Sawyer inspires gathering of women in business

An ever-increasing number of women are starting their own businesses and are making great strides, but women still face tough obstacles in their path to success and independence, said Jane Sawyer, public information officer and lead business development specialist in the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Hawai’i office.

“Access to capital is one of the biggest problems women face when starting a business,” she said.

“Women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men, but (in some cases) don’t have collateral or experience, and tend to use their own funds.”

Sawyer was the guest speaker last week at the Women in Business Roundtable gathering at the Hukilau Lanai Restaurant inside the Kauai Coast Resort at the Beachboy in Waipouli.

“I think, overall, women have made great strides in business and the corporate world, but a still-large percentage of women are not at the highest level.”

According to Roundtable committee chair Debra Jason, close to 90 women attended. Jason said it was the largest turnout ever for the Women in Business Roundtable.

She said women from all parts of the island came to hear Sawyer’s comments at the event billed as “Women in Business in the 21st Century.”

“I think we had a lot of first-timers who were hungry to hear what Jane had to say. She was very powerful, and had a lot of information she backed up with info.”

Also on hand to speak and give advise on business options for women was Susan Tai, director of the SBA’s Small Business Development Center.

Sawyer, who has more than 12 years of economic and business-development experience under her belt, said she was pleased by the turnout.

“It was a great crowd, up-beat and forward thinking. They hold great promise for Kaua’i,” Sawyer said.

She said that one explanation as to why more women are starting their own businesses could be because they feel they may have maxed out their earning potential in an existing company where, if there’s not exactly a glass ceiling, there might be a bamboo one.

“Women in a corporate environment may feel they’ve reached a position and are not going to see a continued increase in income, so they go off on their own more,” she said.

Among the trends Sawyer discussed included more women getting into non-traditional fields such as construction, research and development, science, and design work.

SBA leaders have programs and resources to help people start or grow businesses, she added.

Sawyer joined the SBA in 1993, and is responsible for resource and grants management, marketing and public information for the agency. In addition, she oversees the SBA’s business-development programs and partnerships.

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