You can start up in any area that you love and that are confident will make you a profit, but it can be hard to know exactly which industries offer the best opportunities for female founders. The good news? We've found nine to get you started. By Holly Mangan (Managing Editor, Money Crashers)
Nearly eight million businesses in the U.S.are owned by women, and woman-owned businesses are expected to account for one-third of all new jobs created by the year 2018. Additionally, there are a good number of female CEOs and influential business women leading large corporations.
In spite of the encouraging numbers, women do face many obstacles that men simply do not encounter. For example, even though the growth-rate of women-owned businesses continues to exceed the growth rate of all other businesses, total revenues only represent 4% of those generated in the private sector.
The obstacles in place haven't stopped us from getting ahead, but it's time to up the ante and get a greater share of the pie. In many of the industries listed below, women have the opportunity to use age-old gender biases to their advantage. Being seen as nurturers, teachers and sensitive listeners can poise women today to vault ahead of men - even if women business owners don't necessarily embody these particular traits.
Here are some of the top industries for women-owned startups:
This industry has been on the rise for quite some time now and should continue to grow in the coming years. The two primary factors driving this trend are an ageing population and the fact that people are simply living longer. This is a perfect example of an industry where gender bias can work to your advantage - "home" and "care" should say it all.
In 2010, approximately 14.3 million Americans practiced yoga, spending $5.7 billion on yoga products, equipment and clothing. More people are turning to teaching yoga to earn a second paycheck, with many transitioning to full-time. With the right marketing strategy, practitioners and entrepreneurs can make money on private label health products and apparel as well.
Though a number of men practice yoga, it is still a female-dominated activity. And many men and women alike, for better or worse, still feel more comfortable doing "downward dog" in front of a woman than a man.
Regarding overall job growth, one of the nation's fastest-growing industries is niche business consulting. The recent effects of the recession on large companies have led to many high-level professionals looking for work. For many, consulting is a natural fit.
Furthermore, many larger corporations are now outsourcing their work, thereby relying on consultants to get the job done. Couple that with the number of new small business owners entering the workforce each year and you can see that this industry should continue to expand. If you know your stuff in a particular niche, there is no reason why you can't succeed as a woman in this typically male-dominated industry. Consider Accenture - it started as a technology consultant and is now a billion dollar company serving clients world-wide.
Businesses in this industry run the gamut from weight loss and life coaching to personal finance and more. This sector is expected to grow by about 6.2% in the coming year. However, rather than focus on a service based business, consider a venture in self-help through interactive online content. Since you can reach multiple clients at once through these means, the sky's the limit when it comes to potential growth. This is yet another industry in which the feminine receptive "ideal" is naturally poised to succeed.
Private Educational Services
Growth here is expected to reach nearly 30%, according to the Department of Labor. With more students going to college and more non-traditional students returning to school, there will be a greater demand for related consulting services and private tutoring. An interactive online model has far greater growth potential than traditional "live" instruction. Once again, women have a leg-up - pair savvy business skills with the traditional image of woman as teacher and you can school your male competition on how it's done.
Even though unemployment rates in the U.S.have been high, it doesn't mean that work is unavailable. However, instead of staffing full-time employees, many companies are looking to hire freelance, contract and part-time workers who have a range of expertise. If you have what it takes to play matchmaker between company and contractor, you could make big bucks in this arena. Existing contacts on both sides of the field can help tremendously.
Just about anyone can claim they are a social media expert, consultant or specialist. However, if you are truly up to snuff in this category, you could cash in. A recent Advertising Age report showed that only 44% of Fortune 50 companies have any social media icons on their homepage. Start by marketing yourself to your thousands of online friends and followers - then thrill them with your company's service so they'll market for you. A word of warning: if you don't have boundless contacts, this line of work is probably not for you.
Most businesses know they need an environmental strategy to improve both their bottom line and their pubic image. However, there are simply no major players in this field as of yet, which means your competition is few and far between. And since this industry is relatively new, it also means that fewer gender stereotypes are attached to who should succeed here.
A recent study showed that American companies spent $130 billion on cybersecurity in 2011, and that number looks set to increase. The average data breach costs a company roughly $4.5 million and 3.7% of their customers. For these reasons, the likelihood that businesses will be ramping up their cybersecurity budgets is great for those entering this market. Women are typically underrepresented in this industry, which creates the perfect opportunity to appeal to the growing number of women-owned businesses.
One of the major hurdles to getting your business going is finding funding when you're just starting out. Sure, you can give your local bank or credit union a try, but don't forget about alternative options like your local women's business center, area grants for low-income business owners and peer-to-peer lending operations like the Lending Club. You're already breaking the glass ceiling so don't limit yourself to traditional forms of funding. Then, once you've test-driven your strategy small-scale, seek investors to take it large. Just be sure to have a plan in place to scale up.
As a woman launching your own business, let your integrity guide you, but don't reinvent the wheel - at least, not at the start. Use solid business principles in the beginning to forge your own path, then you can invent and reinvent whatever you want.
Women 2.0 readers: What industries would you suggest women start businesses in? What are your tips for getting a start-up off the ground?
About the guest blogger: Holly Mangan is the managing editor for Money Crashers, a leading personal finance website that covers small business topics, money management, careers, and investing.In addition to articles with tips and guidance to improve financial fitness, the site also shares resources including the top personal finance blogs, current banking promotions and the best small business credit cards. Photo credit: Anna Furman via Shutterstock.