In the News

Women-owned businesses continue to trend positively, especially in Iowa

The state of women-owned businesses in Iowa is overwhelmingly strong, according to a new study released in January.

The annual State of Women-Owned Business Report, commissioned by American Express and conducted by Ventureneer, tabbed Iowa as one of the top 10 states in economic clout growth rate — which considers the growth of women-owned businesses in numbers, employment and revenue. Iowa and Georgia were ranked eighth. South Dakota was No. 1.

Iowa also ranked fourth on the report’s employment vitality listing, which measures the employment strength of women-owned businesses.

“Achieving such a tremendous improvement for women business owners in Iowa wasn’t accomplished overnight,” Gov. Kim Reynolds told the Cedar Rapids Gazette. “We’ve worked hard to nurture a dynamic startup ecosystem, fair regulatory environment and improved access to capital for female entrepreneurs and small business owners. This latest ranking validates our past efforts and serves as a milestone for future success.”

The overall outlook for women-owned businesses in Iowa has shifted dramatically in the past decade or so. Just three years ago, the very same report ranked Iowa last in economic clout, citing a small growth rate in women-owned businesses between 1997 and 2016. But organizations like NAWBO Iowa, Lead Like a Lady, the Women’s Business Center and many more have worked diligently to reverse the trend, and the fruits of their labor are being realized.

National trends are mostly positive, too

While there is plenty of optimism for women-owned firms nationally, the report concluded there is some unevenness in the growth of these existing businesses.

In almost 50 years, women-owned businesses have jumped from 4.6 percent of all U.S. businesses to 40 percent, but these enterprises still have a small slice of the overall pie. Women-owned businesses only accounted for 8 percent of all employment and 4.3 percent of total revenues in 2018.

That means there are more women jumping into business ownership, but many are failing to grow substantially. The next step, the report said, is helping women grow their businesses past the $1 million revenue mark and beyond.  

Regardless, the number of enterprises run by women is still increasing at a sharp rate. Women opened an average of 1,821 new businesses each day between 2017 and 2018.

Numbers are positive for minority women entrepreneurs as well. From 2007 to 2018, firms owned by women of color grew 163 percent. In 2018, women of color accounted for 47 percent of all women-owned businesses.

Across the board, women business ownership is trending positively — both in our state and nationally — and it doesn’t look to be slowing down.

4 easy-to-implement marketing tips for small businesses

When owning a small business or operating as a sole proprietorship, having extra time to try something new is a rarity. And when business owners are jumping into something unfamiliar, it needs to be carefully planned and thought out. Marketing is often one of the toughest places for business operators to properly execute, especially if it’s not their area of expertise.

But proper marketing can result in growth for your brand recognition and overall business. And it doesn’t have to break the bank or take too much of your time. Here are four marketing strategies you can implement now at little to no cost.

Social media is your friend

Every low-cost budgeting strategy needs to start here. Using social media to leverage your business is free and allows you to reach millions of people with just a few words and clicks. You can use social media to share content (see suggestion No. 2), promote products, engage with customers and build your brand.

Facebook, which has more than 1 billion daily active users, is the No. 1 platform for marketing because of its large user base and ability to target audiences. Looking to reach people between the ages of 31 and 63, who live in a 10-mile radius of Des Moines and have children? Facebook can do that. Even $5 put into a post can go a long way on Facebook.

LinkedIn is an up-and-coming platform for small businesses. You can join groups, enter dialogues with connections, share blog posts and more. It can be a great place to share content and ideas and build a brand. Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram are great social media sites to use, depending on the product or service you’re trying to sell. Visual products work well on Instagram and Pinterest, and Twitter is an ideal place to share timely, relevant information.

If you’re looking to boost your following — maybe you’ve just created a profile or are struggling to grow — consider running a contest or promotion to encourage shares. Ask customers to post photos with your product in them, and choose a winner at random to receive a prize. Or ask followers to share and comment on a post to potentially win a product. Contests are a great way to improve engagement and boost your following along the way. Plus, it’s fun!

Leverage your expertise for content

Content should be an important part of the marketing mix. You might have heard the phrase “content is king” when attending marketing seminars or speaking with marketing gurus. And it’s not wrong.

Content marketing is effective, especially when it incorporates meaningful and authentic information. Nobody knows your business and industry better than you. Leverage your thoughts and opinions in a weekly blog post, video, newsletter or podcast. They don’t have to be long, expansive pieces, but short, tidbits of information.

This is called thought leadership, and it’s one of the best ways to boost your brand and position yourself as a leader in the industry. Answer frequently asked questions you receive or comment on a hot-button issue in your industry or community. It’s a great way to leverage your expertise and build a following along the way. Set an hour out of your week to quickly write, shoot or record. It’s a small amount of time to have a big impact.

Networking is key

You are the face of your business, so what better way to market your business than with yourself? Go to events or, better yet, host your own to boost word-of-mouth marketing. Networking with other people in the community will keep you top-of-mind when they are looking for an expert in your industry.

Of course, your time is limited. So be selective of the events you attend. It might be more beneficial to go to events with a small number of attendees, which encourages intimate conversations. After the event, arrange one-on-one meetings with people you conversed with in order to create more lasting connections.

But remember, networking is not just about finding people to sell to. It’s meeting people who share your passion for business and can help you grow. If you do it right, your business’s brand and personal profile will rise organically.

Free stuff!

This may sound counterintuitive: Give stuff away to increase sales? But it works. The word “free” creates a buzz around your brand and can generate a lot of leads. Try giving away a consulting session for your service. Or hand out your product to five lucky customers.

Let your products and service do the talking. If they are good enough, those free customers will become paid customers, and they may even recommend your business to a friend, which is one of the most powerful marketing tools out there. Sharing your free giveaway will also generate more leads, considering everyone who enters is interested in the product or service, and builds brand recognition—both wins!

Give these easy-to-implement and low-cost marketing tips a try and see how your small business grows.