An unexpected statistic from the past 20 months of disruptions and adjustments: Entrepreneurship is on the rise globally. In the United States, 4.4 million businesses were formed in 2020, a 24 percent increase from 2019. And an increasing number of women in the U.S. are taking the plunge into entrepreneurship, according to a survey by Gusto and the National Association of Women Business Owners, despite the challenges and woes of navigating a traditionally male-dominated space.
Women entrepreneurs bring diverse perspectives, lived experiences, and historically untapped vigor to the business world. Their efforts not only help the economy but also have lasting impacts in the communities they serve. In 2018, women-owned businesses generated $1.8 trillion in revenue and over 10 million jobs in the U.S.
While the spike in female entrepreneurship is encouraging, data also tells the other side of the story where the pandemic took an unfair toll on women entrepreneurs and their businesses, leaving them less optimistic about pandemic recovery than their male counterparts. In August 2020, a report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce showed that women-owned businesses, when asked if they plan to increase investments in the coming year, showed no change from the start of 2020 to July 2020 (flat at 32 percent), while their male counterparts increased 11 percent  over the same period (from 28 to 39 percent).
The odds have always been unfavorable for startups—according to the Small Business Administration, 20 percent of business startups fail in the first year, and under half make it to year five. Today, with the pandemic, global supply chain disruptions and labor shortages, small business survival—and women-owned small businesses survival and success—may be more challenging than ever. 
But if there’s anything that I’ve learned about small business owners, and in particular women leaders and entrepreneurs, it is that they welcome and tackle every challenge with optimism, resourcefulness, and strength. Here are some recent words of wisdom from two incredible women entrepreneurs that I’d like to share. 
San Francisco-based Rashee Gupta, founded a beauty and accessory business, MGS Accessories, because she wanted to see more diversity and affordability within the industry. Despite the overnight success of her initial product, Rashee has encountered a myriad of challenges in the past few years building MGS Accessories— death in the family and personal tragedy, Covid-19, supply chain disruptions—challenges that, each in isolation, could have stopped any entrepreneur in their tracks. Despite having her fair share of doubts, Rashee continues to be driven by her passion and refuses to give up until she sees the success she desires.  
Today, the MGS Accessoriesbrand continues to grow. But Rashee doesn’t just power women’s confidence and strength through her products: “Often when a woman starts a business, people assume it’s a hobby and don’t take her seriously. When you see someone—especially a woman—start a business, share it. Get them a seat at the table. Take the time to ask them what they need help with. Ask others to help.”
And to fellow women business owners: “Don’t stop what you’re doing! It may be tiring and exhausting, but if you believe in it, keep working at it. It will pay off.”      
At around the same time that Rashee started MGS Accessories, Gizem Salcigil White started the Turkish Coffee Lady café in Tysons Corner, VA. Her initial success was not only met with personal health issues, but also followed by a global health crisis that required her to re-think her business model. To Gizem, coffee is more than a product and a business—it is culture, and a way to bring people together. 
During the pandemic, Gizem pivoted the Turkish Coffee Lady business from a brick-and-mortar store to an online ecommerce business and brand (both retail and B2B); she also started a foundation to spread not only the cultural mission, but to also allow women leaders and businesses to connect and support each other. In fact, five percent of The Turkish Coffee Lady’s proceeds go towards women leadership programs. Here is Gizem’s take on women entrepreneurship: “Every woman with inner courage can be a good business owner or entrepreneur, and as employers, we should create more opportunities for women instead of putting obstacles in front of them. We need to overcome the taboos of ’women would have difficulties in business life’ and recognize that a woman’s efficiency and resilience will support both communities and economies.” 
Women entrepreneurs are the unsung heroes of our economy. The challenges women face on a day-to-day basis are real, especially for entrepreneurs diving headfirst into the unknown. We can each make an impact this holiday season and year-round by supporting women-owned businesses in every way possible.


Erica Chan