The Million Dollar Ceiling

Jessica Fialkovich | @jfialkovich

In my article, State of the City: Women, Denver, & Entrepreneurship, I quoted the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) statistic citing only 4.2% of women-owned businesses achieve revenues of one million dollars or more. How does that stack up against businesses owned by men and what can we do to increase this number?

Why Do Women Struggle to Reach One Million?

Everything you read on the internet--or hear in networking groups--is true, right? Not so much. There is different information out there related to how many women-owned businesses achieve one million dollars in sales annually. Some sources state one percent, others two percent, NAWBO claims 4.2%. The main takeaway: this number is not high enough. According to the Pew Research Center, businesses owned by women currently account for 79.2% of all small business revenue.

Legitimate sources claim women struggle to reach one million because they--among other things--lack confidence, industry connections, or access to capital. However, I call B.S. We women are doers. Getting to one million dollars in revenue is hard, but not impossible. Moreover, if we have the right path and resources, our will to get something done is bar none.

In my experience I have found million dollar women focus on six key resources and characteristics to make the jump to seven figures. 

  1. Find Mentors: A strong mentor can help provide expertise and resources for a budding entrepreneur.   

  2. Establish Peer Support: A support system is essential for the times when significant challenges arise.

  3. Be a Sales Leader: As a business owner, your primary job is sales. Sales does not mean cold calls, but you have to be willing to sell yourself, your company, and your services 24/7.

  4. Be Willing to Take Risks: As a group, women tend to rely more on stability than risk. Growing a business requires taking calculated risks that may not work out. This might not be comfortable, but it is necessary.

  5. Let Go: We love control. As a business owner, you have to let go of control, hire and delegate to those around you to grow to one million and beyond.

  6. Thinking Big: Having a vision, mission and why that is bigger than yourself and your company is an essential compass to use when faced with the inevitable adversity accompanying business growth. 

Does One Million Actually Matter? 

Depending on the type of business an entrepreneur wants to build, one million dollars in revenue may not matter. The goal of a small business is to provide a salary and profit to its owner so the owner can support his or her family and household.

Net profit, another key metric in business, is often overshadowed by the vanity-driven revenue. Many industries and companies can achieve gains of 15% - 50% at any revenue level. While saying your business does $10 million in sales may be glamorous, is it really all it’s cracked up to be? More revenue does not eliminate problems; it creates new ones.

As women, we have to continue to ask ourselves in business, what kind of life do we want to build? If building an empire and legacy is important, then achieving higher levels of sales and a larger organization may be necessary. However, if the business is meant to support your life and not be your life, staying small is key. It is a decision each woman  entrepreneur needs to make for herself. The answer you end up with is always the right one for you.