JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Johns Creek business owner Shellie Dimery Noisette represents many of the issues that have defined 2020.
The Black Lives Matter demonstrations were a reminder of her multicultural heritage. Her years of traveling the world as a Marine gave her early warning about the coronavirus. And her efforts to keep the doors open at Twisted Spokes Bicycles during a recession, repeated the challenges of being a female entrepreneur.
“I think it would be more difficult if I didn’t have men that looked to be the face of my business,” said Noisette, even though she’s the majority owner and can fix bikes worth thousands of dollars.
She had to ask potential customers to leave her store after they refused to wear masks. The coronavirus also affected sales, with bikes and necessary parts stalled in China and Taiwan.
Twisted Spokes Bicycles is among the 12.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, according to Fundera, a business funding matchmaker. Data shows America’s female entrepreneurs generate $1.8 trillion in revenue and employ approximately nine million people across the country.
Women run 40 percent of all U.S. businesses, and the coronavirus recession has some local female business owners on edge.
Noisette said surviving the coronavirus recession is why women in business should be taken more seriously.
“As women, being business owners, it allows men to see us in a light that we’re not in the backseat. We’re right there on par,” Noisette said. “And sometimes, more than a few steps in front of them.”
Cory Holtz, owner of Holtz Creative in Johns Creek, says running a company and being there for your family was difficult enough before the pandemic.
“To juggle regular business is hard, but I think a pandemic on top of that is even harder,” Holtz said. “Because you have to double your efforts to stay relevant and stay in business. The competition is a little harder.”
Holtz said now is the time for female entrepreneurs to get a good business plan in place to market their services and generate more revenue.
“They need to know who their target market is, who they want to reach out to, and they need to be very clear with their message,” she said. “That can be tricky with what is happening during the pandemic. A lot of companies are hitting the same keywords and using the same graphics.”
Bonnie Mauldin with The Mauldin Group in Roswell said female entrepreneurs need to refocus on self-care and find support among each other.
“Once women learn to support each other, and help each other with these things, we’ll have more time to focus on growing our businesses and careers,” Mauldin said.
Many of these women said they know other female entrepreneurs who had to walk away from their businesses during the recession.
Start:Me helps build and grow small businesses in the Atlanta area. Program Associate Alina Bills shared the program’s recent survey, detailing some of the tough circumstances local small businesses face because of COVID-19.
“Seventy percent are cutting hours or closing operations, 76 percent saw a significant drop in sales, 67 percent required significant emergency funding,” Bills said.
Going out of business can have a ripple effect. Bills said, although most female small businesses run on fewer than 10 people, operations help keep 500 related workers employed.
Each woman expressed a need for more investment in woman-owned businesses. Some argued the small business loans offered by the government only helped in a limited way. However, Bills has seen a shift this year.
“Access to capital is something our entrepreneurs always struggle with,” Bills said. “More loans and grants for women and minority-owned businesses have come out within the last year.”
Bills suggests business owners connect with Startup Atlanta and look into the Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for further assistance.
Whitney Bryant, chair of the all-female led Johns Creek Chamber of Commerce. Recommends employers reach out to their local chamber for funding, resources and support. She also took an optimistic view of female entrepreneurs post-coronavirus recession.
“I think we’ll come roaring out of the gate,” she said. “Of course, there will be some that won’t survive. I worry about a lot of different businesses. But I think the ones that will make it through this will have a lot of pent up energy and ideas, and they’ll think of new ways to do business.”