Across the world, more and more women are picking up the reins of small business ownership. In America, data from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research suggests roughly 29 percent of small business owners are women. In Australia the stats are similar, with just over a third of small businesses estimated to be run by women. And with flexible working hours often a draw card, the rise of the ‘mumpreneur’ has not gone unnoticed. According to an Australian Government study commissioned by the Office for Women, 47 per cent of women business owners have dependent children living in their household.
Starting a business and accessing finance are tightly intertwined. 42 percent of women surveyed as part of the Australian report indicated they had started their business with less than $5000. And while a separate study from the Victoria University in Melbourne found no significant difference between the genders in the demand or type of finance used to get established, it noted that women running home-based firms were more likely to face difficulties accessing finance.
In the developed world micro-financing sector, there could be a real opportunity for fintech startups in addressing this mumpreneur category. Specifically understanding this business model and then building products that help this relatively untapped but growing market could be a strong differentiator for an alternative lender or financial advice platform.
To date, most of the activity around helping finance women into small business is conducted in the form of community or government sponsored social enterprise initiatives. During the research for this post, little evidence was found of anyone in the private sector actively building a business model around this market niche. Such a model needn’t be specifically focused on lending, either. Adjunct opportunities around online advice targeted at women and active mumpreneurs, or mumpreneurs in waiting, could be looked at. Advice platforms could easily extend into becoming lead generation tools for an online lender with a highly tailored product for the sector.
The Society of Grownups, an initiative launched by MassMutual and aimed at helping millennials navigate financial decisions, is an excellent example of how targeted education paired with smart technology can reach disengaged or underserved markets. There is no reason why a similar type of initiative couldn’t be reimagined to target female business owners, or home based entrepreneurs. I say ‘home based’ for in the coming years it will be important not to get tunnel vision on women alone. More and more men are opting to take on the lion’s share of parenting duties and may also look to complement this with a business on the side.
While not aimed at small business directly, Australian financial advice startup 10thousandgirl is an initiative designed to help raise awareness of financial matters and educate around long term planning. MoneyBrilliant is another local financial well-being service designed for women, and the company recently partnered with established financial institution AMP to further distribute their platform through AMP’s financial advisor network.
Increasing access to the right kind of finance and building differentiation in an increasingly crowded market remain cornerstones of a successful business model in alternative lending. Providing good advice that speaks to finance and technology is also an emerging demand – and still relatively piecemeal. It could be that building a business model on the back of driving diversity may be one of the smartest decisions a fintech startup could make in the next few years, with smart founders simply riding the wave of increased female participation in small business generation.