Even entrepreneurs with amazing ideas weren’t born knowing how to navigate all of the challenges of running a business. The small business owners I speak with regularly share the impact their role models and mentors have had as sources of business guidance and inspiration. Now there’s another place to turn for examples of entrepreneurial success: a new online exhibit created by the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM). This exhibit highlights the impressive journey of women entrepreneurs throughout the last century. It’s something all business owners – male and female alike – can relate to and learn from.
“From Ideas to Independence: A Century of Entrepreneurial Women” leads visitors from the earliest days of female entrepreneurship in the early 20th century through today. If you’ve encountered obstacles in your quest to start or grow a small business, this exhibit will fuel your fire to keep pursuing your goals. Not only does it detail motivational stories of women in business, but it explores the many obstacles they’ve faced – from social pressures to financial discrimination.
For example, it was striking to learn that as recently as 1988, some state laws still required women to have a male relative sign a business loan. Still, this challenge forced these women to sharpen their financial acumen and find more efficient means to secure funding. Also, the fact that men historically had dominated the business arena led to the formation of women-focused business support organizations like the National Association of Women Business Owners, a critical resource for today’s women entrepreneurs.
The exhibit also examines the instrumental role technology has played in helping women get businesses off the ground. In recent years, cloud technology like Office 365 has assumed an especially pivotal role in reducing costs and simplifying the process of starting and running a business. In fact, a recent Microsoft survey revealed that more than 80 percent of female entrepreneurs believe technology was critical to starting and running their businesses.
My biggest takeaway from the NWHM exhibit, also reinforced by our survey findings, is that there is always a way if you have the will. Women entrepreneurs have laid a foundation of hope and inspiration for all small business owners, because they found ways to achieve their dreams despite great odds.