Co-authored by: Anni Proctor (BIC and Go Code Colorado Program Manager, Colorado Department of State) and Kanitha Heng Snow (Director of Partnerships and Programs, Energize Colorado)
Colorado is a prime state for women in entrepreneurship. We embody a growing infrastructure that supports women entrepreneurs with the assistance from government, nonprofit, community-based organizations, and ecosystem leaders. Brick and mortar shops, mom and pop restaurants, solopreneurs, and tech startups owned and run by women can all thrive in Colorado. (1)
Here are seven key stats to know about women-owned businesses in Colorado:
- For the third year in a row, Colorado has held the No. 1 spot for women-led startups, with Boulder and Denver serving as strong hubs. (2)
- Women-owned businesses account for 45% (244,479) of businesses in Colorado (compared to 42% nationally). (3)
- 29.2% of employer firms in Colorado are led by women. (4)
- Women dominate the industries of child care services (94%), beauty salons (90%), Home health care (89%), and skilled nursing (88%) among other health related industries. (7)
- Grand Junction was ranked the third best city in the U.S. for women to launch careers. (2)
- The Denver-Aurora-Lakewood area ranked as the No. 2 major U.S. metro area with the most female business owners. (2)
- Around $3.3 billion has been allotted to Colorado’s women-led startups over the last five years. (8)
A BRIEF HISTORY
While women in business have received a significant boost in support over the last few years, the history of women in entrepreneurship, especially as it relates to access to capital, can’t be overlooked.
Women have only had a guaranteed right to access capital, including a personal bank loan, in the past 40 years. In 1988, Congress passed The Women’s Business Ownership Act. This piece of legislation ended legal discrimination in financial lending and eliminated state laws requiring married women to have a husband co-sign for all loans. It also gave women the chance to go after big government contracts. During a time when the job market looked unfavorably to women post-divorce, women turned to building their own businesses. (6) Soon after the Women’s Business Ownership Act was enacted, women owned 25 percent of all U.S. firms.
Fast forward to today, women own 42% of all U.S. firms, or 13 million businesses. In Colorado, women own 45%, or nearly 250,000, businesses. Nearly 86,000 of these businesses are also BIPOC owned. (7, 9)
Many of the industries led by women owners and entrepreneurs provide essential services from which everyone benefits. (8) Women lead child care services (94%), beauty salons (90%), home health care (89%), and skilled nursing (88%), among other health related industries.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we were reminded of just how essential these occupations and industries are, and some organizations really stepped up to provide the necessary financial support to women-owned businesses – both the more traditional small businesses (at Energize Colorado, we think of as 25 employees or fewer), and tech startups. Sixty nine percent of the funding provided through Energize Colorado’s Gap Fund grant program, which deployed $41 million statewide, supported women-owned businesses, and 66% of the 2022 low-interest loan program funded women-owned businesses. (10)
FUNDING AND SUPPORT FOR WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESSES IN COLORADO
There has been a rise in community organizations who are intentionally implementing programs to support women-owned businesses in Colorado, including BIPOC and women-led businesses.
Colorado also has a network of mission-based nonprofit lending organizations that focus on funding entrepreneurs who are not yet ready for a traditional bank loan. These organizations are more flexible with their requirements.
- Energize Colorado – Loans up to $75k for new and existing businesses with access to free education
- CEDS Finance – Immigrant, Refugee and Murabaha Investments
- Colorado Enterprise Fund – Loans up to $1M
- First Southwest Bank – Loans for Rural-Owned Businesses
- Kiva – Crowdfunding for loans up to $15k at 0% interest
- B:Side Capital – SBA Loans and loans up to $150k
- RMMFI – Provides educational programming that includes access to capital
Colorado also has several revolving loan funds focused on supporting specific audiences.
- Energize Community Program
- Rural Women Program from First Southwest
- Prairie Development Corporation (Region 5)
- Southeastern Colorado Enterprise Development (SECED) (Region 6)
- San Luis Valley (Region 8)
- Economic Development District of SW CO (Region 9)
- League of Economic Assistance and Planning / Community Living Services (Region 10)
- Western Colorado Business Development Corp. (Region 11)
- Upper Arkansas Area Development Corp (Region 13)
- North Eastern Colorado Revolving Loan Fund
- Energize Community Program
- Colorado Startups
- Denver South Entrepreneurial Support
- Founders Institute
- Denver Start Up Week
- Outgrow Your Garage
Technical Assistance Organizations
- Mile High United Way
- Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce
- SecondAct Women
- Mi Casa Resource Center
- Access Mode
- Adelante Community Development
Read more about the organizations above by clicking here.
- Check out the resources across the state that are available to women entrepreneurs (filter to “women” under Communities of Interest)
- Join the Women-Owned Business Online Community to connect with entrepreneurs across the state and get resources you need when you need it
THE FUTURE IS FUNDING WOMEN IN COLORADO
We are making progress as a state to fund women-owned small businesses and startups, but we still have a lot of work to do.
Looking at the industries dominated by women in comparison to the industries dominated by men (construction, transportation, and automotive repair, among others), women earn 86 cents for every dollar a man makes. At the current rate, women will not receive equal pay until 2057, or another 34 years. (11)
While more venture capital funding is being directed to women-led startups, we are not where we need to be. According to a recent state-by-state analysis by Crunchbase, 13% of capital raised over the last three years went to startups in Colorado with at least one female founder. The average across all states was 11%. We need more venture capital firms run by women to make significant changes. Venture capital firms with female partners are more likely to invest in women-run startups. According to a Babson report, however, that accounts for only 6% of U.S. firms. (11) But more than just venture capital firms, we need the entire ecosystem to get involved – including government, industry partners, mission-based lenders, revolving loan funds, technical assistance providers, higher education institutions, and our entrepreneurial leaders.
Let’s ensure that women have the social support that they need to overcome challenges like building their businesses in a male-dominated VC world. Let’s change what the organizations that fund look like to reflect the entrepreneurs who need the support to grow. Let’s step up our game and provide advisors and mentors to support professional growth for women entrepreneurs, knowing that this is essential for entrepreneurial success.
Keep going, keep going – we have work to do.
- Contributor, L. W. (2016, May 20). Colorado brandvoice: A place to take risks: Why colorado ranks high for women entrepreneurs. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/colorado/2016/05/20/a-place-to-take-risks-why-colorado-ranks-high-for-women-entrepreneurs/?sh=2bef75ca5f5b
- Anderson, G. (n.d.). Colorado named top state for women-led startups. Colorado Springs Business Journal. Retrieved May 11, 2023, from https://www.csbj.com/news/colorado-named-top-state-for-women-led-startups/article_583f0ba6-6f27-11ec-a3ea-6b7c8b163388.html
- “Truly inspiring”: In Colorado, women are finding success starting businesses, leading workers. (2023, February 10). The Denver Post. https://www.denverpost.com/2023/02/10/colorado-women-business-startups-leaders/#:~:text=Almost%2045%25%20of%20Colorado%27s%20small
- Bureau, U. C. (2021, January 28). Data on Minority-Owned, Veteran-Owned and Women-Owned Businesses. The United States Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2021/annual-business-survey.html
- Staff, B. P. C. (2019, November 25). The Future of Work: Education & Workforce Gaps Affecting Colorado Women. The Bell Policy Center. https://www.bellpolicy.org/2019/11/25/future-of-work-colorado-women/
- LaFalce, J. J. (1988, October 25). H.R.5050 – 100th Congress (1987-1988): Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988. Www.congress.gov. https://www.congress.gov/bill/100th-congress/house-bill/5050
- Enns, C. (2019, September 29). Top 10 Industries for U.S. Women Business Owners. The Story Exchange. https://thestoryexchange.org/top-10-industries-for-u-s-women-business-owners
- 41+ Women in Business Statistics | Incfile. (n.d.). Www.incfile.com. https://www.incfile.com/blog/women-in-business-statistics
- Charatan, D. L. (2016, May 4). 30 Years of Female Entrepreneurship: From Anomalies To Assets. Entrepreneur. https://www.entrepreneur.com/leadership/30-years-of-female-entrepreneurship-from-anomalies-to/270095
- NW, 1615 L. S., Suite 800 Washington, & Inquiries, D. 20036USA202-419-4300 | M.-8.-8. | F.-4.-4. | M. (n.d.). The financial risk to U.S. business owners posed by COVID-19 outbreak varies by demographic group. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/04/23/the-financial-risk-to-u-s-business-owners-posed-by-covid-19-outbreak-varies-by-demographic-group/
- “Profits of Women-Owned Businesses Jumped 27% in 2022: Biz2Credit Study.” Plus Company Updates, 11 Mar. 2023, p. NA. Gale Business: Insights, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A740945930/GBIB?u=denver&sid=bookmark-GBIB&xid=0d169c5a