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The Southeastern University Low Income Female Entrepreneurship (LIFE) Project. Research produced by: Telaekah Brooks, Catalina Ford, Adrienne Burkley, Michelle Alston, Timora Pratt, Diernee Yates, and Rosalind Parker. Introduction.

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the southeastern university low income female entrepreneurship life project

The Southeastern University Low Income Female Entrepreneurship (LIFE) Project

Research produced by: Telaekah Brooks, Catalina Ford, Adrienne Burkley, Michelle Alston, Timora Pratt, Diernee Yates, and Rosalind Parker

  • The purpose of this research project was to identify the barriers and challenges facing low income female entrepreneurs.
  • This included identifying gaps in services from technical assistance providers, for which best practices will be recommended, establishing support groups for the participants, and providing training to them to further business development.
research methodology
Research Methodology
  • With a group of undergraduate and graduate level students, a survey was devised that addressed expected issues for the participants
  • Pre- screening interviews were conducted via phone for all potential participants
  • A series of ten focus group sessions were held with more than fifty women to gather colloquial data on their fears and challenges
raw data
Raw Data
  • 52 women participated in the focus groups
  • 11 women made less than $14,999 annually
  • 15 made more than $44,999 annually
  • Almost 10% possessed only a HS diploma; 33 % had some college
  • 28% had an associates degree, 21% had a bachelor’s degree and 11% hold master’s degrees or higher
  • 43% are single, 17% are married, and 31% are either separated or divorced
  • 64% indicated that credit was a barrier; 89% said savings or money was an obstacle
  • 25% were already in business; 62% were interested in starting a business or nonprofit; and 6% used to have a small business or nonprofit
more data
More Data
  • Six of the eleven women that made less than $14,999 annually were analyzed in depth.
    • All had at least two dependent children living in the home.
    • One had 4 dependent children and an Associate’s degree.
    • Another had 3 dependent children, owns her own home, has a Master’s degree and owns a small business
    • A third had 2 children, 2 grandchildren, some college and was operating a small nonprofit out of her home
  • Of the participants that reported an income between $15,000 and $19,999 annually:
    • One had no children and a HS diploma
    • Another had one non- resident child and vocational training
    • A third was over 60, had four non- resident children, a bachelor’s degree and indicated that social security was a primary source of income
  • Of those women making more than $45,000 annually:
    • All had between one and three children
    • At least one is currently unemployed
    • Education ranges from vocational diplomas to master’s degrees
    • Half of them own their homes
focus group data
Focus Group Data


  • Fear was the predominant barrier to entrepreneurship
    • The fear of failure and fear of success
    • How to overcome rejection
    • Fear of banks and financing
  • Most were unaware of resources available to them from TA providers
  • Credit, financial literacy and a lack of start up capital were major issues, as expected
  • Networking, marketing and training were identified as areas needing assistance
    • How to sell their product and themselves as serious businesswomen
  • Available childcare options and transportation play a role in their daily lives
more on our findings
More on Our Findings

Recommendations for TA providers:

  • A more holistic approach to business development
    • Women were often given information without the counseling or education needed for them to understand how to move forward
  • A focus on financial literacy
    • Credit, financing, and savings were significant issues for this population
  • Sensitivity to women’s issues
    • Childcare and transportation difficulties often were not considered in program design
gaps in our research
Gaps in Our Research
  • We did not address dependent adults living in households with the participants (either as children or other relatives)
  • Education did not always indicate higher annual earnings- job category and industry information may have been helpful here
  • Some participants may not be working in their primary career paths or degree fields as well
  • We did not inquire about barriers to income
ongoing activities
Ongoing Activities
  • Networking Events
    • To build their confidence and create business opportunities we will utilize speakers, panel discussions, role playing, speed networking techniques, and elevator speeches
  • Support Group Activities
    • The aim is to create relationships between the participants that will continue after our involvement, so group training events and meetings will create group identity
  • The Toolkit for TA providers
    • This will be designed to give TA providers insight into the issues facing this demographic and feedback on how to develop programs that target them
  • A Comprehensive Final Report
    • This will be a data source for further research on low income women
in closing
In Closing
  • We plan to continue our research on this population and address some of the gaps mentioned earlier
  • Southeastern University, the Center for Entrepreneurship, and our students were excited to participate in this important research project.