As of 1996, there were nearly 8 million women-owned businesses in the United States. As the number of women-owned businesses grows, representation and support for this group becomes more and more critical. The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), based in Washington D.C., provides women-owned businesses with a resource for such support and representation. Covering the many faceted interests of women entrepreneurs in all areas of business, the NAWBO has chapters all across the United States and maintains affiliate chapters around the world. Membership is available through annual dues paid to both the national organization and to a local chapter.
The NAWBO began as a small group of Washington, D.C., businesswomen who started meeting in 1974. They began as a networking group, meeting to discuss mutual experiences, exchange information, and help develop business skills for group members. They incorporated as the NAWBO on December 19, 1974. The first members in the newly formed organization were recruited in 1976, and in 1978, the first national chapters were formed. Today, its headquarters are in Washington, DC, and it maintains a Web site at www.nawbo.org.
The NAWBO's vision and mission statement states that the organization hopes to propel women entrepreneurs into "economic, social and political spheres of power worldwide." Principle aims of the organization, as articulated in their mission statement, include:
1. Strengthen the wealth-creating capacity of members and promote economic development
2. Create innovative and effective changes in the business culture
3. Build strategic alliances, coalitions, and affiliations
4. Transform public policy and influence opinion makers
In addition, the NAWBO provides women entrepreneurs with assistance in gaining access to financial opportunities. For instance, the organization offers special loans, discount prices on certain equipment and services, and other opportunities which may translate into substantial savings on the start-up costs of business. The NAWBO also provides educational experiences and leadership training, and sponsors a wide range of special conferences, workshops, seminars, and counseling services. Finally, the organization's local, regional, national and international contacts provide networking opportunities that may be otherwise unavailable to small businesses.
In addition to its position as "helping hand," the NAWBO has established a strong political presence, emerging as a strong voice of advocacy for small women-owned businesses. For example, the group was instrumental in supporting and helping to pass the 1988 Women's Business Ownership Act, which expanded women entrepreneurs' access to credit markets; instituted a three-year, $10 million training and technical support initiative for women business owners; and created a National Women's Business Council. A regular presence on Capitol Hill, members of the NAWBO work to make sure that the needs of women-owned businesses are represented.
AFFILIATIONS The NAWBO is the United States' representative in Les Femmes Chefs d'Entreprises Mondiales (FCEM, or The World Association of Women Entrepreneurs) with chapters in 33 countries, representing almost 30,000 businesses. This affiliation allows NAWBO members access to international business ideas and trends and provides networking opportunities throughout the world.
The National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO) is a nonprofit research and leadership development foundation established by NAWBO. This offshoot of the NAWBO gathers information about women-owned businesses and makes that information available to organizations around the globe.
NAWBO is also affiliated with the Small Business Technology Coalition (SBTC) and with the Women Business Owners Corporation (WBOC), which helps small women-owned businesses compete for government contracts. This organization helps women entrepreneurs and business owners to meet professional certification and training needs.