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Guest Opinion: The impact of women-owned businesses


By Becky Fluegge | Vice president and SBA lending manager, Bankers Trust 

I recently attended an event at Terrace Hill hosted by the National Association of Women Business Owners Iowa Chapter celebrating Women’s History Month. It was awe-inspiring to be in a room surrounded by women business owners of Iowa who have a rousing entrepreneurial spirit where no more than 30 years ago, before the Women’s Business Ownership Act was signed into law, they couldn’t take out a business loan without a male relative co-signing.  

As I looked around the room, I saw empowered women of Iowa who have already accomplished so much for themselves, and in doing so, contributed so much to our state and local communities. It’s energizing to see the drive these women have to succeed. 

This week is National Small Business Week. Although women-owned businesses may seemingly make up a small portion of our state and nation’s businesses, they play a significant role in our economy. Nationally, 36 percent of all businesses are women-owned, and these businesses account for 12 percent of all business sales, which accounts for $1.4 trillion, and 15 percent of employment. In Iowa, the2017 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report by American Express found that the state’s women-owned businesses collectively employ 89,500 people and contribute more than $13.9 billion to the state’s economy annually.

While Iowa has a long history of ranking near last in the number of women-owned businesses, things are changing. We’re closer to ranking 30th of the 51 U.S. states and territories that are recorded. Factors in helping us increase our ranking include:

1. Access to capital – Women entrepreneurs have the ability to access capital through SBA and other lenders, government guaranteed loan programs designed for women-owned businesses, and other resources to help these business owners get financing to start or grow their business.

2. Mentorship – You’ve heard it over and over again: Business leaders in Des Moines are willing to meet and provide advice. We also have the support of numerous organizations dedicated to helping women business owners succeed, such as the Iowa Center for Economic Success, Small Business Development Center, Women’s Resource Center, Greater Des Moines Partnership, local chambers and countless other groups across the state.

3. Small business-friendly environment – Factors such as having a low cost of living, a pool of skilled workers and welcoming communities are all important in helping new businesses succeed.

We’re making progress, but there’s still work to do. We know the women entrepreneurs give back to their employees and our state and local communities. Let’s improve our state’s ranking by investing in them. It truly will benefit us all.

Becky Fluegge is vice president and SBA lending manager at Bankers Trust. With more than 20 years in the commercial lending industry, she has helped many small businesses secure the funding they need to be successful. Fluegge helped Bankers Trust to become the No. 1 SBA Lender in Iowa in 2017. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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