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As head of small business growth philanthropy at Wells Fargo, Jenny Flores is a champion of women-owned businesses in the US. She talked to Entrepreneur about future business opportunities for entrepreneurs, and two recent programs she’s launched in the support of women-owned businesses.
What are the biggest opportunities you see for small businesses?
Often the biggest opportunities for small businesses are also the greatest challenges. Take the labor shortage right now. Businesses that can offer innovative staffing solutions, help implement digital strategies and help manage customer relationships have a wide-open playing field right now. Entrepreneurs are really good at seeing gaps and creating solutions. Taking this moment in time to clarify your value proposition and pressure test with your customers if it needs to adapt or change is also a big opportunity for small businesses during this economic downturn.
What tips do you have for someone considering starting their own business?
1. Know your “why” and who your audience is. One of the most important things to consider before starting your business is why are you doing it? Beyond any strategies or logistics, it’s key to remember what your motivation is to starting this business, and the overall mission. Also, before you establish a business, you need to know your service area and your market. Knowledge of who your competitors are and what need you will be filling in the local area will only improve your ability to succeed and thrive.
2. Start with a business plan. Creating a solid business plan is an important first step for anyone starting a business. A well-thought-out business plan can help you establish and stay focused on company goals and objectives. Wells Fargo’s Business Plan Center offers free business planning resources, including a step-by-step business plan tool to create and maintain your own written business plan.
3. Build a strong network. Running a small business is no small feat, and having a strong support system in place can make the difference between thriving and failing. Take time to establish relationships and build a network of other professionals and outside experts who can help you. It’s also a great idea to network with other small businesses by joining your local Chamber, or other business and industry organizations. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and build connections.
4. Understand your financial picture and manage your cash flow. Managing your cash flow is critical to growth. Achieving success in cash flow management means utilizing tools that can help you accurately forecast, properly plan, and consistently be prepared for challenges, which are all an important part of maintaining the growth of your burgeoning business.
What drives your passion to support women business owners?
With traditionally less capital and fewer resources to endure a disruption as unexpected and prolonged as the pandemic, “staying open” has taken on new meaning for the nearly 13 million women small business owners in the U.S. While access to capital is important, the financial needs of women-owned businesses go beyond lending. We know women benefit from networking opportunities and finding trustworthy information. Women also need access to technical resources and trusted experts who can help them solve business challenges so that they can hopefully emerge from the pandemic stronger and more resilient. Having access to experts in key areas like marketing, business planning, technology, accounting, and legal services is critical.
This week, Wells Fargo made two exciting announcements in support of diverse and women-owned businesses. The first was a second wave of support from our Open For Business Fund, which is deploying more than $55 million for technical expertise to 93 nonprofits across the U.S. to help small business owners get back to growth again.
The second is a new program that enables the success and sustainability of women-owned businesses. There is a dedicated resource center where women can access articles and videos designed specifically for them. And we also partnered with the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center (NEC) where 500 women entrepreneurs can gain complimentary support through its signature Milestone Mapping Coaching Circle, a 12-week long mentorship program funded by Wells Fargo, to help them overcome key business challenges while developing a peer support network and connection to mentors. Those interested in applying must complete an application.
Why are Coaching Circles the next big trend in entrepreneurship?
Mentoring circles give access to influential peers, future sponsors, and senior experts they might never have interacted with before to help set milestones specific to their business and solve common business challenges. Having a dedicated peer-to-peer network can help founders anchor their vision and gain clarity on what their business priorities are over the next quarters. Importantly, coaching or mentoring circles can accelerate the growth trajectory for small businesses so that it takes less time to reach and stay profitable.
What predictions do you have on the small business landscape?
Entrepreneurs are resilient and optimistic by nature. They will rise above the prolonged challenges of the pandemic even stronger and more committed to their businesses. I think we will see a wave of first-time entrepreneurs, who by choice or circumstance decide now is their moment to start their business. The pandemic exposed a lot of gaps in equity, access and service and that too will inspire entrepreneurs to find sustainable solutions. Keep your eye out for growth in purpose-driven business models that are very intentional about meeting customer needs in a way that serves the whole community.