Young women face hurdles as entrepreneurs

It would seem obvious, in the 21st century, young female entrepreneurs would be treated the same as men. However, that is not necessarily the case.

Despite the fact most new businesses are started by women, there still are a certain number of men who do not deal with women business owners –

especially young women owners – the same as they do men.

Jessica Williams, owner and managing partner of Bailiwicks Coffee Co. in Tiffin, explained she has faced a number of

issues as a young female entrepreneur.

“It can be a bit difficult to be taken seriously at times,” Williams said. “People seem to be more comfortable seeing me as a girl playing a role instead of someone who has been able to build and sustain a successful business.

“I get called a doll, a sweetheart, or sweetie instead of just a thank you or even ma’am. Sometimes, I have to be almost overly assertive to create a more obvious presence, just to be considered on a colleague level,” she said.

Williams also said there have been times people assume familiarity with her, such as situations where she was given a hug instead of an expected handshake. Or not even being offered a handshake in a situation where it would be customary.

But there are some industries where being a young female can be an advantage.

Sara Dunn, a recent Tiffin University graduate and owner of, a website development company, said: “In general, most people grasp that I am the owner and leader of my company and don’t speak down to me. I think this is easier in a creative field where women are well represented.”

“My advice to women entrepreneurs is to not expect discrimination and to not conduct yourself with a chip on your shoulder,” she added. “There may have been situations where people spoke to me differently because I was a young woman, but I didn’t notice it or it didn’t bother me. As long as I achieve the outcome I’m looking for, what happens along the way is less important.”

Williams said she sees advantages to being a young female entrepreneur.

“Sometimes, being young and being female in business, I am seen as somewhat of a novelty. In some situations, because people aren’t sure how to speak to me or otherwise handle the conversation with me, I can take control of conversations,” she said.

Dunn emphasized the importance of joining networking groups with other female entrepreneurs with whom she can share her experiences.

Williams discussed the need to be confident about their abilities when going into business.

“I’ve realized that everyone is nervous and terrified when starting a business – it’s a huge risk – but it seems that women often wear these insecurities on their sleeves more than men,” Williams said. “This can just compound the automatic assumption that some people have that women are weaker than men.”

One of the biggest hurdles for female entrepreneurs is a lack of access to funding. One of the common reasons for this is that,

nationally, women own fewer companies.

According to The Center for Women’s Business Research, women head only 28.2 percent of all businesses in the United States. This is despite the fact more women are starting their own businesses to avoid

having to deal with the glass ceiling they see in larger organizations.

However, things are getting better for women seeking funding.

A study found companies

with at least one female founder secured a record 13 percent of U.S. venture capital through September 2013.

By comparison, in 2004, women-led companies secured only 4 percent of venture


Two industries have shown the most growth in recent years. Female-founded companies received about 40 percent of the venture capital in the retail business and 33 percent in the consumer services industry.

There are a number of organizations create specifically to assist women entrepreneurs.

The Small Business Administration Office of Women’s Business Ownership created a loan program which makes it easier for women entrepreneurs to obtain SBA financing.

The SBA also established a Women’s Network for Entrepreneurial Training, which links women mentors with those in need of their help.

In addition, many states including Ohio have programs to promote women entrepreneurs.

Perry Haan is professor of marketing and former dean of the business school at Tiffin University. He can be reached at (419) 618-2867 or