Success Begets Success: The Ongoing Impact of the Women's Business Ownership Act | NAWBO

This year, NAWBO members proudly stand united in celebrating the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Women's Business Ownership Act (H.R. 5050), and in honoring the legacy of those women who ended the history of discriminatory and anticompetitive policies regarding women entrepreneurism.

Women today would be rightfully infuriated to have a bank deny them a startup or business expansion loan, or to be rejected by a potential investor just because of gender—especially after learning that less-qualified men received funding with far fewer hurdles. Yet that was exactly what women faced prior to H.R. 5050.

If NAWBO had not helped drive the passage of H.R. 5050 in 1988, the climate for today’s women business owners would look very different. This bill ordered the U.S. Small Business Administration to put more focus on aiding women-owned businesses and ensured greater access to business loans. More than ever, NAWBO continues the work of joining and amplifying women’s voices so we are heard and heeded at all levels of government and business leadership.

 

Support for Women-Owned Businesses Has Inspired More Female Entrepreneurs

Women have received increasing support from governmental agencies created and funded by H.R. 5050 as well as subsequent laws that expanded that foundation. Coupled with continuing support from non-governmental organizations like NAWBO, more women have been empowered to run their own businesses. In fact, the number of women-owned businesses has increased dramatically in the past 30 years from around 5 million to over 12 million. The percent of U.S. businesses that are women-owned climbed from 28% in 1990 to 38% in 2016.  

The strength of women working together remains crucial, and success begets more success. We must continue elevating women into positions of leadership where they can push more investment towards other women. Our individual success grows when we combine our voice with others: we are better together. The stories of two of our members, Hazel King and Edie Comminos, bring that principle to life.

 

NAWBO Members’ Successes Support and Inspire Other Women Business Owners

King Helped Boost Women-Owned Businesses in Illinois

Hazel King started her business in 1986, providing marketing communications services to small businesses. Shortly after the enactment of H.R. 5050, several Chicago NAWBO members, including King and Michele Kurlander, sat down and used the national law as the basis for drafting a similar law for the State of Illinois. Among other things, the law established the Illinois Women’s Business Council, on which King and Diana Conley both served as Chair.

The Councils created at both federal and state levels gathered data on the economic value of women-owned businesses and reported on the barriers facing women business owners (e.g., access to loans and government contracts). The women who participated in these early efforts prodded all levels of government to break down barriers and open more opportunities to women.

 

Comminos Succeeded with Knowledge Sharing and Relationships

After buying and selling industrial metal scrap as an employee for 15 years, Edie Comminos got tired of making money for other people. In 2004, unable to qualify for a business loan, she took out a $100,000 line of credit against her home to found Alpha Metal Recycling, hardening her resolve by telling herself that failure was not an option.

Not long after, her bank noticed her steady stream of $100,000+ deposits and offered her a business loan. Comminos had not heard of the Women’s Business Ownership Act, and neither, apparently, had the lender. When the bank told her to take the loan papers home and have her husband co-sign them, she was indignant. (Yes, this was in 2004.) “I told them, ‘If I were a man and my wife was a homemaker, you wouldn’t ask for her signature.’ I also pointed out that the company was a marital asset and that my husband’s signature was redundant.” The bank wouldn’t change their stance, so Comminos walked away from that deal on principle.

Today, Alpha Metal Recycling has 18 employees and gross sales in excess of ten million dollars a year. Alpha recently became a certified WBE to help their customers meet supplier diversity goals, and Comminos knows she can leverage that certification as she continues to grow her business.

 

We Are Better Together

Many doors were opened in 1988, improving the environment for WBEs and creating new opportunities for future generations of women business owners. Today, NAWBO continues to bring women together to amplify our voices to ensure that we keep opening more doors for women business owners in the future.

To honor H.R. 5050 being signed into legislation on October 25, please show your support by dressing in bright colors and white gloves. Post your pictures to NAWBO Chicago on Facebook using #HR5050.

If you are not already a member of NAWBO Chicago, please join your voice with the voices of all women business owners, because we are all better together.

 

About the National Women’s Business Ownership Act

H.R. 5050 had three major outcomes:

 

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