Women and Social Entrepreneurship: A Growing Trend

Women business owners have long been the fastest growing sector of entrepreneurs, and it is very common for this group to lead the charge of social entrepreneurism. Social entrepreneurs use their business acumen to both create a profitable business and contribute to the greater good. Wanting to use your talents to create social change no longer requires a low-paying position within the nonprofit sector. In fact, many women are finding that the power and privilege that comes with successful entrepreneurship make it easier to make a difference, both financially and by promoting new ideas.



The majority of nonprofits rely on outside donors to keep the good works going. Running a for-profit business provides a broader opportunity for increasing sales and profitability, primarily because of the flexibility of private ownership over the purpose restrictions of a nonprofit. And, using the business practices and profits of a for-profit business to exact change allows the owner to alter priorities as needed. A nonprofit is locked into the stated purpose included in the organizing papers.

There is nothing wrong with improving one’s own financial status. The attitude that one must suffer in order to do good is yesterday’s attitude. The more you have, the more you can do, and more and more Americans are accepting this reality. Again, women are leading the charge in showing this to be true. Those in the highest net worth categories (mostly entrepreneurs and business executives) are very active, and very generous, philanthropists overall. On average, over half of these women contribute over $25,000 per year to charity, while 19% contribute 1 Million dollars or more each year.

There are over 10 Million businesses that are partially women-owned in the US, and about 7.7 Million businesses that are majority-owned by women. Of the majority owned, nearly half are home-based and employ 14 Million part-time or full-time employees. Around 70% of women-owned businesses are in the service sector, though the retail sector is slowly growing. Another nearly 8% are in the real estate sector, including property management and leasing.

Whatever type of business, there are indications that women are doing a better job overall of keeping an eye on the details and managing change — a proportionately fewer number of women-owned ventures are failing during this recession than men-owned. It may be in part because these businesses tend to be smaller on average, thus are better able to slide through the recession, but whatever the reason, women in business are doing well. With an estimated 1.1 trillion in sales each year, there is plenty of opportunity to improve your own station while working on the social issues most important to you.

Combining a for-profit business with social activism provides the best of both worlds. Women who are thinking about launching a nonprofit should consider the alternative. The fundamentals of running either type of business (profit or nonprofit) are essentially the same — planning, marketing and financial management. But the payoff of for-profit success can be extreme. Not only will your increased personal income allow you the freedom to do more, but the power of entrepreneurial success will allow you to provide encouragement and set an example for balancing work and the greater good.

Copyright (c) 2010 K. MacKillop

— K. MacKillop, a serial entrepreneur with a J.D. from Duke University, is founder of LaunchX and authors a blog focused on starting a business (http://www.blog.launchx.com/). The LaunchX System provides everything you need to launch your own social entrepreneurship idea, including step-by-step instructions, key software, and coaching. Visit http://www.LaunchX.com/ and take our Business Readiness Assessment and learn what to do next for your business startup (http://www.launchx.com/are-you-ready.html)

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