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2024 Women Entrepreneurs Report

Female Executives Prioritize Market Expansion for Business Growth, Show High Preparedness for M&A 

Capstone Partners’ Women Entrepreneurs (WE) Report analyzes the responses of more than 200 female business owners across the U.S. for key findings related to business decisions, growth strategies, and legacy expectations. By comparing the survey results to Capstone’s annual Middle Market (MM) Business Owners Survey, the report seeks to identify and elevate key differences and challenges that female founders face.

This study was launched for three primary reasons, and we hope it provides insight and gravity to each in kind:

  1. Female founders are responsible for creating more new businesses than their male counterparts and make up a vital component of the private, small business economy.
  2. These leaders face known challenges that Capstone can provide a shared platform for—to discuss, elevate, and analyze as harbingers of change.
  3. The legacy that these founders leave behind will be monumental, paving the way for future generations. We seek to become a resource for owners in every stage of the business lifecycle, from early growth, to expansion, and transition. It is never too early to plan the future for you or for your company.

By engaging with this key demographic, we seek to support growth and connectivity. Please contact us to discuss your own business outlook or to speak with a professional at our firm. We hope this information serves as a valuable resource.

Women Own Growing Share of U.S. Businesses, Key Challenges to Expand Operations Remain

Women entrepreneurs are on the rise. Between 2019 and 2023, the number of women-owned businesses grew by ~1.7 million, generated $579.6 billion in revenue, and added 1.4 million jobs to the economy, according to Wells Fargo’s annual Impact of Women-Owned Businesses report.1 These growth rates outpaced men-owned businesses in ownership volume (1.9x), revenues (1.8x), and employment (3.5x). As of 2023, females owned 39.1% of all U.S. businesses (14 million).

When it came to top concerns for the future growth of their company, inflation headlined the chart, comprising 55% of responses. This commanding share came as little surprise, with the U.S. inflation hitting a 40-year high of 9% in 2022 and lingering north of 3% for the remainder of 2023, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.2 Customer retention was the next highest concern at 35%. These figures mirrored the top two concerns in Capstone’s MM Business Owner Survey. At the same time, increased workload or stress appeared third on female founders’ list compared to seventh for overall MM business owners. Funding for growth and credit availability were also more heavily weighted.

Nearly one in four respondents to Capstone’s WE Survey indicated that they required help raising debt and equity capital. The absence of growth funds allocated to female founders and the lack of sizeable loans approved for women-owned businesses are known hurdles for women entrepreneurs seeking to expand their business operations. Access to early-stage, or venture capital (VC), funding has been historically low for women, with incremental gains over the past 15 years. In 2008, 3.4% of VC deals went to female-founded companies compared to 6.1% in 2023, according to PitchBook.3 In addition to limited deal volume for female founders, the average deal size remains far below those awarded to male counterparts. In 2023, the average VC deal value for male-founders was $9.4 million compared to $3.1 million for female-founders.

Female Executives Show High Preparedness for M&A Exit

Women entrepreneurs’ current growth strategies have largely included organic initiatives, with more than half increasing market penetration (59%) and expanding product or service portfolios (53.8%). Of note, market penetration tactics have been more pertinent to women CEOs compared to the broader MM business owner audience, of which only 47.5% have increased market penetration.

Regarding current growth strategies, only 18.1% of women entrepreneurs have enacted inorganic initiatives through M&A. However, M&A as an exit strategy is likely to be more prevalent, with 36.7% considering a merger or acquisition. This is especially true for women CEOs aged 18-34, as many plan to participate in multiple business ventures throughout their careers. Among female CEOs in this age group, 48% have considered M&A as an exit strategy compared to 33.6% of 35 to 54-year-olds and 17.9% of 55+ year-olds. Elevated private equity interest in businesses owned by Gen Z founders may have also contributed to 18 to 34-year-olds’ M&A exit considerations. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of women CEOs ages 18-34 have been contacted by a sponsor looking to buy their company.

According to our results, women entrepreneurs are more prepared for an exit than they perceive. When prompted directly, 43.3% of female CEOs noted they have started to plan a business exit. However, when provided a list of exit preparation steps, 74.8% identified that they have completed at least one step. Many women entrepreneurs have built a strong executive leadership team (37.1%), determined financial needs (34.3%), and maximized growth strategies (31.9%) in 2023 to prepare for a future exit. Furthermore, women entrepreneurs aged 18-34 have been more proactive in exit planning compared to their older counterparts. Of note, 31% of 18 to 34-year-olds completed a business valuation compared to 17% of 35 to 54-year-olds and 18% of 55+ year-olds.

While the majority of women entrepreneurs surveyed have started the exit planning process, many still have outstanding questions regarding M&A. Female CEOs’ top questions on M&A included how to prepare years away, how to value a company, and what the process looks like.

Women Entrepreneurs Report Reveals Advisory Services in Demand

In addition to analysis of the survey findings, the report features commentary and Q&As from Capstone advisors on key service areas that women business owners identified as areas of interest or demand. The report also includes advice from female executives to the next generation of business owners.

The full publication, available for download below, includes:

  • Opening Remarks
  • State of the Market
  • Business Operations & Strategy
  • Credit Availability & Fundraising
  • Q&A: Equity Capital Markets Advisory
  • Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Q&A: Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) Advisory Group
  • Most Needed Business Services
  • Fairness Opinions for Risk Mitigation
  • Life After Exit
  • Advice to the Next Generation


2024 Women Entrepreneurs Report – Full Report Download

Complete the form below to access the full publication.


Are You a Female Entrepreneur? Volunteer for the WE Study.

If you are a female executive leader in the United States, we would love to tap into your insights and experience for our study on the current state and future legacy of female business owners and the companies they lead. To learn more and volunteer click here:  Capstone Women Entrepreneurs Study.


  1. Wells Fargo and WIPP Education Institute, “2024 Impact of Women-Owned Businesses,”, accessed April 22, 2024.
  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “12-month percentage change, Consumer Price Index, selected categories,”, accessed April 22, 2024.
  3. PitchBook, custom data project inspired by “The VC Female Founders Dashboard,”, accessed May 13, 2024.
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