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Next Steps for Women-Owned Businesses in 2020

Women are an increasingly significant part of the small business community. Since the early 2000s, the growth of women-owned businesses has consistently outpaced male-owned businesses in terms of overall number of businesses and net income. This growth was fueled in part by government programs aimed at helping more women start their own businesses and the involvement of agencies such as the SBA. By 2019, women-owned businesses made up 42% of all businesses and employed 9.4 million workers.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, women-owned small businesses have been required to pivot in many ways to remain viable. For many, it has been an uphill battle. In part, this was because some of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic are also industries with higher numbers of women-owned businesses. Further, even when help was made available to small business owners, there were additional barriers for women. For example, it was estimated that up to 90% of minority and women small business owners were unable to secure a PPP loan because financial institutions were favoring pre-existing customers.

As small businesses have navigated the immediate needs of keeping employees and customers safe, an important next step is undertaking a candid evaluation of where your company stands financially. While it might be difficult to see revenue information in black and white after the struggles of the past six months, a small business must have an accurate picture of data such as its revenue growth (or loss) over the past 12 months, its revenue per employee, liquidity, and debt-to-equity ratio. An in-depth assessment of the operational efficiency of the small business is also critical.

After the financial deep-dive, a small business should analyze the company’s business plan and make appropriate updates. For example, if the company has pivoted from in-store sales to online sales, the business plan should take that change into account. This is also an opportunity to set out a timeline for next steps for the small business so that resources can be allocated appropriately. If, for instance, online sales have become important, revamping the businesses website might be a priority in terms of resources. If after looking at the numbers, the business viability is in doubt, Chapter 11 may be a helpful tool to shed some debt and reorganize to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic with a newly structured, stronger business.

While there is still significant uncertainty regarding the long-term outlook for women-owned small businesses, the time is now to begin an in-depth assessment and prepare for the next steps. A return to “normal” is not going to happen overnight and likely will require a new path forward. This new path will be guided by the information gained, the plan developed and most importantly by the ability women business owners have always shown in being flexible and responsive to their customers.


Courtney Gilmer is a business attorney who guides debtors, creditors, committees and asset purchasers through workouts and Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases. She also represents public and private companies in financial services litigation and financial regulatory compliance matters.


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