Nearly half of all new businesses in this country are launched by women, yet businesses started by men are three-and-a-half times more likely to reach $1 million in annual revenue, according to recent data. Kerrie MacPherson, partner and executive sponsor of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women program, is looking to change that.
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The Entrepreneurial Winning Women program is national competition and executive leadership program that identifies a select group p of high-potential women looking to take their entrepreneurial ventures to the next level.
When asked what sets these high-performing entrepreneurs apart, MacPherson says it’s “their passion, desire to make a difference and value for the autonomy to be creative.” Indeed these women are a special group, but they also face challenges to effectively grow and promote their business.
MacPherson notes three major hurdles women entrepreneurs face in taking their businesses to the next level and how to overcome them.
Not Pursuing Outside Funding. MacPherson says a disproportionate number of female entrepreneurs self-fund their ventures, which can be costly and constraining. She says budding women entrepreneurs need to focus on building and leveraging their networks to better access funding opportunities.
The Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women program puts a big emphasis on how female entrepreneurs can identify and approach potential investors and successfully pitch them for funds.
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Staying too Narrowly Focused. MacPherson says women business owners tend to spend more time working in the day-to-day aspects of their business as opposed to working on developing their business.
To help get a bigger picture of the potential growth of their business, MacPherson says female entrepreneurs should take a step back. Most entrepreneurs don’t have executive management experience, so building skills like negotiation and team management are critical to taking their ventures to the next level.
Shying Away from a Public Profile. MacPherson has found that female entrepreneurs tend to shy away from the promotional side of developing their companies. In this multimedia driven age, entrepreneurs need to have a firm grasp on all forms of media, particularly social media to help grow their client base and create customer loyalty.
Social media is the single greatest avenue for reaching potential customers, and any successful entrepreneurial venture requires harnessing the power of social media. It seems as if everyone is involved in some form of social media, but MacPherson warns the sound bite nature of modern media requires thoughtful and deliberate messaging. One of the techniques she helps women with is developing a simple, high-impact elevator pitch. A good pitch includes: clearly describing a business, cutting out the jargon and expressing a vision.
There is no doubt the program has an impact: A recent study from the Babson College Center for Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership found that revenues of program participants' companies have grown almost 50% per year on average along with a 25% average annual growth in jobs.
What excites MacPherson most about working with these unique women is that they have “the vision and ability to take smart risks that can change the world. They are the future creators of jobs, creators of communities, and creators of wealth.”