On Friday, August 9, a group of 25 women gathered at the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship for an open discussion regarding the issues women entrepreneurs face in Sioux Falls and its surrounding communities.
Hosted by Michelle Kane of the South Dakota Center for Enterprise Opportunity (SD CEO) and Women’s Business Center (WBC), the event was sparked by the question of whether Sioux Falls’ women entrepreneurs are in need of SD CEO | WBC support.
The SD CEO | WBC offices out of Black Hills State University in Spearfish, and Kane says they offer free and confidential one-on-one business counseling to people across the state who are interested in starting a new venture or growing their business.
Counseling sessions can occur in person or over the phone, but since 2009, the primary area of support has been the Black Hills.
Recently, the SD CEO | WBC hosted their first Women’s Business Conference in Aberdeen and they are currently working on a third conference serving women in the northeastern part of the state.
“Now, the question on the table is, ‘Is there a need in Sioux Falls for a Women’s Business Center presence?’” Kane said. “That’s what I’m trying to find out and the real purpose of Friday’s roundtable.”
Kane says she was pleased with the turnout at the event.
“With 25 women in attendance representing aspiring entrepreneurs, women currently in business, non-profit leaders and businesswomen who support entrepreneurs, I was very pleased with the turn-out,” Kane said. “This session provided a broad brush of some of the issues women entrepreneurs face in the Sioux Falls and surrounding areas.”
Women business owners discuss issues they face in the Sioux Falls market
Kane opened the event with a brief presentation of national statistics on women-owned businesses.
According to American Express’ State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, in 2018, four out of every ten businesses were women-owned. This refers to a business that is at least 51 percent owned or controlled by one or more women. Additionally, from 2007 to 2018, the amount of women-owned businesses has grown by 58 percent, compared to an overall business growth rate of 12 percent.
However, a variety of factors hold women back when it comes to financial success. These include owner’s inexperience, insufficient capital, inadequate networks, and a desire for flexibility or work-life balance.
Kane encouraged women to seek out mentoring and support, as well as assistance with critical business services like funding, HR, marketing, legal advice, and accounting.
After her presentation, women in attendance took turns introducing themselves and their businesses, as well as discussing the primary challenges they’re facing.
The group, which was comprised of women at all stages of their business journey, put forth an engaging discussion, with many offering advice to peers based on their own experiences.
“Sioux Falls is not lacking in opportunities or events, but what seems to be missing is a safe space where these entrepreneurs can discuss real issues impacting their business without the fear of judgment,” said Kane. “I was surprised to learn that there are fewer women leaders and influencers than I would expect in a city the size of Sioux Falls that can mentor and sponsor upcoming female leaders. The women that are in these roles get tapped for everything and are, frankly, burned out.”
Kane says this is just the first step in a continued conversation.
“The need is here,” she said. “The goal of SD CEO is not to recreate any wheels or duplicate services. I’ve had some great conversations already with Brienne Maner at The Zeal and Karen Lundquist at EmBe to explore how we might work together. I always say that collaboration over competition wins at the end of the day.”