Female entrepreneurs find a map to success in South Florida | Crain's Miami

Female entrepreneurs find a map to success in South Florida

The Miami business community is welcoming more and more female entrepreneurs to the fold. | Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

More women are taking a DIY approach to shattering the glass ceiling by launching their own businesses, and South Florida offers plenty of resources for female entrepreneurs.

"When I came to Miami in 2007 after living in New York for 7 years, I struggled a bit and found a lot of other female entrepreneurial types were in the same boat," said Silvia M. Camps, founder and CEO of Stow Simple, a self-storage startup.

Camps, who launched Stow Simple a year ago, says she'd be nowhere without the help of local organizations. "The WIN Lab looks at female-founded, female-led companies, and I was one of 20 selected for their first class," she said. "WIN Lab provides female entrepreneurs with mentorship and access to experts in many fields. We also have deliverables, which forces you to set a vision and a path."

The support had another, unexpected benefit: "I definitely feel like I'm much more engrained" in the Miami community, Camps said.

The founders of digital branding agency Crea7ive say local help proved vital when they launched 10 years ago. "Miami is full of free resources for entrepreneurs," said Paula Celestino, who started the agency specializing in U.S. Hispanic and Latin American markets with sister Pia Celestino.

"From events at co-working spaces like CIC MiamiThe LAB Miami and WeWork to organizations such as Refresh Miami and Awesome Foundation, or meetup networking events like Live Ninja's Waffle Wednesdays and Venture Café, we've really benefited from the visibility," she said. Today, Crea7ive works with global corporations like Wendy's and Kraft Foods.

Of course, being a female business owner isn't without its challenges. According to Kevan Wilkinson, a research and digital content writer spearheading a study at business financing firm Balboa Capital, U.S. women often struggle to land the financial resources needed to continue growing.

"Over 40 percent of women entrepreneurs say access to capital is one of the biggest challenges to their growth," Wilkinson said. "Most launched their companies with personal savings, and when it comes to landing small business loans, women are often rejected at higher rates than men." Just 31 percent of female business owners surveyed by Balboa Capital said they were able to obtain a small business loan since getting their start.

That's certainly been true for Camps, who started Stow Simple with her own money and is currently in the process of raising capital to expand beyond Miami. "I would say that for most Miami-based, female-owned business, access to capital, access to talent and access to mentorship are some of the biggest challenges."

Other obstacles include fighting usual stereotypes, Celestino said. "A lot of people associate gender with expertise and responsibility," she said. "Once the door is open, we make sure we become an expert on the client's services or products. It's one of the best ways to secure a deal despite your gender."

Despite these setbacks, women business owners in the U.S. are upbeat about 2017. "According to our research, about 74 percent of female-owned firms expect their business to grow in 2017," said Wilkinson. Balboa Capital is actively marketing to female entrepreneurs as a rising sector of its financial lending business, whose business model allows entrepreneurs to take on loans without forking over any collateral.

Finally, Camps advises new entrepreneurs to trust themselves, even if it's uncomfortable. "I would definitely say I was risk averse," she said. "I feel that was one of my issues, and I always encourage female entrepreneurs to just go for it."

December 12, 2016 - 11:41am