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NEW YORK — Six in 10 female small business owners who opened their business prior to 2022 said the past year has been the most challenging for their business (63%), according to new research.

The survey of 1,000 female small business owners also found that one in six are stressed out every day. This may be because more women are starting businesses out of necessity — more than a quarter reported being let go or laid off before opening their business (28%), compared to just 14 percent of respondents last year.

What is challenging for female-owned businesses?

Nearly a quarter are experiencing concerns with fatigue (23%) and finding employees (13%). 

However, the survey conducted by OnePoll for Office Depot found that funding concerns are down (47% last year vs. 42% this year), as fewer said they still worried about it compared to last year.

Despite the challenges they’ve encountered over the last year, most of those who were previously employed somewhere else said their work-life balance has actually improved since opening their own business (73%). 

What would benefit female small business owners?

But they don’t have it all down to a science — female small business owners said they’d benefit from having marketing materials (35%), networking tools or platforms (34%) or access to office supplies (25%) to help their business.

Business mentors are also needed, especially among female small business owners of color (33% compared to 20% of white SBOs). They’ll also need to overcome some of the challenges of working from home since that’s where most female SBOs (55%) are running their businesses from. This means substantial investments in building a dedicated at-home workspace

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One in five claim they’ve invested more than $5,000 of their own money in at-home equipment and tools to help run their business. This includes purchases like laptops (36%), printers (35%) and software programs (24%).

“The last few years have demonstrated that it’s possible to start, run and grow a successful business from home with the right products, services and solutions,” says executive vice president of The ODP Corporation and president of Office Depot Kevin Moffitt, in a statement. “We’re committed to helping these entrepreneurs get everything they need to succeed.”

Work-life balance

Respondents also shared some personal difficulties they face when working from home like “sticking to a schedule while trying to be a full-time mom,” “missing out on the ‘human touch’ or being with other people in person” or “making new contacts.”

While at home, small business owners are keeping their families busy, too — a third of respondents employ family members (35%). Interestingly, nearly a fifth of female business owners say it’s against their philosophy to employ family members (19%).

Overall, female small business owners are feeling rewarded for their efforts in the same ways as last year: 70 percent enjoy being their own boss above all, up from 66 percent last year.

“When provided with easy access to innovative tools and resources, the sky is the limit for what these small business owners can achieve,” says vice president of marketing for Office Depot Wesley Brinkhurst, in a statement. “And that success ripples throughout their communities, inspiring others and spurring new businesses.”

Success could be measured in several ways. Over the next year, respondents are aiming to grow their profit (59%), gain more clientele/customers (53%) and expand their business (28%).

And if you’re looking to venture off into entrepreneurship, the survey asked the most important pieces of advice respondents would pass along.

Female business owners want others to know that part of owning a business means that there will always be periods of “highs” and “lows” (56%) and that it takes extensive time and effort (52%).

Other words of advice are that making connections is important (43%) and to be prepared since new challenges are always popping up (42%).

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 1,000 female small business owners was commissioned by Office Depot between Feb. 1 and Feb. 6, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

About Sophia Naughton

Meet StudyFinds' Associate Editor, Sophia Naughton. Sophia graduated Magna Cum Laude from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication directly focused in journalism and advertising. She is also a freelance writer for Baltimore Magazine. Outside of writing, her best buddy is her spotted Pit Bull, Terrance.

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Associate Editor