Los Angeles Business Journal

Peer Groups Work for Women Entrepreneurs

By Shelly Ulaj Monday, August 26, 2013

It’s a crucial time to be a female entrepreneur.

Interestingly enough, female entrepreneurs living and working in Los Angeles have a unique advantage. Unlike New York, Silicon Valley or other cities around the world that are already set in their ways, L.A.’s burgeoning entrepreneurial community has a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of helping and building up women in business. In order to accomplish this, female entrepreneurs need to work together and collaborate to raise the visibility of these businesses while recognizing women as successful leaders in every industry – technology, entertainment, retail and more.

One great example of this local opportunity is Santa Monica’s Silicon Beach, which is flourishing with many female-run tech companies. This growing innovation and leadership can and should be replicated in other types of industries. Additionally, as other women-led businesses are popping up around Los Angeles, we need to ensure this growth has a system of support and networking.

There are currently 126 million women entrepreneurs around the world and 48 million in the United States. But the growing numbers alone are not enough. In comprehensive research completed by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, it was also shown that women still need more resources and funding. As the founder of Women Empowered, I see that need on a day-to-day basis. From female founders of businesses in Los Angeles to women just starting out in their careers, there is a need for resources of all kinds, including networking opportunities, volunteerism and just overall inspiration.

It’s a novel idea, one that is uniquely different in practice and attitude from corporate America, but one that could potentially set L.A.-based female entrepreneurs apart from the rest. Female entrepreneurs need to come to the realization that there is enough potential for success out there and work together for the public and industries to recognize how we are an indispensible asset. Still, with only 1.3 percent of privately held companies having a female founder, there is plenty of work to do and together we must work to engage, encourage and support such women with an idea and passion.

Fast growing

According to a recent study conducted by the American Express Open Forum, women are one of the fastest-growing groups of entrepreneurs in the nation. With more than 8.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States, millions of employees and even more in profits, this is a trend that cannot be ignored. From real estate to communications to biotechnology, female entrepreneurs are making an impact on many different industries. Now, more than ever, it is integral for this elite group to empower each other.

After speaking with hundreds of female entrepreneurs in all walks of life, one thing stood out above the rest: Mentoring and giving back to the community not only help others, but it is also crucial to cultivate one’s own personal growth as a successful leader and business owner.

Through my years of founding and leading Women Empowered, I have seen the impact a female networking and mentoring group can make to a female entrepreneur. Offering support, advice and encouragement can make a big impact on the day-to-day will of a business owner. Beyond a more traditional type of education, peer groups allow entrepreneurs to learn from one another’s mistakes and best practices as well as potentially connect with a new investor, employee or contact that can lead to a big break (whatever that may be).

Shelly Ulaj is founder of Women Empowered, a non-profit in Los Angeles that aims to support and empower professional women.