By Jayne Armstrong | Iowa district director, U.S. Small Business Administration

Times are changing for Iowa’s women business owners.

Motivated by a 2015 American Express study that ranked Iowa 51st in the nation – dead last – in the economic clout of women business owners, women have mobilized into a sisterhood of growing influence. Their efforts are paying off as the 2019 State of Women-Owned Business Report by American Express now ranks Iowa 24th nationwide in the number of businesses owned by women.

Advocates like Jill Lippincott (pictured) of the Iowa Economic Development Authority deserve much of the credit for creating a business environment for startups and existing businesses to thrive.

An unsung shero of the effort, Lippincott recognizes that one never influences change by sitting on the sidelines.


Since joining IEDA in 2016, she has quickly raised the profile of women business owners and the state’s Targeted Small Business Program. The certification program for small businesses owned by women, minorities, service-disabled veterans and individuals with disabilities opens the door for access to state contracting opportunities. Local corporations also access the program to identify small businesses to meet their supplier diversity purchasing goals.

Lippincott is everywhere championing Iowa’s women entrepreneurs. She recognizes the best way to tell their story is to know their story. It is all about relationship building. She regularly visits the businesses – listening and learning about their goals and needs, while connecting them to resources to grow.

Her extensive marketing and outreach efforts raise awareness of TSB businesses statewide. Collaboration is key to her success as an influencer. She works closely with other economic development partners to host workshops and special events to promote business opportunities for women business owners. State agencies are now stronger advocates of the TSB program thanks to her aggressive marketing within state government.

Lippincott’s advocacy efforts are not going unnoticed. The U.S. Small Business Administration is honoring her as its 2020 Iowa Women in Business Champion during National Small Business Week. The award recognizes an individual for his or her efforts to increase business and financial opportunities for women, to strengthen the role of women business owners in the community and to improve the environment for startups and expansions.

Access to capital remains a top issue for Iowa women business owners, but Lippincott is also influencing change in that area through the growth of the TSB microloan program. The Iowa Center for Economic Success, which also hosts the SBA’s only Women Business Center in the state, oversees the state program that offers microloans up to $50,000. Last year the program financed 14 of its 22 microloans to women-owned firms for a total of $424,205.

The TSB program played a major role in the state’s economic recovery efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. IEDA’s emergency relief efforts provided grants of up to $10,000 to 364 TSB small businesses. The grants gave the businesses a critical shot in the arm during the shutdown period. The economic initiative further expanded awareness of the TSB program. Registrations have doubled to nearly 900 TSB-certified small businesses, 80% of which are women business owners.

It is not surprising that other women influenced Lippincott’s own advocacy. Growing up with a mother as a woman business owner, she often worked in the business and experienced firsthand the challenges business owners face daily. Gov. Kim Reynolds’ and IEDA and Iowa Finance Authority Executive Director Debi Durham’s own advocacy of women businesses also inspires Lippincott to open that door even wider for Iowa women to succeed in the marketplace.

Statistics show that women business owners will remain a key driver in the American economy in years to come. More than 11.6 million firms are owned by women, employing nearly 9 million people and generating $1.7 trillion in sales as of 2017. According to the American Express 2019 State of Women-Owned Business Report, women are starting nearly 1,817 new businesses in America per day.

The growing influence of women business organizations, such as Women Lead Change, FemCity, National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), American Business Women’s Association (ABWA) and Women of Worth (WOW), showcases the economic impact of women business owners. NAWBO’s Iowa Chapter was recently honored as the runner-up for the National Chapter of the Year award and for its highest membership retention among NAWBO’s 60 chapters nationally. Times are certainly changing for the better in Iowa.

Advocates like Jill Lippincott understand that when you support women business owners, you influence change in communities across Iowa. Fortunately for Iowa there is no sideline in sight for this change agent.

Jayne Armstrong is the district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Iowa District with offices in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. The SBA resource network includes 15 Small Business Development Centers, four SCORE chapters, the Women’s Business Center and the Veteran’s Business Outreach Center servicing Iowa’s small business community.

About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov.