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Survey reveals how female small business owners measure success

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One in four female small business owners has taken a pay cut in the past year, according to new research.

The survey of 1,000 female small business owners examined how their experience has shifted in the past year and found that the down economy has forced a quarter of these business owners to cut their own pay to keep their businesses afloat.

1,000 female small business owners were surveyed. Talker Research

For those small businesses that have been open for at least a year, many have also raised the price of their product or service (37%), and more than a quarter are actively seeking less expensive resources (27%).

Conducted by Talker Research for Office Depot, the survey found that 53% of female business owners said the past year has been the hardest for their business.

1 in 4 female small business owners had to take a pay cut last year. Talker Research

In 2023, respondents expressed challenges with funding (42%) and growing their business (30%), which continue to be the top struggles this year (39% and 30% respectively).

Experiencing fatigue was more of a pain point last year (23%), while marketing is proving to be a greater challenge this year (25%).

However, hard work has paid off for many female small business owners this year, allowing them to reach their 2023 goals: growing profit (goal of 59%, achieved by 26%), gaining more customers (goal of 53%, achieved by 41%) and expanding their business (goal of 28%, achieved by 12%).

And to keep the momentum going, respondents predict they’ll continue to uplevel and succeed through continued revenue growth (63%), gaining more customers (54%) and business expansion (27%).

But success is also about a lot more than dollars and cents. Twenty-one percent of respondents said success is all about making a positive impact in their community and a fifth (21%) included innovation as a success marker.

53% say this has been their hardest year so far. Talker Research

And while the next year looks to be more positive for female small business owners, there will still be challenges to overcome, with inflation (39%) and funding (25%) serving as the top concerns.

To overcome these challenges, female SBOs are throwing themselves into their work more often — but how much is too much?

Work-life balance improvements have slowed by 15% since last year, as only this year, 58% said their work-life balance has improved since becoming a business owner, compared to 73% who said the same last year.

58% say their work life balance has improved since becoming a business owner. Talker Research

Women surveyed feel they need to choose between their family and their profession multiple times every month, while one in eight feel this way every week.

And overall, 42% said being a business owner has made it more difficult to balance their outside work responsibilities.

To better balance their work and family life, those surveyed are committed to “cutting back on working hours,” “taking time for quiet reflection” and “being willing to take a day off as necessary.”

18% of female business owners believe they have more opportunities than men. Talker Research

For respondents who set up their business in the last year, top reasons include wanting to be one’s own boss (59%), deciding to pursue a passion or hobby (46%) and drive to put an idea into action (41%).

“The number of women entrepreneurs has grown significantly in recent years, and it is our privilege to support these business owners so they can position themselves for future growth,” said Kevin Moffitt, executive vice president of The ODP Corporation and president of Office Depot. “Small business is the cornerstone of this country. Our goal is to help every small business succeed.”

One in six also shared that compared to this time last year, they are less confident in the long-term health of their business and lack confidence in their abilities.

Female business owners predict a 63% revenue boost next year. Talker Research

For many, dealing with difficulties around being a female business owner is the source of this uncertainty, as less than a fifth (18%) of respondents believe they have more opportunities available to them than men.

To help combat this uncertainty, respondents will buckle down and consider their finances (74%), time/work-life balance (59%) and mental health (46%) when setting goals.

“The most successful small business owners are those who have identified the support — employees, vendors, partners, etc. — whom they can trust to keep things moving forward so they can focus on other parts of their lives,” said Moffitt.

59% wanted to be their own boss. Talker Research

CHALLENGES FEMALE SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS FACED

2023 STUDY                   2024 STUDY

1. Lack of funds — 42%           1. Lack of funds — 39%

2. Difficulty growing — 30%       2. Difficulty growing — 30%

3. Fatigue — 23%                 3. Marketing — 25%

4. Work-life balance — 23%       4. Fatigue — 23%

5. Money management — 22%  5. Networking — 20%

53% of female business owners measure success by gaining more clientele. mavoimages – stock.adobe.com

HOW FEMALE SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS MEASURE SUCCESS

  2023 STUDY  2024 STUDY

1. Growing revenue/profit — 59%  1. Growing revenue/profit — 63%

2. Gaining more clientele/customers — 53% 2. Gaining more clientele/custom — 53%

3. Scale and expand the business — 28% 3. Scale and expand the business — 27%

4. Making a positive impact in my community — 21%     4. Making a positive impact in my community — 25%

5. Increased brand recognition — 21%                  5. Increased brand recognition — 20%

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 1,000 female small business owners (half of whom are minorities) was commissioned by Office Depot between April 3 and April 12, 2024. It was conducted by market research company Talker Research, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society (MRS) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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