Acknowledging unique challenges, women entrepreneurs pursue success
Many women are keen to realize their entrepreneurial dreams, and the COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped them, a new AARP survey finds. Still, some said they faced barriers because of their gender and were unaware of resources that could help.
AARP’s summer 2022 national survey includes a national sample of women over 40 who have started a business since January 2020. These businesses range from restaurants to healthcare companies, with the most popular categories including retail shopping or e-commerce businesses.
Entrepreneurial Drivers and Barriers
The results show that “wanting” rather than “needing” most often drives women’s decisions to become entrepreneurs. About a quarter (26%) of women said they always wanted to start a business and 19% said they did so to follow their passion; another 15% were after additional income and 15% wanted flexibility job selection.
For many, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a motivating factor for them to build their business – 43% said it had a high impact and 24% said it had a lesser impact. Those respondents who said the pandemic had less of an impact on their business startup time were doing better financially.
Age, and perhaps the accumulated resources that come with it, have always been an advantage of business ownership. Women entrepreneurs over 60 are less likely to have faced financial challenges since starting their business, with a vast majority (62%) avoiding such challenges, compared to 29% of women entrepreneurs in their 40s.
About two-thirds (69%) of women surveyed put their personal savings into entrepreneurship, while very few women obtain loans at national banks (2%) and regional or community banks (4%). Thirty-five percent of respondents had difficulty accessing credit, and another 35% had difficulty accessing funds. In fact, the biggest challenges women face in their entrepreneurial journey are finances, cash flow and attracting customers.
Women recognize that gender differences in the marketplace are real. Regarding access to capital, the survey showed that 70% believe that women face unique challenges that are different from men.
Awareness and availability of resources
Only 42 percent of respondents said they were aware of organizations that specifically fund women-owned businesses—and only 13 percent of those asked for help. Most respondents said they passed up the opportunity because they didn’t know enough or were familiar with the specific organization that provided this type of help.
Likewise, women entrepreneurs are eager for help to boost their businesses, but many say it is difficult to find information on how to acquire customers (42%), marketing (39%) and financing (37%).
Despite these challenges, most women are optimistic about their entrepreneurial path. AARP found that the vast majority of women (98%) agreed that they made the right decisions when starting a business, with 39% saying their business was doing much or slightly better than expected.
AARP research shows that women entrepreneurs need additional support and training to grow their businesses. Respondents said they were looking for resources in marketing (24%), recruiting and hiring (11%) and financing (10%), areas where women are most likely to seek training.
The AARP survey included 608 women over the age of 40 who started a business with up to 100 employees and were based in all 50 states and the District of Columbia between January 2020 and June 2022. Respondents were contacted by phone and online between June 6 and July 19, 2022.
For more information on this survey, please contact Lona Choi-Allum at email@example.com. For media inquiries, please contact External Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Choi-Allum, Lorna. Women Entrepreneurs: Starting a Business During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Washington, DC: AARP Study, October 2022. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00520.001