Small is big: Women are thriving on their own terms

 January 08, 2020

"Though she be but little, she is fierce!"

A famous quote from William Shakespeare that's now true of women owning and running micro-businesses - and it's women, not men, who are often dominating the micro-business world, according to smallbizgenius.

Micro-businesses are by definition small - with only up to nine employees, and often just run by one person - but they're certainly making a big global impact, including massive contributions to world economies.

A report from the International Labour Organization: 'Small Matters: Global evidence on the contribution to employment by the self-employed, micro-enterprises and SMEs', states that in high-income countries 58 per cent of total employment is from small businesses. Across Europe, micro-businesses make up half of small businesses. According to the International Labour Organization, in emerging and developing economies, over two-thirds of total employment is from small businesses.

It's a trend that could keep growing - thanks to the changing workplace landscape and new technologies.

Lots of people want to make that leap from employee to entrepreneur - eight out of ten people, in fact, according to a study done by AXA Business Intelligence

Meeting entrepreneurial opportunities

There might be a good reason why women are starting more successful micro-businesses. Studies show that women are better at spotting entrepreneurial opportunities than men. According to The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 'Women’s Report', in developed economies women are over 3.5 times more likely to start businesses of opportunity rather than necessity.

Meanwhile, research from British Chamber of Commerce concludes that women are better at seeing gaps in the market than men, creating innovative products, and using technology in their businesses.

Economic independence 

Lumen Learning states that owning own a business gives people greater economic independence and higher financial rewards than working for someone else. Without these income restraints, entrepreneurs can often hit much higher incomes.

Moving from freelancer to founder

When business is booming as a freelancer, and a woman has years of experience behind her, working for someone else could be restrictive to true success.

There could be limit to how much freelancers can grow their client base and how much they charge. As a micro-business owner, this limit is often removed and the possibilities could be endless.

Forbes quotes Seth Godin when defining the difference between freelancer and entrepreneur: "Freelancers get paid for their work. If you're a freelance copywriter, you get paid when you work. Entrepreneurs use other people's money to build a business bigger than themselves so that they can get paid when they sleep.”

A healthy and happy balance

With a greater focus on the importance of good mental and physical health, many women are becoming aware of the damaging effects of some workplace environments. The long commute, the late hours, being inside an office. Women are looking towards new ways to work while also being happy and healthy. 

This increased satisfaction was confirmed by a survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal and Cicco and Associates Inc. that shows small-business owners agree that small-business owners “are more satisfied with their work than their corporate executive counterparts.”

Taking control of work

Micro-businesses can help women achieve their desired work/life balance because of the all-important flexibility. Owning a micro-business means women can be their own boss. They have complete control over when, where, and how often they work. Less stress, less demands on their time means a healthier and happier state of mind.

Finding time for friends and family

In a traditional 9 to 5 job, especially one that might demand longer hours, it can be hard for women to find time for friends and family. With the flexibility of micro-businesses, female entrepreneurs can make their loved ones a priority, which is a great boost for wellbeing and overall happiness.

This is why a lot of women are starting their own businesses, especially mothers who want to stay at home to raise a family, according to The Sun. Thanks to the internet, and the rising success of micro businesses, this is all possible, and it's creating a more gender-equal world where women don't have to choose between personal and professional aspirations.

Creative freedom to innovate 

Owning a micro-business can be one of the most creative approaches to work.  Women who are innovators and big-picture thinkers might find it constrictive and stifling to concede to upper management. With a micro-business, women have the freedom to follow their own ideas - and enjoy the success and rewards first-hand when these ideas work. 

And it's women who are most likely to have a creative and innovative approach to business. According to Forbes, women are creating and selling new, innovative products at the same rate as their male counterparts.

"Supporting women’s aspirations to innovate could be an important means of creating businesses with a competitive edge, and those with novel solutions to improve people’s lives," says Donna Kelley, Babson College Professor and author of the Global Entrepreneurship 2014 Women’s Report.

Increased reponsiblity could be a big worry for people thinking of starting their own business, however running your own business leads to an increase in skills learning, according to AXA.

Many groups of people are needed to run a business - marketing, sales, finance, and so on. A micro-business owner has to fit all these roles, until they have the money to delegate. This leads to a variety of new skills, approaches, and opportunities, all which can be based on their own interests and passions.

Motivated by interests and passions

According to Forbes journalist and micro-business owner David Howell, it's this focus on interests and passions that makes micro-business owners happy in their jobs. 

Working for someone else sometimes creates a distance between the employee and the product or service they are selling; owning the company, especially if it’s a small one, generally makes people happier about what they’re doing. With this closeness to the end product comes stronger, more personal relationships with customers and clients, which can also be hugely rewarding. 

Passion for their job is what’s going to get women up in the morning. It’s what’s going to make them work harder. It’s what’s going to truly drive business success.

Following entrepreneurial dreams

When women think of microbusinesses, it’s often the creative industries that come to mind, such as photographers, writers, and web designers. However, according to Guidant Financial's report on small business trends, the most popular industries for microbusinesses are business, food, health and beauty, all in line with modern trends. 

Micro-businesses can be easy and affordable to set up – it usually needs the owner and a few resources. Many are online and based at home, so often there is no need to rent office space.

Timing is often crucial. Women need to be mentally and financially prepared and have enough motivation, confidence and enthusiasm to embrace the highs and the lows.  

Often women start their micro-businesses home, running it alongside their current job. If it takes off, they can make a full-time career out of being an entrepreneur.

There are over 582 million entrepreneurs in the world - could you be next?


IWD Toolkit

Join the global IWD Community