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Women-owned businesses continue to grow

March 24, 2019 GMT

Women entrepreneurs make up a growing share of U.S. small business owners. The American Express 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses report, which makes its projections based on data from the most recent U.S. Census Bureau Survey of Business Owners, estimates that they own 12.3 million companies in the U.S. Compare that to 1972 when there were only 402,000 women-owned businesses. Today, women employ more than 9.2 million people and generate $1.7 trillion in revenue. Last year, 1,821 women-owned businesses were launched every day.

During Women’s History Month in March, the U.S. Small Business Administration salutes women entrepreneurs who take risks to pursue their passions and to whom setbacks are just steps to success. This month, we honor their spirit and determination, and every day we help them on their journeys. All small business owners need a helping hand once in a while, whether it’s advice, funding or encouragement from someone who has been there.

The SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership empowers female entrepreneurs through advocacy, outreach, education and support, as well as business training, access to capital, and marketing opportunities. Our network of 114 Women’s Business Centers provides training, coaching and mentoring to entrepreneurs in communities around the country. In Fiscal Year 2017, WBCs supported more than 150,000 women, resulting in tremendous revenue and job growth for the businesses they serve.

The SBA’s Office of Government Contracting and Business Development tracks the federal government’s goal to award 5 percent of its contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses. We train entrepreneurs to evaluate their readiness for contracting, register as a contractor, navigate federal rules, and qualify through small business set-asides. A total of $20.8 billion in prime government contracts were awarded to women-owned small businesses in 2017 alone — supporting more than 115,000 jobs.

One of those woman-owned small businesses is Allegheny Science & Technology, a technology and energy consulting firm co-founded by West Virginian Arria Hines. AST started with three employees and one federal contract. Then, AST certified as an SBA 8(a), economically disadvantaged and woman-owned small business. The company benefited from business planning, systematic evaluations and improved access to federal contracts that kept it on a positive trajectory. AST also turned to the SBA for a line of credit to offset expenses with an SBA-guaranteed loan that allowed it to fund company operations such as payroll, employee benefits, equipment and office space.

Due to AST’s success through SBA programs and services, the company now employs nearly 200 people across several states supporting a portfolio of federal clients. Hines is the recipient of many awards, including 2016 SBA West Virginia Small Business Person of the Year and 2018 SBA Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year.

I am proud to be part of all that SBA does to promote women entrepreneurs like Arria. It is my goal to ensure women remain a vital part of our nation’s economic success. Kick off your small business success with a visit to www.sba.gov.

Michelle Christian is Mid-Atlantic regional administrator for the Small Business Administration.