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Commentary: Woman-Owned Small Businesses Are Rising in Arkansas

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) welcomes media outlets to publish the following article with attribution to AEDC. You can find this article and other AEDC commentaries on the AEDC blog.

Little Rock, Ark. (Sept. 16, 2021) – Throughout Arkansas, small businesses are thriving, and greater numbers of entrepreneurs are launching new business ventures. As the number of small businesses grows in Arkansas, it is crucial to provide resources to help these business owners develop their companies.

As a champion for the business community, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission is proud to play a role in a new mentorship program for women business owners. Growing the small business and entrepreneurial community in Arkansas is critical because these businesses are the backbone of the state’s economy.

In Arkansas, small businesses make up the majority of the business landscape, at 99.3% of all businesses in the state. Women own 91,168 businesses in the Arkansas, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. By providing resources and other assistance, we hope to fan the flames for greater small business growth throughout the state.

Mentorship can have a major impact on small business owners and their companies. Kabbage, a financial services and technology platform, found in a recent survey that only 22% of small business owners had mentors when they started out. However, 92% of the business owners surveyed said that mentors had a “direct impact on growth and the survival of their business.”

Starting in fall 2021, Woman Rise, a mentorship program developed by the Venture Center, will pair woman entrepreneurs in Arkansas with seasoned business leaders to receive mentorship and to help the community of women professionals flourish in the Natural State.

Over the course of one year, mentors and mentees will work together to form relationships that will positively impact each other and create synergy in the wider Arkansas business community. Mentors will provide guidance, coaching, counseling, and support for their mentees, and will serve as role models and connectors for them. Mentees will learn from their mentors, applying lessons into their business, not only growing their individual companies but the larger Arkansas economy.

Across Arkansas and the United States, woman-owned businesses are on the rise. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in its 2019 Annual Business Survey that woman-owned businesses increased by 6,861, or 0.6%, to a total of 1.1 million from 2017 to 2018, the most recent year information on business increases is available. The U.S. women-owned firms had approximately 1.8 trillion in sales, shipments, receipts or revenue in 2018, according to the Census Bureau, and employed 10.1 million workers.

Over a five-year period, from 2014 to 2019, women-owned businesses in the U.S. increased dramatically by 21%, growing to almost 13 million, based on American Express’ 2019 State of Women-Owned Business Report. The report authors noted that this growth is only the beginning for woman entrepreneurs, declaring that “the potential of woman entrepreneurs for spurring economic growth has not been fully realized.”

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission is partnering with the Venture Center on Woman Rise, along with fellow sponsors Wright Lindsey Jennings, Arkansas Capital Corp., and Venture Noire, to continue this growth for woman entrepreneurs.

In its inaugural year, 20 mentees and 20 mentors will be accepted into the program. Once selected, the mentees and mentors will be notified in October and will be invited to a meet and greet and a two-hour training. The program will formally kick off on January 12, 2022.

Applications for Woman Rise open on Wednesday, September 8, and close on Friday, October 8.

Click here to apply to be a mentee and here to apply to be a mentor.

Mentorship helps lift people up, enabling them to rise beyond their expectations. Let’s rise together.

This article was contributed by Katherine Andrews, director of AEDC’s Small Business & Entrepreneurship Division, and Esperanza Massana-Crane, director of AEDC’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Division.

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