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Female Business Owners Talk Mentorship, Entrepreneurship, and Success Strategies


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As a business owner, being your own boss certainly has its perks, but 33 percent of female small business owners were motivated to start their own businesses to inspire other women. That’s according to a new survey of 1,013 female small business owners, including 505 who identified themselves as white and 508 as people of color.

One in three (36 percent) respondents said they currently have a female mentor or role model in the business world—particularly women of color, who were almost 1.5 times more likely to have a mentor than their white counterparts. (42 percent vs. 29 percent). And three out of four mentored respondents (75 percent) credited that mentor with the success of their business.

Women of color also expressed a stronger interest in “inspiring other women” with their business (39 percent versus 26 percent), and 82 percent said they want their success to show others that it’s possible to overcome stigmas.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Office Depot, the survey also asked women about the challenges they faced when opening their businesses. Overall, respondents cited lacking funds (47 percent) and trying to maintain a work-life balance (38 percent) as the toughest hurdles to overcome.

Eighty-four percent said they’ve wanted to start their business as long as they could remember, with 80 percent launching their venture based on a hobby or activity they were already passionate about. Sixty-one percent even worked a day job so they could save up enough money to open their business, including more women of color (71 percent vs 51 percent).

Of the 417 respondents who started their businesses in the past two years, 61 percent say the pandemic played a big factor in their decision. “The growing number of women who have turned their passion projects into successful small businesses is incredible,” says Zoë Maloney, executive vice president and chief human resources officer for The ODP Corporation. “Seeing female entrepreneurs come together to empower and mentor one another while developing the next generation of powerful female leaders is so inspiring and impactful.”

Out of 500 female small business owners of color, more than half also said there weren’t enough resources available to them along their journey in opening their own businesses (53 percent). Forty percent believe some of the difficulties they faced were related to discrimination or bias against race/ethnicity, while 42 percent believe they were also denied opportunities that would have helped their businesses. For all respondents, other unanticipated financial challenges included high start-up costs (58 percent) and equipment/maintenance fees (39 percent).

Respondents said that helpful assets like cash grants (38 percent) or marketing materials (29 percent) would have helped get their businesses off the ground. Still, nearly three-quarters of all respondents said they feel that it’s easier for a woman to become a successful business owner today than 10 years ago (73 percent). And most said owning their business has been an overall positive experience (81 percent), citing being their own boss (66 percent) and watching their business grow (40 percent) as the fruits of their labor.


  1. Lack of funds (47 percent)
  2. Work-life balance (38 percent)
  3. Marketing (35 percent)
  4. Difficulty growing (32 percent)
  5. Networking (29 percent)


  1. Being your own boss (66 percent)
  2. Watching your business grow (40 percent)
  3. Putting an idea into action (36 percent)
  4. Work-life balance (25 percent)
  5. Inspiring other women (24 percent)

This random double-opt-in survey of 1,013 female small business owners (including 505 who identified as White or Caucasian and 508 who identified as Asian or Pacific Islander, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Native American or Alaskan Native, or other) was commissioned by Office Depot between February 3 and February 7, 2022. 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 The Author

Julie is the co-founder of Well Defined and a longtime influencer and advocate in the wellness world. Along with her work at Well Defined, she is an executive recruiter and marketing specialist for Hutchinson Consulting. She is also a consultant and content strategist for numerous wellness brands. She is the former editor-in-chief and publisher of American Spa and was named a 2019 Folio Top Woman in Media in the Industry Trailblazers category and a 2018 winner of ISPA’s Innovate Award. She is also a seasoned journalist, specializing in spa, travel, health, fitness, wellness, sustainability, and beauty. She has been published in Departures,, E! Online,, Insider’s Guide to Spas, Luxury Travel Advisor, Marin Magazine, Ocean Home, Smart Meetings, Spa Asia, and Travel Agent.