Women’s E-Businesses Are Alive and Thriving

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Linda Karasch

(WOMENSENEWS)–In the brutal Internet economy, one of the secrets of surviving appears to be using business management styles common among women entrepreneurs.

Women-owned businesses–brick-and-mortar, home-based, and now women’s brick-and-click Internet ventures–are more likely to remain in business than the average U.S. firm. For example, of the businesses founded in 1991, nearly three-fourths of women-owned firms were still going three years later, compared with two-thirds of all U. S. companies, according to a Small Business Administration study.

This stability trend characteristic of women’s businesses extends to their e-commerce startups, studies indicate. And not because they are mimicking the male business models. The business styles of several high-profile sites for women and their accompanying financial troubles are actually atypical.

In general, women’s Internet businesses share more in common with other types of companies started by women: They start small, often in their own homes, and grow to meet demand, rather than start with a flashy business plan, an expensive marketing campaign and a list of venture capital investors, who insist on being repaid fairly quickly.

“Women are succeeding in their web ventures because of a combination of factors,” says Diane Silver, a senior channel producer for the career and business section of Women’s Forum.com.

“Many, many women ‘netpreneurs have started their businesses on shoestring budgets and most have not entered–and could not have entered–into the venture capital arena. The partners at Women’s Forum exemplify this business approach. They built their businesses from the ground up, with their own minimal financial resources.”

Success Means Distinctive Sites Tightly Focused

As a result of starting small, many women Web site owners generally have not attempted to be all things to all browsers, but have developed distinctive sites that have met the needs of smaller but focused groups of potential customers ignored by larger e-companies. And with smaller customer bases, women Internet entrepreneurs may place more attention on customers and customized service.

For example, Maria Ginnetti, a professional counselor and business coach, has a lucrative sideline business counseling college students with weekly e-mail sessions tailored to each of their needs.

And the clients of Paula Hian, a Philadelphia clothing designer, may scan her latest designs and determine what sizes and colors are available. “I believe my Web site also saves my clients time by allowing them to browse through my selections before they come to my shop.”

Women’s Forum’s Silver argues that what helps these niche sites stay in business, despite their lack of access to capital, is that like the forum’s 100 partners–all women with their own e-business sites–they excel at “connecting with other women who then help one another develop and thrive–or should I say, stay afloat?–in these difficult times.”

Philadelphia’s Linda Karasch agrees that networking plays an important role in women’s business successes. “Once women used to find a person who could do it–often a man–who was successful in business, so they could learn from him and develop. Now we are learning instead to just build up those networks and alliances ourselves.”

She also believes, however, that women’s success in Internet entrepreneurship is aided by their attention to detail and ability to manage multiple tasks. Karasch, an owner of a video production company and a court reporting agency, is the current president of the local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

Preparation, Multi-Tasking, Networking, Attention to Detail–All Important

Early on, Karasch said, women saw the potential of the Internet, which spurred them on to do their research and homework, making them better prepared than owners of those larger, primarily male-owned e-companies that did not follow standard business planning principles.

The availability of such support as well as the willingness to seek it through organizations such as her association also can make a difference between success and failure, she said.

“It’s there to call on and say, ‘Am I setting-up the right way?'”

Another successful ‘netpreneur, Azriela Jaffe, author and columnist for Fortune magazine’s Small Business online site, speaks from her personal experience to explain women’s success on the Internet.

A mother of three children and author of “Create Your Own Luck,” published by Adams Media Inc., Jaffe says that women’s abilities to handle multiple tasks enable them to successfully “handle the myriad of details that an all-consuming business can require, along with taking care of marriage and family needs.”

Yet Jaffe does not believe there is a single, all-important factor explaining women’s Internet success; rather, all of the reasons contribute to success.

“Perhaps one woman excels at customer service, while another is a consummate networker and still another identified a unique market niche. All three of these women are on to something important,” Jaffe said.

Priscilla Y. Huff is a freelance business writer, columnist and author of “HerVenture.com” and the developer of her own business web sites.


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