By Geraldine Keogh
As a mother-daughter business duo, my daughter and I have been through some of the hardest times of our lives during the pandemic. More than two years later, we still face serious challenges such as workforce and supply chain issues that threaten our business on a daily basis.
Women entrepreneurs traditionally face more challenges when starting a business, and existing gaps for women only widen when times are tough. According to an earlier study by Goldman Sachs, 48% of women-owned small businesses reported having financial problems compared to 39% of our male counterparts.
In addition to persistent gender inequalities, inflation, labor shortages and supply chain issues make it difficult for us to succeed. A new survey of graduates from Goldman Sachs’ business education program, 10,000 Small Businesses, recently found that 78% of small business owners say the economy has gotten worse in the past three months. It also found that 93% are worried that the US economy will experience a recession in the next 12 months.
But amid historic economic challenges, 65% of small business owners say they are optimistic about the financial trajectory of their business this year.
Women entrepreneurs in particular represent hope for the economy and our country.
Nothing is more symbolic of the American dream than starting a small business. It defines your financial future and has a lasting impact on your community. That’s why millions of Americans are trying their hand at building their own businesses, eager to turn their passion into a reality. As an immigrant from Ireland, I have been fortunate to live this dream with my family since we opened Dessert Ladies in 2010.
While entrepreneurs can creatively maneuver around economic turmoil, we need outside support and investment to ensure that women-owned small businesses can withstand future challenges.
Government initiatives like the Wage Protection Program and the Disaster Loan for Economic Damages have been lifelines for many. For me, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses has been my lifeline, fortifying my company for what may come. Using the skills I learned in the program, I was able to open a second business using my news skills.
While I have been fortunate to overcome the dual challenges of small business and women, there is still more work to do if we want to lift up other women. We need to make our voices heard because our businesses are key to economic recovery at the local and national level.
To achieve this goal, the government and the private sector must find a solution together. That’s why I’m joining more than 2,500 entrepreneurs at the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Summit on July 18 in Washington, DC. This event will be the largest gathering of small businesses, a community I am proud to be a part of.
My top priority is making sure the government follows through on its promises to open up federal contracts to more women- and minority-owned small businesses. The government should also improve and strengthen policies and programs designed to help small business employers and employees with high childcare costs. We also need to see the modernization of the US Small Business Administration (SBA), which has not been reauthorized since 2000.
Despite known and unknown obstacles, I am encouraged by my fellow entrepreneurs who continue to move forward. Spanx founder and CEO Sara Blakely said, “Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. It can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently than everyone else.” We must remember that our ability to pivot puts us at the forefront of innovation.
Geraldine Keogh is the owner The Dessert Ladies Stirling.
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