Contributing to the Success of Women Business Owners Everywhere
Our 35-Year History Makes an Impact of Epic Proportions
When NAWBO was founded in 1975, the portrait of the entrepreneurial woman was quite different than today. Women were generally ignored when they tried to apply for a loan, purchase a car or buy a home. It was then that 12 women in Washington, D.C. decided to meet informally to trade information about running their businesses. One year later, NAWBO was incorporated and chapters began to form across the United States.
“We worked hard to position the emergence of women business owners as a growing segment of the women’s movement and to develop the organizational base and structural guidelines for a national association,” said NAWBO’s First President Susan Hager. Hager passed away last year, but a tribute to her impact on NAWBO and women’s business resides here. (Link to memorial book). “Our multiple strategy was to demonstrate to the media, to lawmakers, to federal government agency chiefs, to White House Staff and to the business community that women business owners were indeed viable.”
It didn’t take long for NAWBO to get noticed. They received a $20,000 grant in their second year to create a directory of firms in the area of which women were majority owners. By 1980, they were attending congressional committees and small business groups and tasks forces.
During the ‘80s, NAWBO made significant contributions to women’s impact in the business world. The first Women’s Business Conference took place in Houston, Texas, in 1982; the first National Public Affairs Day, which was attended by then Vice President George Bush was held; and NAWBO joined the Femmes Chefs d’Enterprises Mondiales (or World Association of Women Entrepreneurs).
“It is the time to remind ourselves and our community (the world) of the value and importance of women business ownership,” said then President Mary Kelly. “It’s the time to examine and analyze our plans for the future—economically, politically and socially.”
It was in ’88 that HR 5050 was passed. HR 5050 is also known as the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, which NAWBO was instrumental in passing and that was key in boosting women entrepreneurs’ access to capital. The legislation led to a 30 percent surge in the number of women-owned businesses in the country in the past two decades, and led to the creation of the National Women’s Business Council, SBA Office of Women’s Business Ownership and the Women’s Business Center Program.
“This landmark legislation created a policy voice for women entrepreneurs and has helped fuel the growth of women’s entrepreneurship for the last two decades,” said former NAWBO President Virginia Littlejohn.
Working with Rep. John LaFalce of New York, then Chair of the House Small Business Committee, the women helped the committee organize hearings on their areas of concern and to prepare legislation.
The timing was such that the proposed bill could get the coveted and symbolic HR 5050 designation, Littlejohn said. Working their network of members throughout the country, and helped by 1988 being a presidential election year, the legislation passed.
Key components of the legislation were:
• Elimination of any state laws that required women to have a male relative co-sign a business loan
• A requirement that the U.S. Census Bureau count all woman-owned companies
• Establishment of the Women’s Business Center program, funding local resource centers across the country
• Creation of the National Women’s Business Council, a body of women entrepreneurs and organizations that advises the president and Congress.
Center for Women’s Business Research
The Center for Women’s Business Research, founded as the National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO), was created by NAWBO members and women entrepreneurs who were frustrated by the common belief that women ran very trivial, immaterial businesses. These women knew that they and many others were running sizable, emerging businesses, and they realized that if women-owned businesses were to be taken seriously, there needed to be the same kind of serious data about women’s entrepreneurship as that which existed for other parts of the economy. Since 1992, the Center has used its research to create the environment in which women worldwide fulfill their entrepreneurial dreams.
Though research has helped to fuel the tremendous strides that have been made in women’s entrepreneurship, barriers to markets and capital still remain. The Center’s research means business for women entrepreneurs, for corporations, and for this nation’s economy, and through the insightful, timely data it publishes about women-owned firms, the Center helps all women unleash their full economic potential and power. Through the data and statistics, women entrepreneurs are able to reinforce their quests to obtain capital and enter markets, meaning business for banks and corporations as well.
Just last month, the Center published a new Web site revealing for the first time the complete impact of women business owners. The study proves that women business owners contribute $3 billion to the annual economy and 23 million jobs.
Institute for Entrepreneurial Development
In 2003, the National Association for Women Business Owners formed the NAWBO Institute for Entrepreneurial Development, a non-profit educational foundation that seeks to provide opportunities for capacity building and organizational development for emerging and established women entrepreneurs. Through the Institute, NAWBO aims to strengthen the wealth-creating capacity of women business owners and to promote economic development within the entrepreneurial community so that we can build a legacy of success for the next generation of women entrepreneurs.
NAWBO will continue to expand this portion of its offerings to support future women entrepreneurs.
Preparing for the Future
As with all successful businesses, NAWBO has been working diligently on building a long-term strategic plan to undergo an organizational development process that will propel success and growth in the coming years. NAWBO’s objectives that have been identified in our long-term strategic plan are:
• To become the preeminent thought leader on issues that pertain to women-owned businesses
• To provide growth-minded women business owners with the tools they need to take them to the next level
• To use NAWBO’s dominance in the women entrepreneurship market to add value to key audiences and stakeholders
• To develop and grow resources from sponsors and foundations by using our competitive edge of being the only business organization with the infrastructure to offer programs and initiatives nationally, regionally and locally.
It’s through this framework and our existing initiatives that NAWBO will continue to make an impact on women business owners and the economy as a whole. By helping individual business owners succeed, NAWBO propels us all forward. If you’re not a NAWBO member, click here for more information on potential benefits and sign up today.