More Australian women operate their own business than ever before


Over 600-thousand Australian women operate their own small business, Federal government statistics show.

Making the perfect brew is all in a day's work for Jayne Lewis.

She and her friend Danielle Allen own and run a successful Melbourne brewery.

Ms Lewis said the pair came up with the idea while on holiday.

"In 2010, we went on a holiday to the US. And then in 2011, we started Two Birds Brewing. I guess we'd been drinking a lot of beer, Danielle had decided that she kind of wanted to start her own business, and so she backed what I was doing in brewing, and we started up Two Birds Brewing in 2011," Ms Lewis said.


The business has grown from just the two of them to 11 full-time employees in just a few years.

But Ms Lewis conceded that it’s been challenging.

"Doing everything. We wore many hats* throughout this whole process, from sales, brewing ... doing labels, the whole kind of ... everything. So that side of it's been challenging but so incredibly rewarding, of course, as well," she said.

The federal government says the number of women business owners increased 5.6 per cent in the 12 months to November.

In the same period, the increase for male business owners was less than 5 per cent.

Overall, more than 96 per cent of female business operators work in small businesses.


Australian Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Yolanda Vega said there are several reasons for that increase.

"Reasons include women are trying to get away from the corporate environment, a lot of them can't afford child care -- especially if they have two women or more, as their wages aren't enough to cover child-care costs -- and, also, a lot of women are needing work-life balances," Ms Vega said.  


But despite that, Ms Vega said the success rate is below the rate for men.

"Even though they're starting their own businesses, the majority -- around 51 per cent -- are currently unable to pay themselves a wage. And some of these women have been in business for a long time, not just start-ups. There are women that have been in businesses for 20 years or more that are unable to pay themselves a wage, and, as a consequence, many of them don't pay themselves a super(annuation) either," she said. 

She said there are many barriers that limit the success of women in small business.

"Capital is the major concern, because the majority of women can't access capital for their small-business start-ups. The fact that they're not included in the supply chains is another major factor. So when women start up a small business and can't obtain contracts, their cash flow is going to be minimal. Therefore, that's why we're seeing a large number of women unable to pay themselves a wage and unable to contribute to their superannuation," Ms Vega said.

And for small-business owner Jayne Lewis, being informed was also an advantage.

"I think, when you're starting your own business, it's really important to understand the industry that you're going into, understand the nitty-gritty.** So, if you're not working in the industry, get a stack of experience before you really commit to it. There can be a lot of background knowledge that you maybe don't necessarily know from an outsider's perspective. Yeah, just get in and get involved," she said.

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