-owned businesses used personal funds in response to financial challenges compared to 50 percent of male-owned businesses. 
  • 69 percent of women-owned businesses used an owner’s personal savings to fund their business, and only 45 percent sought funding from a financial institution or lender in 2021. 
  • In 2021, 45 percent of women-owned businesses were fully approved for funding compared to 55 percent of male-owned businesses. 
  • 42 percent of women who have experienced challenges accessing capital don’t have a relationship with a lender, and 31 percent feel they don’t have the proper information or qualifications to feel confident applying for capital.

Struggles small business owners face

According to the U.S. Chamber and MetLife’s Small Business Index, there are six challenges that small business owners are concerned about in Q3 of 2023:

  • Inflation costs
  • Supply chain issues
  • Revenue
  • Interest rates rising
  • Employee retention
  • Affording employee benefits/healthcare

Similarly, Guidant’s 2023 Small Business Trends report found that the top challenges for small business owners in 2023 were:

  • Recruiting and retention
  • Inflation and price increase
  • Lack of capital/cash flow
  • Supply chain issues
  • Marketing and advertising

Struggles women-owned businesses face

While the above data is for men- and women-owned businesses, the 2022 Small Business Credit Survey found that women-owned businesses struggled with similar issues.

The top operational challenges for women-owned businesses were hiring or retaining qualified staff (59 percent), reaching customers/growing sales (55 percent) and supply chain issues (51 percent).

Financially, women-owned businesses struggled the most with the increased costs of goods, services and/or wages (80 percent), paying operating expenses (61 percent) and uneven cash flow (57 percent).

Two small business owners we spoke with echoed similar challenges. Johanna C. Dominguez, the owner of Put a Plant On It in Buffalo, New York, noted that starting her business during the pandemic and navigating it post-pandemic has been challenging. She said that while plants were incredibly popular during the pandemic, “There was a lot that I needed to navigate…like occupancy, managing a staff and COVID rules.” While she appreciates that most of her customers now are those genuinely interested in plants, she does say the interest in plants has calmed down.

Jen McPherson, owner of McPherson Local in Saline, Michigan, said that with the onset of COVID-19, “We had to quickly pivot to moving to an online store and shipping, two things we hadn’t done previously. We also provided delivery to porches, curbside pick up and appointment shopping.” And, as she looks forward, “We are working as a team to try and develop some new class offerings and partnerships to help us bounce back from a very hard 2023.”

How women-owned small businesses uplift their communities

With gender disparity in the small business space, the assumption may be that women-owned businesses don’t have the resources to uplift their communities — but we’ve found the opposite.

According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s 2021/2022 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report, 70.5 percent of women entrepreneurs in the United States were motivated to start a business to make a difference.

The U.S. Chamber and MetLife’s Q4 2022 Small Business Index also found that 73 percent of female-owned businesses said they donate to charities. In contrast, only 62 percent of male-owned small businesses said they have. Additionally, 70 percent of female-owned businesses have sponsored or donated goods or services to local events, while only 61 percent of their male counterparts did the same.

In our interviews with Johanna C. Dominguez and Jen McPherson, their answers also reflected these statistics as they valued cultivating a community and giving back while supporting the local economy and other organizations. Here are some ways they work to give back and uplift their community:

Supporting the local economy and community

Put a Plant On It sources all of its non-plant products locally to support the community and its artists, which also helped them avoid the supply chain issues that most small businesses faced throughout the pandemic.

Supporting the local economy also carries through special events, like Small Business Saturday. Johanna says that in preparation for Small Business Saturday and the shop’s anniversary sale, they spend the year propagating and growing rare plants. “By propagating and growing our own, we are able to offer them for cheaper prices. Where a plant sells $400 online and in other shops, we are able to offer them for $100.” Not only does this bring customers in, but it also creates accessibility throughout the community.

Additionally, Put a Plant On It is a strong proponent of raising the minimum wage to $15, with all employees starting at $15.50 to $16.50, even when many small businesses say that it’s not possible.

At McPherson Local, all of its products are from Michigan, and it prides itself on being a champion and supporter of the makers and small businesses in Michigan. “When you shop small and purchase from us, you are helping a maker support their dream, and our team supports theirs.”

Cultivating community and space

Put a Plant On It and McPherson Local believe that cultivating their community and space has brought them success in business.

Johanna doesn’t know if her business would have thrived without Buffalo and the surrounding community. With the community’s support, the shop has won several Best of WNY awards, including “Best New Retail” and “Best Houseplant Shop.”

As a home to over 180 Michigan makers, McPherson Local is grateful for the support from the community and their customers. Jen says that one of her greatest accomplishments as a small business owner is community. “We pride ourselves on being a safe and welcoming place for all, and we try to use our business platform for good. We believe that all humans should be treated with dignity, love and kindness.”

Partnering with local organizations

Like businesses in the U.S. Chamber and MetLife’s Q4 2022 Small Business Index survey, both stores partner with local organizations.

Put a Plant On It typically averages three donation baskets a month and always tries to say yes when there is a request for a raffle from community members and organizations. McPherson Local has raised money for several organizations within its community and has even started an arts scholarship for a student at the local Saline High School.

Bottom line

Supporting small businesses is essential to help local communities thrive, especially those run by women — on Small Business Saturday and beyond. Recognizing the challenges women-owned businesses and underserved communities face can help create equal access to capital and resources for all entrepreneurs while uplifting and empowering those who are historically disadvantaged.