None of us go into entrepreneurship knowing absolutely everything we need to succeed. We have an idea, motivation, and ambition, but we may not know much about bookkeeping or supply chain management or regulatory compliance. And that’s okay. All of those are skills that you can learn or manage.
Better yet, you no longer have to go to school to get that information. In the age of the Internet, almost everything you need to know is just a few clicks away. Tutorials, networking tools, professional memberships, applications for loans and grants, and more are all available online. And many of these valuable resources are free!
These are our top picks for the best free online networks, communities, educational tools, and news sources for women entrepreneurs:
1. Office of Women’s Business Ownership
The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Women’s Business Ownership heads up the national network of Women’s Business Centers (WBCs). These government-supported centers number almost 100 nationwide. Each center provides women business owners with training, education, and support for their entrepreneurial aspirations. According to their website, “WBCs seek to level the playing field for women entrepreneurs, who still face unique obstacles in the business world.”
The WBC offers tons of great online resources on everything from basic bookkeeping skills to managing a commercial lease to handling employment issues.
2. Women Entrepreneur
Entrepreneur magazine is a rich resource of current business trends, resources, and news. Women Entrepreneur is their online section catering to the relevant topics impacting women entrepreneurs.
Sadly, women-owned businesses are still at a disadvantage compared to male-owned businesses. This resource can help you navigate the issues that are specific to women-owned businesses (like the fact that it’s harder to get traditional loans and other funding) and figure out ways to level the playing field.
3. Mompreneur Center
Another great resource is Entrepreneur magazine’s site for “mompreneurs.” Articles on this site cover topics ranging from work-life balance to business ideas to success stories from moms who are making their own entrepreneurial dreams come true.
Starting your own businesses can give you the opportunity to work from home or otherwise be more flexible with family time – and that’s really valuable! However, it’s not something you’re going to learn in school or in a traditional workplace. Balancing kids and a business is hard and this is a great place to look for tips on how to make it all work together.
4. The Women’s Venture Fund
This nonprofit focuses on developing businesses in underserved and urban communities. The Women’s Venture Fund supports diversity in business by offering both funding and business advice to women entrepreneurs in urban areas.
Women-owned businesses are already at a disadvantage compared to their male-owned counterparts and the difference is especially severe in urban and minority-dominated areas. The Women’s Venture Fund offers helpful information on available funding and opportunities in your area.
5. National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC)
Certification as a women-owned company can help small businesses compete for contracts and funding. The NWBOC helps women business owners certify their businesses so they can have greater business opportunities. This organization has a broad national reach as well as a full roster of valuable contacts.
You can register on their website and use that certification to help you qualify for grants and other opportunities.
6. National Organization of Women Business Owners (NAWBO)
The National Organization of Women Business Owners shares articles, resources, and links through their online database. This is generally advised by women entrepreneurs for women entrepreneurs, so their tales from the trenches can give you a really good sense of what you’ll need to do to make your business successful.
Those resources are free, but you also have the opportunity to pay a small yearly fee to get access to in-person events and other benefits.
7. American Business Women’s Association (ABWA)
The American Business Women’s Association provides leadership, education, and networking support. Their site provides free links to news, trends, social media updates, and job postings. This organization also focuses on women’s social issues and outreach impacting female entrepreneurs.
This is a great place to go if you’re interested in developing practical, relevant business skills. They “encourage all national members to practice business skills like public speaking, facilitating a meeting, marketing, selling or writing a business plan by participating in a local ABWA group in their community.” Member meetings are held each month. According to their site, more than “15,000 business/networking meetings are hosted each year in more than 300 cities across the nation.”
In addition to the free resources, you have the option to pay a small fee to attend in-person conferences and networking events.
8. Women’s Home Business
Women’s Home Business aggregates trending topics pertinent to women entrepreneurs who own or want to start up home-based businesses. The resources highlight a range of topics – from success stories to home business ideas to career tips – for the female work-at-home entrepreneur. The site also provides links to specific woman-at-home business ideas.
Take Advantage of These Great Resources
Women entrepreneurs are making their mark on the face of business. One of the toughest parts of starting up a new business is learning the ropes and educating oneself. The Internet is rich with free, valuable content for female entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses. In fact, many organizations and websites exist solely to help women get ahead in the world of entrepreneurship. Start with our curated list and then branch out from there on relevant topics to help you start-up, run, or expand your women-owned business.
Thank you to the Coca-Cola Foundation for supporting Accion in expanding economic opportunity for women business owners.