Women Building Million Dollar Businesses

November 4, 2017

 About 30% of businesses in the U.S. are owned by women, but here’s something you may not know about  them—only 2% break $1 million in revenue. Those owned by men are 3.5 times as likely to reach that million-dollar threshold.


In 2008 Ernst & Young decided to try and change that, with the launch of its Entrepreneurial Winning Womenprogram. A dozen women are selected by a panel of independent judges to be mentored and coached indefinitely, to help propel their businesses forward. EWW has helped fast track some well-known businesses, including Stella & Dot, and Aden + Anais.

The program was launched by Lisa Schiffman, a director of brand marketing and communications at Ernst & Young. Earlier this month the company began accepting nominations for its 7th class of entrepreneurs.


Collectively the revenue of all the businesses in the program is up 63% since they joined.  Seventy percent say they’re “thinking bigger and setting higher company growth goals.” Forty-five percent report it is easier to raise funds after being selected for the program; 79% say the program expanded their professional networks and 85% say the program made them feel more supported and connected.


1.  Don’t be afraid of growth.

Women often underestimate what they can accomplish. When they meet other women who have been in our program for a while, and see the success they’ve had, it reinforces the idea that they can aim for that growth and success too.


2.  Be a public leader.

There is enormous value to being a public spokesperson for your company and the part of your industry you know best. Put yourself out there as a thought leader, speaker and blogger. Project yourself into areas where you are an expert and you’ll meet people you otherwise wouldn’t have met. This also enables you to position yourself in the press as someone with valuable information about your industry and that positions you for the next client relationship. It also enhances your ability to attract talent. If no one knows your there, they can’t pursue you.


3.  Work on the business rather than in it.

Some of us, myself included, early on tended to think that no one could do the job better than us. Instead, find people who share your values and vision and make them a part of your enterprise. In our last annual meeting, business owners went around the room updating everyone on what was happening with their businesses. The first thing a third of the alumni of our program said was, ‘I just hired my COO’ or “I just hired my CFO’—this is their right hand. And there was this tremendous sense of relief. These women got to the point where they realized they needed more talent to accomplish their objectives and when they found the right person, it was liberating. Now that they have someone who has their hands on the controls, they are free to envision what’s next and put those pieces in place. That’s important, because you can’t grow if you can’t see where you’re going.


4.  Have an advisory board.

We are all the products of our experiences but at the end of the day, you need a lot of experience to be successful and you don’t necessarily need to hire it all. You don’t have to have a huge management team, but assemble an advisory board of those with high-quality experience to have by your side.





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