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Female small business owners have their eyes on the prize - research

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

We’ve all heard about the glass ceiling that women must push through to gain senior management roles, but we hear less about those who have taken matters into their own hands and gone it alone.

A study of the women running New Zealand’s small businesses has revealed them to be ambitious self-starters, with young and dynamic enterprises that they’re eager to grow.

The research, commissioned by Xero, found 86 percent of women got their business off the ground under their own steam, funding it themselves, with the help of family and friends or with no financial support.

More than a third (39 percent) have made a personal sacrifice by going without paying themselves at times when cash has been tight. But 69 percent now have their eyes set on growing their profitability next year, making this one of their main business goals.

Anna Curzon, Chief Product and Partner Officer at Xero, says their passion for what they do is key, with 67 percent crediting that, along with good old-fashioned hard work (78 percent), as the main drivers of their success.

"We know how hard it is to start a small business and then keep it alive: four out of ten fail within the first five years. Passion and hard work go a long way towards success, but women need to be helped in practical ways too.

"When it comes to the things holding them back, top of the list was poor planning, followed by other factors including a lack of know-how, suggesting that with the right support, advice and tools they could achieve their aims for growth."

That support can come from an advisor, such as a bookkeeper or accountant, who can help with planning. Previous research has shown that small businesses who use an advisor can grow their net profit on average 23% faster than those who don’t.

New Zealand is renowned for providing one of the best environments for setting up a new business, with an even split in terms of male and female SME owners, sitting above the United States, Australia and Britain.

And more young women are getting involved here, with almost half (47 percent) of those running small businesses being under the age of 45.

Rachel Lewis, entrepreneur and founder of start-up support community for women - She Owns It - says their businesses tend to be younger too, with half (50 percent) started less than five years ago.

"The number of women entering the small business sector is growing at an impressive rate and it’s exciting to see so many younger people become entrepreneurs.

"But regardless of what age you start or what gender you are, you ultimately face the same kind of challenges starting your business and the critical point is making sure everyone has access to sound advice and is equally equipped to handle these hurdles."

The research also found that more than half (56 percent) of female entrepreneurs started their own business to enjoy a better work-life balance.

"Some women in our network have moved away from the corporate lifestyle, as it simply doesn’t fit their needs anymore. They’re still ambitious, but for them it’s about calling the shots so they can ensure they have a healthy work-life balance," says Lewis.

Curzon adds, "The number of women entering the small business sector in New Zealand has risen by 35% over the past five years, and if we want this to continue at the rate it has been, it’s important that they are supported from day one so they are prepared to tackle any obstacle thrown their way."

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