In the short time I’ve been CEO of Sam’s Club, I’ve talked and listened to many women entrepreneurs – business members, suppliers and local business owners – and it has become clear just how much supporting women matters. They thrive when given the tools to succeed.
Yesterday on CBS This Morning, I unveiled new data from Sam’s Club and Gallup that attests to why we should support women entrepreneurs. Our new Sam’s Club/Gallup Microbusiness Tracker*, a quarterly survey of U.S. companies with five or fewer employees, reports that women-owned businesses are growing at a rate never seen before. You can get the full story here, but these facts resonated most with me:
Of the 868 microbusiness owners we surveyed, we found women are less likely to use bank loans to finance their business (25%) as compared to 67% using their own personal savings. One in three microbusiness owners (31%) depend on a second job to make ends meet. 58% of women feel that having enough cash reserves is a major business problem – slightly more than their male counterparts (54%). I think the greatest fact, however, is that despite working two jobs and investing their own money, 69% say owning their business is the ideal job. There’s a happiness and optimism among this group in spite of the challenges. That is something to celebrate.
Our founder, Sam Walton, swam upstream to reach his dreams, and he has inspired leaders within Sam’s Club who are passionate about small business prosperity. We are committed to providing these women and all small business owners better access to what they need most: affordable loans, working capital and training.
So this week we announced a $2.5 million grant to create the The WE Lend Initiative (WE for women entrepreneurs) that will increase women entrepreneurs’ access to financing. The program is a two-year investment to strengthen SBA-recognized Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) by transitioning them from training centers to certified micro-lenders, which will increase access to affordable loans and training to hundreds of women entrepreneurs.
The WE Lend Initiative is one way we can bridge the financing gap and empower women entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams. We hope that through our quarterly Sam’s Club/Gallup Microbusiness Tracker, we can inspire other corporations to join us in empowering new women-owned microbusinesses – a growing and important segment of our economy.
*Sam’s Club funded a survey of 868 microbusiness owners, defined as five or fewer employees, conducted by phone by Gallup in March 2014. For more Tracker data, read Gallup.com’s article: Three in Ten Microbusiness Owners Depend on Second Job for Most of Their Income