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Opportunity, Necessity or Accidental?


07 November 2012

Small business is often referred to as the barometer, heart beat or engine room of the Australian economy and the ABS estimates that there 1 million small businesses with 38% of them owned and operated by women [Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, 2011] 

Small numbers indeed ... but what the initial findings from my research indicates how women start their small business journey and this may provide insight on why these numbers are low. 

Women in small business appear to start their journey by means of opportunity, necessity or accidentally. Let me explain ... 

Initial findings from my research indicate that women who considered small business as an opportunity had other alternatives and it was a matter of determining which option will deliver the return, challenge or outcome they desired. 

This is nothing new, as other researchers have stumbled across the same thing, with opportunity-motivated women consider a decrease in salary or current income in favour of a lifestyle change, greater self-direction or a speedier return on investment [Babson College & London Business School, 2006] ... and small business provides women with a vehicle to be economically independent, smash through gender-related career blocks, build on their confidence in their own abilities as they identifying a gap or market niche to pursue [Kempnich et at., 1999]. 

We’re no longer working for the man. 

Women who considered small business out of necessity, however, perceived that they may have no better alternative or considered themselves no longer to be quality candidates in the broader labour market. Factors that tip necessity-driven women over the line include economic necessity, the threat of unemployment or frustration or dissatisfaction with work. 

One of the trends that came out of a recent BankWest report, analysing ABS data, was strong growth in the number of women in small business compared to men – particularly the growth in women running a small business by themselves, often part-time at first while raising children ... and according to a recent Kimberly-Clark survey, seven out of ten Australian women are thinking about starting a business after becoming a mother. 

The final pathway that is emerging for women to enter small business is accidentally. This is where a women would initially lend a hand to help out and it eventuates into ongoing, significant contribution to and participation in the business. Study participants have already shared their accidental stories, with examples of one husband saying “my wife will do the bookkeeping” when she has no bookkeeping experience at all; a friend saying that “she’ll look after the staff because she’s better with people and a mother saying “my daughter will run the shop while I am away”. It appears that the accidental point of entry into small business occurs when there is a need to complement a competency deficiency in a friend or family member already in the business or a decision made on their behalf. 

It all has to starts somewhere, I guess ... 

Anyway, the research continues and I invite you to participate and share your small business story by completing a very quick online survey, here: ... and please feel free to pass it on!