In fact, according to a recent study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the number of female business owners who ranked their business’s overall health as “somewhat or very good” fell 13 points (from 60 percent in January to 47 percent in July) during the pandemic, compared to five points in the same period for men (67 percent to 62 percent).
Female small business owners are also less optimistic about their future success in 2021, with less than half of the female owners surveyed believing their revenue would increase in 2021. In comparison, 57 percent of male owners believe their revenue will increase.
The good news is the upcoming holidays are the perfect time to help uplift struggling, women-owned businesses.
“Women-owned businesses across the country that may not have brand recognition that someone was previously looking for—it appeals to a more purposeful gift, which is what this holiday season should be about,” said Natalie Madeira Cofield, founder of Walker’s Legacy, a collective that helps women of color in business. “It’s critical that we support them, because they won’t survive this holiday season if we don't.”
Due to the lack of safe, in-person shopping options and the one-click convenience of buying from big-box stores, however, many consumers don’t know how to support independent, women-owned outlets this season.
Know Your Value recently spoke to Cofield; Susan Dawson, chair-elect of the National Association of Women Business Owners; and Rebecca Minkoff, fashion designer and creator of the Female Founder Collective, an organization that is dedicated to enabling and empowering female-owned and led companies, about unique ways that consumers can support women-owned businesses during this challenging time.
Put in the local effort.
Small, local businesses are struggling right now. It may take more effort than one click, but consumers should consider supporting women-owned businesses in their neighborhoods, said Dawson.
“Find the women business owners in your community and support them,” said Dawson. “If you go on the website or call the store, most places have come up with ways to make it more convenient for you with curbside pickups or delivery.
She continued, “You have to make a conscious decision to say ‘yes, it’s going to be a little more inconvenient.’ But small businesses are the backbone of our economy.”
For online shopping, go to the source.
Many independent vendors sell nationally through sites like Amazon and Walmart. However, vendors benefit the most when consumers go directly to the source.
The Female Founder Collective, which Minkoff co-founded with Alison Wyatt, has a handy database of hundreds of women-owned businesses across the country, and most of the listings have national, e-commerce capabilities. Users can filter by location and keywords and can seek out anything from ocean-friendly makeup to Black-owned hair care lines.
“You can support brands that align with your values,” said Minkoff. “That choice will make a huge difference for that company, and for what you stand for.”
Experiences and gift certificates count, too.
Some businesses are more vulnerable than others. For example, Dawson noted, restaurants in cold states won’t survive the winter since they can’t host indoor dining. Music venues, barbershops, local hotels and tourist businesses are also among the most vulnerable.
If businesses are closed or unusable during Covid-19, consider buying a gift certificate, said Cofield. Some in-person institutions may also host virtual classes or other experiences. If a business doesn’t offer these packages yet, customers can offer creative suggestions to their favorite haunts.
“Restaurants could provide a VIP or at-home cooking experience,” said Cofield. “A restaurant boxes up the ingredients of my favorite dish and I can cook it for my family? That’s an exciting way that a restaurant can innovate a time like this. I’d pay to participate in that.”
Reach out and help.
If you can’t support businesses financially, Dawson suggested reaching out and offering to help, whether you have special skills, connections or some free time to volunteer.
“Ask ‘what do you need?’ Maybe you can help spread the word on social media or reach out to people to help drive revenue and business,” said Dawson. “It’s not just about money, it’s about building a community.”
Call your representatives.
Local and federal government could be helping vulnerable businesses by issuing aid packages. Customers can call their municipal and congressional representatives—for free—and advocate on behalf of the women-owned stores they love.
“Encourage them to stop fighting and come up with a solution,” said Dawson. “We need to start reaching across the aisle and get another round of emergency funding for businesses that aren’t going to make it through another round of shutdown.”