As previously featured on www.bankofamerica.com
2018 marks the 30-year anniversary of H.R. 5050—The Women’s Business Ownership Act, which eliminated the requirement that a woman needed a man’s signature to secure a business loan. Today, there are 40 million small businesses in the United States, 30 percent of which are owned by women. Having equal access to business financing is one of the primary reasons for this growth.
Jen Earle, who serves as CEO of NAWBO, believes in the power of change.
“NAWBO was the first national organization to organize women business owners into a united voice for change and equal rights under the law,” says Jen. “H.R. 5050 was meaningful in that it was a clear representation of the power of women to drive change when we aggregate our energies together and work collaboratively with leaders in legislative change.”
Jen is fast to add that NAWBO continues to serve today as a powerful influencer for women entrepreneurs, locally, nationally and globally. “We don’t just talk about opportunities for women in businesses; we drive them. We are the only organization to corral our resources to marshal change in public policy and legislation, which is a game changer for women business owners.”
Jen’s journey to CEO of NAWBO is not unlike many of the women business owners she represents, and battles for, each day—it came with starts and stops, and side trips along the way. Born with a natural, innate entrepreneurial drive and sense of larger purpose, Jen searched for opportunities that would allow her to make an impact. Jen found herself back in her home state of California after graduating from the University of Notre Dame. She worked part-time for a production company while searching for the right job. What started as a temporary resting spot on the way to her true purpose turned out to be the springboard to her next role—that of a small business owner. It was at this production company where she met her future business partner, and together they created their own company, reaching seven-figure revenues in a few short years.
“I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and that our experiences prepare us for our next chapter,” Jen says. “After a few years at the production company, I found myself unhappy. I had simply traveled too far from my core mission, which was to serve and help others. I knew I wanted and needed a change.”
One of Jen’s great loves was nonprofit work and giving back to the community. Throughout her professional career, Jen remained actively involved in community outreach. During her years at the production company, she supported a group called Ladies Who Launch, and the women in that organization introduced her to NAWBO. Once she started working with NAWBO, Jen knew she had found home—the work became a “labor of love” very rapidly.
“I was helping women. I was using my expertise and talent to make a difference and create impact. I was happy,” Jen says. Shortly thereafter, the NAWBO Board of Directors asked Jen to take the reigns as CEO, where she has been ever since.
Jen is comfortable sharing the important lessons learned from her life journey:
- Be open to opportunity, however it manifests itself to you. It may appear when you aren’t looking, and when you think you aren’t ready.
- Stay true to yourself, and work hard to find your true north. This will help lead you to opportunities that align with what is important to you.
- Stay involved in your passion, even when it isn’t your current job. Keep connected to what matters most to you.
- Be brave enough to know when to make a change. Be willing to take a risk on a new adventure when the door opens, and when you know it supports your core purpose.
- Remain connected to other women—we are a powerful network of support. Don’t remain alone in the trenches—there is a lot to learn from each other.
Today, Jen leverages her role as CEO of NAWBO to solve a very important need she felt as a small business owner—the yearning to be connected and supported. “When I was an entrepreneur, there were a lot of days that felt lonely and scary. I was often in unchartered territory and learned by trial and error,” Jen says. “NAWBO brings women together who work across the spectrum of business to help each other and learn from each other. Our roots in advocacy are only part of our story. We provide leadership training, business education, professional networking and social interaction—this is a place to make friends for life while also driving economic, social and legislative change. Collectively, we have scale and magnitude. I encourage women to join their local NAWBO chapter and get involved. If NAWBO isn’t right for you, then continue to find your own group—don’t go it alone.”
In 2018, Jen will lead NAWBO to tackle issues pertinent to today’s woman business owner and entrepreneur—primarily parity in representation in the board room, elected offices and compensation. “Today, women-owned businesses do not create the same level of revenue as their male counterparts,” Jen says. “We have made progress, but we still have a long road ahead. I am excited to join the women of NAWBO to drive positive change for women across the globe, and to make 2018 a milestone year for women business owners.”
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