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May 17, 2013

Six Great Resources for Female Graduates Looking to Start a Business

Being an entrepreneur is exciting, frustrating and sometimes terrifying. These challenges can be even harder to overcome for women – women have a tendency to be discounted, take on too much and work hard to make everyone happy. Despite the fact that women are opening businesses at a faster rate than men in 59 economies, few are household names and even fewer are on the Fortune 500 list.

However, despite the obstacles, the trend is still positive, and likely to continue when the impact of the women starting these businesses is considered.

Female entrepreneurs tend to have a far more positive impact on their communities and invest more in their children, setting aside money for things like an advanced education or spending more on nutritious foods. Some studies, like one by the Calvert Foundation, have even found that women invest as much as 90 percent of their income. In essence, supporting female entrepreneurs is really aiding the end of systemic poverty.

Removing the Barriers

Entrepreneurs usually know to start with a business plan (most of the time), to seek out a wide variety of funding and to know as much about their intended business as possible before diving in. Fortunately, there are a few resources available to make the transition a little smoother.

Keep in mind that nobody was a born entrepreneur – though some people are prone. Mistakes will be made, but those faux pas can be minimized with the right tools and knowledge. Nobody has to have a degree or an MBA-level business plan to be successful. Passion, time management and resources, though, can't be ignored. Here are six resources to get started.

1. Getting Up Close and Personal with the SBA

The Small Business Association (SBA) has offices in every major city and is filled with information like licensing requirements by state, funding possibilities and free counseling is even available. Every single entrepreneur should visit the SBA and find out what specific classes, benefits and freebies are available in their state. This is where most people get started for a reason. Get help drafting a business plan and uncover funding opportunities that aren't as well known.

2. Social Media

Social media is free, which means it's a requirement for women starting a business. However, social media management isn't easy and it requires a lot of time, analysis and research to get it right. Before opening the doors, plan a social media strategy, identify which platforms best complement the business, and get cracking. Post at least once per day, foster audience engagement and consider a contest or giveaway to bring in those likes.

3. National Women's Business Council

Recommended by the SBA, the Council is a federal advisory group that provides free consultations and advice to women starting a small business. The promotion of policies, initiatives and programs geared toward female small business owners is at the heart of the Council. Having a strong support network is crucial to success, and having a group that's dedicated solely to the achievements of women can help cement a good foundation.


SCORE is a program that matches entrepreneurs with successful business owners who have "been there, done that." It's a more personal approach to the support network idea, and anyone can register to be matched with a mentor no matter where they are on the entrepreneurial track. Meetings can take place virtually or in person depending on preference, and of course all information is kept confidential.

5. Association of Women's Business Centers

Get free advice and support at these centers, which are located in most major cities. Specifically, help with securing venture capital is the focus of these centers, so it's a great place to start for women who are beginning to look for investors. In addition to foundation and federal grants, private loans and bank loans, venture capital is an integral part of getting started.

6. National Association for Female Executives

"Executive" is a pretty broad term, and it can include those who are behind startups. Members get a newsletter and discounts at retailers like printers, so getting those mailers prepared is a little kinder to the budget. Discounts are also available for office equipment and tech support services, making it a little more affordable to get the office up and running.

As a woman business owner, there are certain obstacles ahead; however, there are more reasons than ever before. Those in need have funding now have a wealth of options like small business loansKickstarter and Astia, an organization designed specifically to help female entrepreneurs. These are all great places for women to get the seed money they need.

Starting a business is never easy, and many problems with arise; however, they can be properly maneuvered with the right knowledge and support network in place. Take all the help that's available for the best shot at success.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey
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