By Catherine Lang-Cline
May 1 is Woman-Owned Business Day! What is it, you ask? Google says it’s a day to “encourage consumers to shop from women-owned businesses. Inspired by the investment gap between woman–owned and male-owned businesses, the founders (of this day) hope to create awareness that women-owned businesses can succeed and are good investments.” Okay, I have some thoughts on this.
If you have been following Portfolio Creative, you know that we started our business in 2005. Let’s back that up even more to when I graduated in 1988. I’ll wait a few seconds while you do the math on that because that year provides an even better perspective of this discussion because when I entered the workforce, I had to have a business suit. Why? Because the guys wore business suits. “Either dress like a man or you don’t belong in business” was the overall vibe. Now let’s fast-forward back to 2005 because, at that time, women were really starting to change the numbers on opening businesses.
Why all of the history?
I never thought that I would start my own business because mostly men did
I didn’t think I would need to use that business suit again
In all of those years between graduation and starting a business, the game never changed
I can only speak to my experiences as I know those the best. It starts with knowing the rules or the aforementioned “game.” One of the first things that we realized is that we would have to bootstrap this business on our own. Banks gave no words of encouragement and no money. It is very rare for a bank to loan money to a startup, so getting a loan is tough as a male or a female, even with a great suit. The risks are high, and they do want their money back, but what we did find out from others is that the language used for men and women is completely different.
To men: “How do you plan on growing your business?
To women: “How do you plan on paying this back?
Subtle, but as women, we get the point, regardless of our outfit.
Another thing that we need to always defend, as women, is that this business is not a glorified hobby. That this just fills our time between the hours of when school opens and lets out. No. We are legit. This is a real business that really employs real people. This company does not merely exist to help supplement our spouses’ salaries. As a matter of fact, many of the women I know are the “breadwinners” of the family and to constantly have to validate this is exhausting. People have chosen not to support the company that, in their mind, is a “cute hobby” but rather, the company run by men that “know how to handle a business in a real business way.”
The last thing I will bring up is the belief in female leadership. It is a known fact that there’s a lack of women in leadership positions; CEOs, boards, politics. Why are we still struggling to find women leaders? Why do we have more faith when following a man than a woman? Why is a man considered leadership material and a woman is just simply bossy? Why do people prefer to buy from a man than a woman? This opinion is not just reserved for men, women are preconditioned to think like this, too. It’s frustrating.
To recap, women-owned businesses get their own special day. Just like mom gets her day in May to celebrate on Mother’s Day, once a year, for all of the hard work she puts in all year. We love our moms right? Why not simply invest in her business? You know she will take care of you. For that matter, invest and purchase from all women-owned businesses every day, all year, because we are delivering some pretty awesome things that you might be missing out on. Regardless of history, we have some really hard-working business owners out there and we as women, appreciate those that work with us and we appreciate our day.