Celebrate Small Business Week: Invest in young female entrepreneurs

Last November, we were elected to Congress as part of a freshman class full of “firsts.”

One of us was one of the first Native American women elected to Congress. The other, one of the youngest women ever elected to Congress

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We’re also both first-generation college students. And we’re still paying off our student loans.

While it’s not an uncommon experience for many Americans, it has been uncommon for members of Congress.

It’s these shared experiences that we bring to the House Small Business Committee, where we’re working together to expand opportunities for entrepreneurs who are increasingly young, female and racially diverse.

It wasn’t until 1988 that women could apply for a business loan without needing a male relative to co-sign it. Now more than 11.6 million businesses in the U.S. are owned by women, and 5.4 million businesses are majority-owned by women of color.

While we’ve certainly come a long way, many barriers still exist for women, particularly young women and women of color, to start and grow a business. 

Women face greater difficulties accessing capital to finance and grow their businesses. A 2018 study found that the average loan size for female entrepreneurs was one-third less than for their male counterparts.

Additionally, student loan debt presents an added burden for younger women trying to start a business, something we’ve seen firsthand from lots of folks in our generation. 

Aspiring entrepreneurs in our states— Iowa and Kansas— also struggle with crumbling infrastructure that make it difficult for them to reach more customers. Internet connection is an invaluable tool for accessing new markets so limited broadband, particularly in the rural parts of our states, can stop a good idea in its tracks. 

We see the benefits that small businesses have on our communities firsthand on Main Street tours and during time spent “on shift” at small businesses across our districts. We’ve seen lots of folks want to stay in the Midwestern communities that raised them, and many who have left that want to find a way to come back home. We need to make sure that there is access to opportunities that make that possible.

We’re proud to be part of the 116th Congress, one full of so many firsts. We know that this Congress can be the first in other ways too. We can expand access to capital, lessen the burden of student loans, reinvest in our infrastructure, and connect people through better broadband.

At a time when our politics are so polarized, we have a real opportunity to tackle the challenges that our generation of entrepreneurs— and small business owners of all ages— faces. 

This Small Business Week – and every week—we’re committed to doing just that.

Rep. Abby FinkenauerAbby Lea FinkenauerLobbying world Finish the work of building a renewable fuels industry GOP scores procedural win by securing more funding to enforce Iran sanctions MORE represents Iowa’s 1st District and chairs the Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship Subcommittee of the House Small Business Committee. Rep. Sharice DavidsSharice DavidsOcasio-Cortez chief of staff to leave her office The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller testimony gives Trump a boost as Dems ponder next steps House Democrats delete tweets attacking each other, pledge to unify MORE represents Kansas’s 3rd District and serves on the House Small Business Committee.