COVID and Women Entrepreneurs
We are all experiencing a global reset as we battle with the pandemic. COVID-19 has given us time to reflect on other causes like the environment, fitness, and diversity. Likewise, during this period, the so-called ‘shecession’ hit fempreneurs hard. Hence, they had to adapt to the continuously changing tides. Female founders have always faced a lack of funding, systemic sexism, and a lack of support system. Despite these challenges, there are 114 percent more fempreneurs today than there were 20 years back. The changes during this period have leveled the playing field for women in business.
For instance, the acceleration of digital channels and acceptance of remote work models have enabled fempreneurs to adapt their businesses to resist the impact of COVID-19.
The pandemic saw a surge in women launching their first business. An analysis done by Print-Print pointed to the fact that between 1st April–1st September 2020 there was a 78 percent increase in women-led startup businesses printing promotional materials.
COVID-19 is proving to be a turning point for budding and established fempreneurs. Read on to know how these turbulent times encourage fempreneurs to be enterprising, agile, and optimistic.
1. Looking Beyond Brick and Mortar
The pandemic changed the business landscape with unprecedented speed and magnitude. This was driven by federal regulations and shifting customer habits and expectations. With most countries enforcing stay-at-home orders, businesses had to close their brick-and-mortar stores and move to digital storefronts.
Fempreneurs have realized that going digital allows them to serve a broader audience. Thus, the pandemic taught fempreneurs the importance of enhancing their digital infrastructure and ensuring web accessibility to reach a larger social segment.
Many fempreneurs have wanted to do business virtually to better balance work and personal life. COVID-19 presented an opportunity for them to shift their work online.
2. Given Them a Purpose
The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2019/2020 Report pointed out that most fempreneurs started a business to make a difference in the world, rather than just making money. This stat shows that women business leaders are more purpose-driven than men.
In 2013, a whitepaper prepared by Barbara Stewart shared that more than half of fempreneurs invested in causes that mattered to them. Fempreneurs have consistently been concerned with and focused on causes relating to health, environment, gender equality, sustainability, and others.
The current times have given fempreneurs a reason to venture into business or re-align their business goals towards mission-driven initiatives. Fempreneurs feel the need to take action or do something to improve the current situation. Venturing into the business world allows them to do so.
Check out how Karen Cahn, a pioneer in tech and media and the CEO of IFundWomen, works towards offering microgrants to women-owned businesses impacted by this crisis. Cahn realized that most of the crowdfunding platforms were unapproachable for women in business and people of color. This realization led her to launch her crowdfunding platform that funded fempreneurs and closed the gender funding gap in venture capital.
3. Leveled the Playing Field
The pandemic has brought every business (small, big, and mid-sized) to its knees, including sectors like medical practices that are usually immune to any kind of downturn. So, the global calamity has been an equalizer, creating equal opportunities for women-led businesses.
The IoT, digital platforms, mobile phones, and digital financial services have presented leapfrog opportunities to shepreneurs. Technology has bridged the divide by giving women the opportunity to earn additional income and access knowledge and information
Large and mid-sized companies are generally slow to keep up with the changing customer needs during the recovery period. This lack of agility often leaves them immobilized, vulnerable, or over-cautious. Many corporations will go back to their old revenue streams and miss out on new opportunities or fail to respond to the latest consumer needs, preferences, and expectations.
On the other hand, small businesses and startups are in a better position to respond to these changes and trends. For instance, a McKinsey report reveals that SMEs and startups have heavily invested in digitization to strengthen their online presence amidst the social distancing norms and travel restrictions.
Hence, women-led agile companies and startups will be quick to pounce on new opportunities. These startups are receptive to the upcoming trends and seen at the forefront of digital transformation, be it investing in content marketing and influencer-led campaigns or hiring SEO experts for better visibility.
The startup ecosystem will hugely benefit and ride the inevitable growth that usually follows a calamity or crisis. This leveled field offers a plethora of opportunities for fempreneurs to not just survive but emerge exceptional in their domain.
4. Offered Additional Resources for Fempreneurs
Though the pandemic has impacted every business, it has disproportionately affected fempreneurs in retail, hospitality, food services, and other industries where they are most present. However, several non-profit organizations and government bodies have gathered resources to support and propel fempreneurs forward.
Check out the website DCfempreneur that offers a list of resources and programs to support women-run businesses that aren’t eligible for government COVID-19 funding.
Similarly, Ladies Who Launch, a US-based non-profit organization has a complete list of resources for women business leaders struggling during the pandemic.
Fempreneurs have always faced multiple challenges. Though the pandemic has negatively impacted their businesses, it has presented several opportunities, encouraging women to continue to tread the entrepreneurial path.
COVID-19 has fuelled a surge in fempreneurship. It has encouraged fempreneurs to adapt and find success despite the challenging economic times and business environment.