There are more than 27 million small businesses in the U.S., and they employ 50% of the working population. According to a 2014 study by American Express, women are starting companies at twice the rate of men, though they still only account for less than 30% of the market (and only employ 6% of the U.S. workforce). There are a few things holding female entrepreneurs back: smaller startup capital, lower gains (female-run businesses make 25 cents to the dollar what male-run businesses earn), and difficulty securing loans. But, every day, more resources become available to encourage and enable women to take the plunge. Small Business Week is wrapping up, but for Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec, the cause isn’t relegated to a single week a year. As an investor on one of ABC’s biggest shows, he regularly encourages and gives money to small business owners from around the country. This makes him an obvious fit to promote the Small Business Revolution, which is sponsored by Deluxe Corporation and offering one small business a $25,000 grand prize.
The Small Business Revolution is profiling 100 small businesses from across the country — everything from wedding dress stores to Paleo food trucks — in a series of documentaries and photo essays. We had a chance to talk to Herjavec about the endeavour the day after his untimely Dancing With The Stars elimination. While we couldn’t get him to admit that women make better CEOs than men (something his costar Kevin O’Leary thinks), he did have some advice for young women looking to launch their own companies. “Before you start a business, become great at something because the market doesn’t reward mediocrity...the market pays for expertise,” he says. “So, before you can sell expertise, you have to be an expert.” While some might interpret that to mean you need to log some hours in an office before you attempt to start your own business, Herjavec says that sometimes launching the company is the experience. Once you get the ball rolling, the serial entrepreneur thinks the best way to find success is through sales — that’s the magic ingredient for every thriving business. Want to win at Shark Tank? Have a killer presentation. “Sales is key to any business,” Herjevac says. “You can survive with a bad accountant. You can survive with bad production for a short amount of time, but you’re going to die without sales. People need to sell themselves. Before you can sell your business, you have to be able to sell yourself.” If you’re inspired to join the millions of lady bosses in the U.S., there are several places to get advice. One good place to start is the Small Business Administration’s website. The section on women-owned businesses is filled with information about securing loans and licenses, local resources, and inspiring stories of successful female entrepreneurs. And, if you know a small business that might benefit from a $25,000 prize, you can nominate it on the Small Business Revolution website.