Apparently, women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men. That statistic has caught the eye of none other than Microsoft which is teaming up with a bunch of small business experts in a series of conferences kicking off this week in five cities across the country just for women to network and learn. Men, go watch some basketball.According to the Center for Women's Business Research, for "the past two decades, majority women-owned firms have continued to grow at around two times the rate of all firms (42 percent vs. 24 percent)." This has prompted Microsoft Office Live Small Business to team up with a bunch of small-business experts -- like author Susan Wilson Solovic, radio personality Rich Sloan, and Internet marketing expert John Jantsch -- to put together a conference series called "Vision to Venture."
The conferences will be held across the country -- St. Louis, San Diego, Miami, Austin, and Seattle -- for $59 per person. (Portions of the proceeds will be donated to Dress for Success.) There will be an on-demand Webcast for those who can't attend, starting in mid-May.
What are the issues unique to women in smaller businesses? According to Slovic, "some of the challenges women entrepreneurs have are not being able to articulate their vision in a big way."
She says: "Women as a rule do not flaunt their style or success. Don't be afraid to think big and bold. If you were in an elevator and had only 30 seconds to pitch a potential customer or client or patient -- what would you say to intrigue them?" Among her recommendations to women entrepreneurs is to find an experienced mentor.
Sloan notes that women entrepreneurs are usually "balancing work, family and volunteering." His advice is that in addition to a business plan, women entrepreneurs need a "life plan."
Jantsch's focus is on getting to know the customers -- and he recommends blogging as a way to do that. "Blogging is becoming one of the most powerful trust- and traffic-building tools that any small- business owner can tap, whether you want to attract customers from around the world or around the block," he says.
There probably will be more advice at the conference -- as well as the chance to meet other women entrepreneurs. It's no longer a man's world -- the rate at which women are staring businesses is no better indication of that -- but sometimes it's nice to just be with your own kind.