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Opening and Growing a Women-Owned Small Business


The U.S Small Business Administration offers Ascent, a “free learning platform for women entrepreneurs.” You can use Ascent to learn about strategic marketing, government contracting, growing your business, and more.  

There’s also DreamBuilder, which was designed by Arizona State University to empower women entrepreneurs around the world. Through DreamBuilder, you can access free online, asynchronous entrepreneurship courses in both English and Spanish. 

Additionally, the Penn Libraries provides a plethora of books, including ones that have been written by, for, and about women entrepreneurs! We’ve highlighted a few titles below, but you can find even more resources by searching the Franklin Catalog.


The U.S. Small Business Administration offers programs to help small businesses win federal contracting dollars. One such program is the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract program. You can learn more about this program, including how to qualify and get certified as a WOSB, on their website. You might also want to explore the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program, which helps companies owned and run by “socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.”

Locally, the Philadelphia’s Women’s Opportunities Resource Center (WORC) offers loans designed for women to start or expand their business. Loans can range from $150-$350,000, depending on need and eligibility.

PitchBook, a library database, allows you to search for companies founded by women. Use the People screener and limit by geography and industry. You can then see who provided funding to these companies and might be interested in funding your company as well.


Small businesses can be lonely work! That’s why it’s important to find a community of like-minded peers who can relate to your experiences and passion. 

Luckily, Penn has groups dedicated to women’s empowerment in business for both undergraduate and MBA students. For undergraduates, there’s Wharton Women, which welcomes members from all of Penn’s undergraduate schools. And for Wharton MBA students, there’s Wharton Women in Business (WWIB).  

Additionally, while not dedicated to business, visit the Penn Women’s Center (PWC) to connect with more people passionate about gender equity.


Shopping at Women-Owned Small Businesses

A great way to support entrepreneurial women is to patronize their business. You can use different directories to identify women-owned small businesses by neighborhood, sector, and more.  

For example, the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) of Greater Philadelphia has a directory of environmentally-focused companies that can be sorted by categories like women owned, LGBTQ owned, and whether it is a certified B corporation. You can also try Keepin’ It Small, another digital directory for Philadelphia businesses. Note that for both directories, all information is self-reported and members pay a fee to be included.  

Additionally, we have resources here at the Lippincott Library to screen for small businesses owned by women. Like PitchBook, D&B Hoovers enables you to build lists of similar companies. You can use it to screen for women-owned businesses by starting a new Companies search and expanding the fields under Company Type. You can run similar searches in Data Axle, which covers the U.S. and Canada. Use the advanced search to limit by industry, gender, and job title.  

Email us at with any questions about using our resources to screen for women-owned small businesses.



October 31, 2023