This Women’s History Month, Show the Power of Women Business Owners


Happy International Women’s Day—let’s celebrate by showing our might online! March is Women’s History Month, and throughout the month WIPP will be coordinating a Twitter campaign that highlights those who make the women’s business community an economic powerhouse. Join us in demonstrating how important women business owners are by tweeting about women business owners you find inspiring, either from history or the modern day, and tagging @WIPPWeDecide. We’ll amplify your post with our audience. Keep an eye on Twitter as WIPP members discuss the women they find inspiring. There are sure to be some great stories!

Speaking of inspiring women, we want to give you the opportunity to get to know WIPP’s board better. We’re starting with Board Chair Lisa Firestone. Here is a short Q&A with Lisa.


Lisa Firestone, WIPP Board Chair

Q. How long have you been a member of WIPP?

A. I have been a member of WIPP since 2009.

Q. Why did you join WIPP?

A. In 2005, my company Managed Care Advisors, won its first government contract and it quickly became very clear that contracting with the federal government was incredibly complex—from understanding its culture to navigating its regulations and best practices. After receiving certification through WBENC, I was told WIPP was “the organization to belong to if you were interested in government contracting.” I went to my first WIPP annual meeting and was immediately impressed with the speakers, the caliber of women who attended, and resources that are available. I knew that if I had time to get involved with one organization, WIPP was it!

Q. What about WIPP is most beneficial for your business?

A. When I first joined, I needed to get educated in federal contracting. WIPP provided me with educational resources, access to technical experts and introductions to other women business owners who were experienced contractors and willing to mentor, educate and guide me. In addition to becoming well-versed in government contracting, I had the opportunity to work with WIPP members with expertise in cyber security, contracting law and government relations. They all played significant roles in the continued growth and maturity of my company. Personally, WIPP has also given me the opportunity to do things that I would have never dreamed possible—testifying on Capitol Hill, meeting legislators, and mentoring other entrepreneurs.

WIPP has not only supported the growth of my company, it has supported my growth and confidence as a leader. This organization is special—its culture is supportive, positive and uplifting and one of advocating on behalf of ALL women entrepreneurs. At WIPP, you are among people who you truly enjoy and trust and you are in an environment where you will celebrate each other’s success.

WIPP Works in Washington: The Complicated Business of Changing Investment Behavior

I don’t know if you watch the Oscars, or like me, go to a party having barely seen any of the movies. I am usually pretty bored with the thank-you speeches from the winners, but this year one acceptance speech got my attention. It was the speech from the winner of

Anne Sullivan

Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

Best Actress, Frances McDormand, for her role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Referencing women in the audience who “had stories to tell and projects to finance,” she said, “don’t talk to us at the parties tonight, invite us to your office in a couple of days…and we’ll tell you all about them.” She asked the women to stand and told Meryl Streep, “if you do it they’ll all do it.”

The speech caught my attention because women entrepreneurs in all industries including Hollywood share the same vexing problem—access to capital. A damning statistic, women only receive 4% of all commercial loan dollars and 2% of venture capital, shows women entrepreneurs struggle with obtaining adequate capital. Yet, over 36% of businesses are women-owned and are growing at four times the rate of businesses owned by men, so it appears there is no shortage of women seeking operating or investment capital.

Asked why women get so little VC money in Fortune article, Julie Wainwright, founder and CEO of a consignment website The RealReal, thinks it comes down to the lack of female VCs. “When you have different businesses that aren’t proven that may appeal more to a female [customer], a female investor is going to be able to evaluate that” better than a male investor could, she says. “I think in general, most VCs are trying to do their jobs, but there are a lot of unconscious biases.”

A study from Harvard Business Review also points to an additional reason for this deficit—male and female entrepreneurs are asked different questions by VCs, which in turn affects the level of funding they receive. According to the study, when investors asked male entrepreneurs questions they used a promotion orientation, meaning they focused on their hopes and achievements. Alternatively, when questioning women entrepreneurs, they mostly used a prevention orientation, which focused on questions regarding responsibility, security and vigilance. Researchers found that this has a substantial impact on funding outcomes, thus helping to explain the large disparity in VC funding for women entrepreneurs.

Given these barriers, why are so many women starting businesses? It seems to boil down to two reasons: they were either inspired or frustrated. Inspired because they had a good idea, built a better “mousetrap” or decided to create wealth for their families by taking the risk of entrepreneurship. Frustrated because they weren’t getting equal pay for equal work, were tired of a hostile work environment or saw no ability to advance.

A case study by the National Women’s Business Council highlights both of these. The study examined reasons why women become necessity entrepreneurs and of the nine women interviewed, eight cited gender-specific issues, thus making entrepreneurship a necessity. The study also highlights the financial need as the driver to start businesses. “I can relate to many of these women because I’m a prime example of a necessity entrepreneur,” said Kari Warberg Block, NWBC council member and founder and CEO of EarthKind®. “I was fresh out of alternatives with no job options, and I had to do something, anything, to take care of my family. I had an idea to create a safe, natural option for pest control, and 10 years later that has turned into a $20 million-dollar business.”

What are some of the solutions to this vexing problem? Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet but rather a host of solutions necessary to turn this tide. For starters, investors and lenders can start asking the right questions and including women in their review process. Women who sit on the boards of these companies can monitor lending/investing in women-owned companies. And on the policy front, WIPP’s Economic Blueprint suggests a host of policy changes that will help.  They include understanding the data from lending institutions with respect to lending to women, freeing up a regulatory environment that discourages smaller banks from lending to small businesses and developing a track for women to become investors through government backed programs like the Small Business Investment Companies. Lastly, Congress should require a comprehensive review of the Small Business Innovation Research program, which awards only 16% to women.

Even though access to capital for women business owners requires changing cultural biases and policies, all of us can start by educating those around us. If one of us stands up, everyone will stand.

SBA: Tell us Which Regulations Bother You

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The SBA Office of Advocacy is continuing to host small business roundtables to hear firsthand from small businesses how they are facing regulatory burdens. WIPP encourages you to consider which regulations are problematic for your business and share them with the Office of Advocacy. The best way to do that is to attend one of their meetings!


Detroit, MI – March 13 – Register HERE

Milwaukee, WI – March 16 – Register HERE

San Antonio, TX – March 19 – Register HERE

Houston, TX – March 20 – Register HERE

Philadelphia, PA – March 22 – Register HERE

Atlanta, GA – April 10 – Register HERE

March Policy Update


Policy Upate Graphic.pngSCOTUS Punts on DACA (For Now)

Last week, the Supreme Court sent the Trump Administration’s appeal on the President’s order to cancel DACA back to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, leaving the program’s March 5 expiration moot. Dreamers will remain protected from deportation until the Court of Appeals renders a decision, which could take months.

Breaking the Bank: WIPP Weighs in on Access to Capital

The Senate continues working through amendments to bipartisan lending legislation today that would lighten regulations imposed on small and mid-sized banks through Dodd-Frank. WIPP has advocated for ending the “one-size-fits-all” approach by calling on Congress to enact legislation to address the regulatory relief needed for smaller lending institutions, thus freeing up capital for small businesses.

Read the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act here. Read WIPP’s Breaking the Bank platform here.

WIPP Urges Expansion of Association Health Plans

In January, the Department of Labor issued a proposed rule that would expand participation in Association Health Plans for small businesses and the self-employed. WIPP urged the department to implement a program that maximizes the number of businesses that can participate in the plans, so that women business owners can provide more choices for affordable health insurance.

Read WIPP’s comments here.

NLRB Reverses Joint Employer Standard

Obama’s legal standard for determining whether joint employers could be held liable for an intertwined business’s workplace issues is back due to a conflict of interest of a board member who did not recuse himself from the case. NLRB granted the parties in the original case the ability to appeal and could rehear the case later this year.

Read the NLRB’s press release here.

Department of Health and Human Services Proposes to Extend Short Term Health Insurance

In response to an Executive Order, HHS proposed a change to the maximum duration of short-term health insurance from three months to 12 months. Short-term, limited-duration health insurance is designed to fill temporary gaps in coverage when an individual is transitioning from one plan to another form of coverage, for example, when a person is in between jobs. This type of coverage does not qualify under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so ACA protections, like for pre-existing conditions do not apply. HHS invites comments on the rule through April 20.

View the proposed rule here.

House Small Business Committee Releases Funding Recommendations for FY18

The House Small Business Committee has released its 2018 Views and Estimates for FY2019 SBA funding. The Committee recommends zero appropriations for SBA pilot programs, and requests funds needed to cover additional costs to the Entrepreneurial Development Program imposed by SBA pilot programs come from the SBA’s general salaries and expenses account. It defers to the White House Budget Request for the Capital Access Program and will work with the SBA to improve the agency’s information technology (IT) systems, and implement reforms to the HUBZone Program included in the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

View the Committee’s 2018 Views and Estimates here.

President Trump Releases Details on Infrastructure Plan

President Trump released his 53-page infrastructure plan that outlines his vision for generating $1.5 trillion for infrastructure over the next 10 years. The plan depends on funding from multiple sources, including state and local governments and private investment. Federal spending over this period totals $200 billion, while the remainder would come from state/local at a 4:1 ratio. The breakdown of the $200 billion is as follows:

  • $100B – Incentives to local government entities to give non-federal funds (to reach the $1.5T Trump promised on the campaign trail)
  • $20B – Set aside to advance “major infrastructure projects”
  • $50B – Earmarked for rural block grants, which will be given to states based on the amount of rural area and population
  • $20B – ‘Infrastructure related undertakings’
  • $10B – Federal Capital Financing Fund

View the President’s full plan here.

Congress Agrees on 2-year Budget Numbers-Now the Hard Work Begins

Congress removed a stumbling block to funding the federal government on an annual basis by agreeing to budget numbers for the next two years by raising both defense and non-defense spending by the staggering number of $300 billion. This clears the way for Congressional appropriators to fund specific programs. Comprehensive funding for FY18 is now facing a deadline of March 23. The agreement also suspends the debt ceiling through March 1, 2019, which allows the government to continue to borrow money to pay its bills without Congressional approval. The budget deal allocated funding for disaster aid, Community Development Block Grants, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Community Health Centers.

View the Bipartisan Budget Agreement of 2018 here.

Yvonne Ballard: Construction Mode

I graduated from Turner Construction’s 12-week Construction Management Course on November 15, 2017. It was a great accomplishment for my brand!

The program refreshed important aspects of the industry that I learned in college about 12 years ago, and it’s good to know that some of the same rules apply. Plus, I was able to learn a lot about new and improved safety measures, validating contracts, teamwork and project management. And I loved the feeling of good intent from others!

As a minority, I’ve seen a lot of programs that say they offer support, but in truth there are a lot of risks: bad customer service, unlimited loopholes, and being degraded for asking for help.

Turner, on the other hand, has a genuine team that is motivated by good will, and a support system to help my brand sustainability. The class had a culture of diversity and offered business opportunities to partner for more work. This was an awesome experience especially since my goal is to align my brand and expertise with like-minded developers so I can style the interior spaces of new structures.

During the months leading up to graduation, I attended another great event called ChallengeHER. I wasn’t sure how I would apply it to my business, but the name grabbed my attention. The September 2017 ChallengeHER event was held at the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), a familiar place that supported me years ago. The program offered a plethora of education for women-owned small businesses, procurement leads and a directory of face-to-face supporters. The link directly related to my certifications and gave me the confidence to approach new business ventures.

Looking back, it reminded me of when I began activating my gift into a career mindset in 2004. Initially, the odds were against me. At the time I was a young mother of three children with very little income. I enrolled in the Section 8 program at CMHA; this gave me the opportunity to attend college. I also qualified for daycare vouchers to send my children to school. It was the beginning of a great start for my independence, education and a better outcome for our future success.

We rented a little purple house at the time. The owner initially didn’t want to accept the Section 8 voucher, but I shared the benefits and promised to be a great tenant. We closed the deal. I practiced my design projects in that house. I later purchased a bigger home from the same owner with the assistance of the Section 8 homeownership program.

I was the first of my immediate family to own a home and complete college. I majored in interior design. My mindset was, and still is, “If I get an opportunity for support subsidies, I don’t use them to get comfortable but use them to further my education or improve my family situation—use them to improve our livelihood.” Even having faced discrimination, I maintain by focusing on the outcome.

Having a mindset to acknowledge support as an opportunity to propel forward and not as a crutch to get comfortable has afforded me nothing but success as a wife, mother, homeowner, college graduate, and entrepreneur. My objective is to be an inspiration to my family and community. That, in turn, enhances my drive.

Yvonne Ballard

President/Owner of NOVE home&body decor LLC

February Policy Update

It’s been a busy month on the policy front. Here are some of the highlights:

  • State of the Union: President Trump gave his State of the Union address on January 30. The speech highlighted the passage of the new tax framework, immigration, infrastructure, and the opioid crisis, among other topics. Trump recognized small business owners from Ohio to highlight the positive effects tax reform has had on their business.
  • Budget Watch: After missing the midnight deadline and a brief partial government shutdown, Congress passed a two-year budget agreement in the early hours of Friday morning that will raise existing budget caps on defense and non-defense spending and suspend the debt ceiling for a year. The Senate passed the measure 71-28 and the House 240-186. President Trump signed the deal. The agreement will temporarily finance the government at the current FY17 levels through March 23, allotting time for Congress to work out details for longer term spending. The bill also extends funding for disaster aid, Community Development Block Grants, Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Community Health Centers.
  • Immigration: In line with his promise to Democrats to end the last shutdown in January, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has scheduled a procedural vote for Monday on shell legislation to be used for a debate on immigration.
  • Census Annual Business Survey: The Census Bureau has proposed an Annual Business Survey (ABS), which will combine multiple surveys for the 2017-2021 survey years, in order to provide more current data to the public, more often, without minimizing quality. 2017 business numbers will be available in about three years.
    • Timeline for ABS:
      • Year 1: Research and development of data and models.  First beta product (2018)
      • Year 2: Refinement of models and data. Comparison to Other Sources. Additional years and Q/A of longitudinal properties (2019)
      • Year 3: Estimates of Non-employers by Demo Characteristics (2020)
    • Cyber Security: The House Small Business Committee held a hearing entitled “Small Business Information Sharing: Foreign Cyber Security Threats” last week, to examine R. 4668, the Small Business Advanced Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2017. The Small Business Caucus will hold a Cyber Security Event in February. Details TBA.