The Advantages and Challenges of Women Business Owners

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Utah is no stranger to women-led businesses.

The early pioneers came and settled in the Utah valley in 1847. In 1872, the women of The Relief Society created and produced the Woman’s Exponent, a newspaper that came out twice a month.

Now, 150 years later, the Utah Women-Owned Business Directory reports that women own roughly 89,000 businesses in Utah. If businesses were people, they would be able to fill the BYU Marriott Center a little more than four-and-a-half times.

BYU professor Lisa Jones Christensen has 20 years of entrepreneurship experience. She got her start working for startups in Silicon Valley and is now the faculty advisor for the Women Entrepreneurs program at BYU.

Jones Christensen said being part of the growth and excitement of working with Silicon Valley startups led her to eventually see how entrepreneurship could help women get out of poverty with microloans.

Left to right, Emily Anderson Morford, Nia Sherwood, Minhoru Cotache, Afton Ellis, Sofia Tian and Kyla Harris, leadership of the Women in Entrepreneurship Club, walk down the stairs in the Tanner Building. Women in Utah experience the advantages and challenges of owning a business. (Photo Courtesy of BYU Women in Entrepreneurship Club)

“Research shows that it’s more difficult for women to get funding for new businesses than men,” Jones Christensen said.

According to Jones Christensen, when women present a business proposal to investors, they are often asked about the risks or the possibility of failure. However, when men present a business proposal, they are often asked how they will handle the possibility of growth. 

However, there are advantages to being a female business owner. 

“This is the season of the woman,” Jones Christensen said. “There is more money, support and advice being offered [for women in business] than ever before.”

Women sit and talk during a Women in Entrepreneurship Club event. Women in Utah experience the advantages and challenges of owning a business. (Photo Courtesy of BYU Women in Entrepreneurship Club)

In 2018 and 2019, Utah was ranked the No. 1 state for entrepreneurs. According to Forbes, Utah is a great place to start a business because of its “healthy labor supply, favorable regulatory environment and opportunities for economic growth.”

Rylee Jacobson, the owner (along with her husband) of Lovely Loops said Utah is a great place for entrepreneurs because the influencer culture is so active on social media platforms.

Mikayla Cluxton is the president of the Women in Entrepreneurship Club (W.E.) at BYU. She said what makes Utah unique is that “all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are entrepreneurs and it sets BYU apart.” Members of the Church are taught to help others which is part of the entrepreneurial principles.

The shared commonality with religion also plays into Utah’s uniqueness, Jacobson said. You don’t have to be independent. 

“The teachings from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that men and women are equal and can rely on each other is powerful,” she said. It is not uncommon to see companies in Utah that are run by both the husband and wife. 

The leadership of the Women in Entrepreneurship Club pose for a photo in the Tanner Building. Women in Utah experience the advantages and challenges of owning a business. (Photo Courtesy of BYU Women in Entrepreneurship Club)

Along with being the program advisor, Jones Christensen is also the faculty advisor for the Women in Entrepreneurship Club at BYU. The club’s mission statement states that entrepreneurship skills are about making something from nothing and they are the same skills that help run a home, survive a crisis and be resilient.

“Being an entrepreneur and creating is a God-given thing, it’s God-like,” Jones Christensen said.

BYU’s Women in Entrepreneurship Club outlines their mission, vision and goals. Women in Utah experience the advantages and challenges of owning a business. (Graphic Courtesy of BYU Women in Entrepreneurship Club)

Cluxton said the goal of the Women in Entrepreneurship Club is to inspire women and to help them in their ventures whether that is now or later in life. The club’s top goal on their priority pyramid is to help “women with ventures.” However, Cluxton said they know that means starting at the base, which is helping women become aware of available entrepreneurship opportunities.

Cluxton said entrepreneurial principles can be found throughout all parts of life. Women are always trying to solve problems for their families. “Thinking of and creating Halloween costumes is a great example of being creative” which is important to being an entrepreneur, she said.

In her entrepreneurial experience, Cluxton has practiced empathy interviews, which are about solving problems for people that are not typically listened to. “Empathy is something that comes easy to women” and so it’s an advantage and talent that women bring to the entrepreneurial space, she said.

Cluxton said this empathy also helps women to be good leaders, because they know what they need to be happy and they apply it to the lives of their workers. It also connects to the Church’s teaching to serve others, which can be seen in the philanthropic work of local businesses like ThreadWallet, she said.

The leadership of the Women in Entrepreneurship Club sit on a couch and talk together. Women in Utah experience the advantages and challenges of owning a business. (Photos Courtesy of BYU Women in Entrepreneurship Club)

The Women in Entrepreneurship Club is important because “women have aspirations based on the people they see around them,” Cluxton said. “It’s why so many young girls hope to be teachers or nurses, it’s what they see, and so that’s what they strive for rather than chasing after any dream they want.”

Cluxton said that due to job aspirations based on others, “young girls and women need to see themselves in more roles.” Additionally, not only does this increase in roles inspire girls but studies show that more diverse companies perform better.

Cluxton has also had her share of experiences where people have told her she should be a CEO, so the businesses she would be prospectively running can receive grants. She said it completely dismisses the qualifications and values that she brings to the table.

Women are not getting ahead “simply because they are the minority,” Cluxton said.

Rylee Jacobson, owner of Lovely Loops, poses for a photo featuring the earrings she makes. Women in Utah experience the advantages and challenges of owning a business. (Rylee Jacobson)

Jacobson said she has always been a “simple girl with accessories”— simple gold. However, one day she said she saw someone’s earrings that were fun and made with lots of beads, but still looked classy.

That same day, Jacobson said she went home and made some for herself, but with aspects of her own style — pearls and gold. She said she received many compliments and knew she wanted to do something about it.

One of the advantages of being a woman in business that Jacobson said she has experienced, is how easy it is to have casual conversations about her business.

“Women tend to be very social, so networking comes pretty easy,” she said.

A woman models earrings for Lovely Loops. Women in Utah experience the advantages and challenges of owning a business. (Rylee Jacobson)

Jacobson said she loves using social media to connect with people.

“My product is very light and fun, and so I try to portray that in my social media posts,” she said. “And I like to use social media to connect with my audience.”

According to business and finance resource, Renolon, 77.6% of small businesses “utilize social media to engage with their customers and promote business.” 

A mom wears earrings by Lovely Loops and plays with her baby. Women in Utah experience the advantages and challenges of owning a business. (Rylee Jacobson)

“I will feature mothers because sometimes they fear their baby will rip their earrings out, and then I receive DMs from mothers saying how surprised they are,” Jacobson said.

Although she finds a lot of joy in connecting with followers on social media, she said that she doesn’t have much background in social media marketing and sometimes it feels like she’s in a stalemate, wondering how to grow and keep progressing.

While learning the ins and outs of social media can be challenging, Jacobson said one of her biggest challenges is not from being a woman, but specifically being a young woman.

“Being a newly married wife, people often see this as a side hobby rather than a serious business,” Jacobson said. 

Despite the lack of respect by some, Jacobson said getting to share with others is the best part of what she does.

If someone is thinking about starting a business Jacobson said they should “prioritize and pursue.” 

“Life isn’t going to be perfect, and running a business isn’t going to be perfect, but life responds so well to effort,” she said.

When life has a positive response to effort, it does not necessarily mean your business is making a million dollars in a month. But, it can mean noticing the blessings that come from working hard.

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