There are two types of businesses owned by women: Those that advertise it and those that don’t. Most people have seen a clearly woman-centric business because they’re often in traditionally male-dominated fields. For example, “HandyJane” as a handyman company that’s owned and operated by women. There are certainly pros and cons to showcasing female-dominated businesses, but there are also downsides. Do you want to largely define your business by your gender?
There’s no right or wrong answer, but it’s something worth considering. For example, let’s say you’re opening a business to install blinds, curtains and other window dressings but you have a strong female leadership. Most people would consider this type of contracting typically male. You might be able to reach niche customers this way, but you can also drive some away. Is the lost business worth the girl power movement?
The pros of female businesses
If you live in a region that’s progressive and you’ve proven there’s a market for obviously female-owned businesses, you’re on the right track. You might be filling a disparity that exists, but this will require research and focus groups well before you write your business plan. You likely already have the right networks in place, have made a name for yourself serving niche markets as a freelancer, or otherwise have insider information that’s telling you this is a good idea.
You have exclusive access to potentially untapped markets. If your region is rich with female-dominated businesses already (although not necessarily in your industry), that’s a good sign. If possible, check and see their success rates and work towards building a coalition. Every startup needs all the support they can get, and reaching out to fellow women-centric businesses can give you leverage.
The cons to niche-ing yourself
On the other hand, you have to ask yourself what’s more important: Making a good, honest living or sticking to your guns. If you don’t highlight your gender in your business, you will probably end up with a client or project where the customer is sexist; it’s unavoidable. Sexism is still very much alive, of course, and perhaps this customer didn’t know (because you didn’t advertise) that you’re a female-dominated business.
The degree to which you might “pay” for this can vary from an extremely hostile work environment in worst case scenarios to simply putting up with a client that’s not as hospitable as they could be. However, you’re still going to get paid and it’s possible you’ll win over the worst customers with a job well done.
Making the decision
If you’re thinking about having a woman-centric business, you probably have very valid reasons and it’s likely something you’ve been considering for a long time. However, just like any other business, timing and placement is everything. You may need to research moving to a different region where the conditions and communities are more welcoming to what you have in mind. The larger and more progressive the city, the likelier you are to find a welcoming environment for your female dominated business model.
However, just because you happen to be starting a business with all (or mostly) women doesn’t mean it needs to be a pillar of your business model. Everyone has their own existing networks, people they feel most comfortable starting a business with, or maybe the best partners for your startup just happen to be women. Likewise, every business has natural best fits for your audience and only you can decide how important (if at all) tackling issues like gender equality are when it comes to your business model. Sometimes entrepreneurs just want to maximize profits while other times it’s more important to tackle social issues; both are legitimate and justifiable concerns.
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