School of Business
University of Ballarat
A Model For Success
Women’s Entrepreneurial and
Small Business Activity in
Report prepared for DSRD, Rural Women’s Network, NRE
and the City of Ballarat by:
Dr Janice Newton, Dr Lorene Gottschalk and Dr Glenice Wood
Higher Education - Mt Helen Campus
In a context of a rise in small business and women’s small business in
particular in western economies, and rural decline in Australia and
elsewhere, the fortunes and potential of rural and regional women in small
business appear of vital importance. From June to October 2001 a survey of
359 women in business, supplemented by group discussions with 49
additional women, was undertaken to establish details on the nature of
women’s involvement in small business in the Western Region of Victoria. A
further aim was to build a model for success. Surveys were distributed after
initial telephone contact and via meetings.
The sample reflected regional and female small business for the most part.
The majority were Australian born, over 40, with a high school education
and lived with a partner or partner and dependents. One hundred and sixty-
two (44%) asked to be part of a database.
64% aged 30-50
91% Australian born
8% post graduate qualifications
35% did not complete high school
86% live with partner/with or without dependents.
44% ask to be part of database.
There was considerable comparability between the sample and data on
women in small business generally. In relation to a flexible business style
and processes, a preference for face-to-face contact in communication, word
of mouth as the main recognised marketing tool, professional and personal
sources of information, the small number of employees and use of own
savings and banks for start-up, the region was similar to general studies.
69% employ 1-4 (including self)
80% mention ’word of mouth’ as marketing method
59% say they receive raw materials from local distributor
41% use face to face business communication with experts/specialists
94% say staff have some flexibility
Finance was an issue affecting most, both quantitative and qualitative data
revealing continuing instances of gender discrimination by financiers.
44% women say lack of finance inhibits start up
50% women say lack of finance inhibits operation.
Only half apply for ongoing loan.
On other aspects the sample showed internal homogeneity, for example in
relation to taking a major responsibility for domestic chores, the work
experience gained prior to starting a business and the highlighting of
experience as the best learning tool. The women mostly worked long hours
and over half wished that time to decrease. Sixteen percent indicated that
they made a profit of between $10,000 and $19,999 and 18% indicated that
they made no profit. They claimed staff respected their authority.
46% worked 40-59 hours per week in business
Over half work 20 + hours per week on domestic work
54% women want their time in business to decrease
98% say staff respect their authority
16% made a profit of $10,000-19,000
18% made no profit
There were other similarities in relation to technology and uses of services.
75.5% had access to Internet
68% use email
60% were aware of Chambers of Commerce . . .
but only 4% stated that they found them useful
Women agreed on their priorities for training in style and content. Those few
women who made use of NEIS were largely very happy with it.
94% want small face to face workshops for training
61% want marketing training
50% want financial training
49% want promotion training
In spite of some general common experiences, the sample also demonstrated
considerable range and diversity. For example women were fairly evenly
divided over whether they were risk takers or avoiders. Profits ranged from
nil to over $100,000 and turnovers from under $10,000 to over a million.
Attitudes to success varied from those wishing only for subsistence to those
wanting ‘world dominance’.
42% risk takers and 55% risk avoiders
30% report turnover between $100,000 and $300,000.
24% report nil or less than $1000 profit
40% report more than $20,000 profit
Some statistically significant differences were found between those who were
sole traders/partner with women and those in partnerships with men. The
former were more educated and concentrated in gender specific industries
such as Personal, Cultural and Property Services and Health. They had more
responsibilities for household tasks but spent less time on them. They were
more reliant on family and friends for unpaid labour and financial help, less
likely to go for operating loans and less likely to be successful gaining them.
Qualitative data revealed continuing instances of gender discrimination by
Sole/female Partners with male
Education post grad 11% 5% of 16%
Industry sector –Farming 15% 85% of 100%
-Personal Services 73% 27% of 100%
Start up finance, median $17,000 $45,000
An objective measure of success was made by isolating those who had three
out of the following criteria: profit of $10,000 or more in 2000; operated
business 5 years or more; reported “moderately strong” to “rapid sales
growth”; and reported “business performing well”. One third of businesses
met this criterion of success. Identifying features that may have contributed
to this success proved very difficult as very few independent variables
appeared to affect the dependent variable, success or lack of it. Those that
were statistically significant often applied to only small numbers in the
Subjective understanding of success highlights intrinsic and extrinsic factors
and a difference between those wanting market dominance and respect,
those wanting family subsistence and survival and those wanting personal
achievement, autonomy and esteem. Such variation reflects a context of both
choice and constraint, but there is little evidence in the survey of peripheral,
Main factors linked with successful third of businesses
Living with a partner
Perception that ‘time’ and ‘size of outlet’ biggest hindrance
Recognition of the role of dedicated, friendly staff in business success
Advice from mentor
In spite of some similarities, regional women in small business have a range
of motivations and therefore their needs may differ. Efforts should be made
to both encourage those with a strong ‘enterprise culture’ and to aid the
viability of those whose main aim is to self-employ and subsist. Whilst the
women prefer small face to face workshops, the high access to internet, the
lower success rate of those without a partner at home and the time
constraints of many women, suggest that on line training, information and
communication should be further developed. That 44% of the survey sample
offered to be part of a network/database further supports this option.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Executive Summary 2
1. Introduction 10
1.1 The Rural Context 10
1.2 The rise of small business – choice and
1.3 The significance of women in the growth
of small business 12
1.4 Objectives 13
2. Literature Review 14
2.1 Gender and research 14
2.2 Individual Characteristics of Business Women 16
2.2.1 Motivation and success 16
2.2.2 Training and experience 19
2.2.3 Networking 19
2.3 Institutional discrimination 21
2.3.1 Banks and finance 21
2.3.2 The law 22
2.4 The gender division of labour: the nexus
between domestic and other work 22
2.4.1 Industry 23
2.4.2 Business 23
2.4.3 Household 24
2.5 Summary 24
3 Methods of Research 26
3.1 The survey 27
3.2 Group and individual discussions 30
4 Results 31
4.1 Introduction 31
4.2 Sample Description 31
4.2.1 Age 31
4.2.2 Ethnicity 32
4.2.3 Education 32
4.2.4 Residence 34
4.2.5 Household unit 35
4.2.6 Summary of basic demographic data 36
4.3 Business basic data 36
4.3.1 Premise location and industry sector 36
4.3.2 Age of business and how started 39
4.3.3 Personal/Household income 39
4.3.4 Employees 40
4.3.5 Marketing, raw materials 41
4.3.6 Profit 42
4.3.7 Sole and partnered 45
4.3.8 Summary of business basic data 46
4.4 Business themes and issues 46
4.4.1 Finance 46
4.4.2 Risk and planning 50
4.4.3 Perceived hindrances 51
4.4.4 Business Style 55
4.4.5 Training and background 59
4.4.6 Domestic/Family Issues 63
4.4.7 Time 66
4.4.8 Indicators of success 68
188.8.131.52 Objective success indicators 68
184.108.40.206 Subjective success 74
5 Conclusion 80
5.1 Introduction 80
5.2 Similarities to Women in Small Business
5.3 Internal Homogeneity 81
5.4 Differences within the sample 81
5.5 The Success Model 83
5.6 Final Comment 83
Appendix A The survey 84
Appendix B List of occupations 100
List of Tables
3.1 Local government area proportional population of
sample and region 29
4.1 Age structure of sample and Victorian Women’s Small
4.2 Place of birth and ethnicity of sample and region 32
4.3 Education level of sample by region and Victorian
business women 33
4.4Proportion of sample household type compared to
Western Region 36
4.5Sample representation compared to Western Region
female employment by industry sector 38
4.6Age of business 39
4.7Numbers employed in business 41
4.8Source of raw materials and services 41
4.9Per annum profit 1999-2000 financial year 42
4.10Business ownership structure of sample and Yellow
pages Business Survey 46
4.11Reasons for refusal of finance 48
4.12Factors hindering business 52
4.13Staff management style 58
4.14Use of internet by sample and Australian Small
4.15Use of services by sample 59
4.16How lack of training compensated for 61
4.17Course Desired by Sample 63
4.18Proportion with most responsibility for domestic
Task by business operation 64
4.19Sources of unpaid help noted by total numbers
business operation 65
4.20Estimation of domestic work in five years by
business operation 67
4.21Hours worked in business by business operation 68
4.22Preferred time commitment 68
List of Figures
4.1 Highest level of education in sample 33
4.2 Size of town/area of residence 34
4.3 Household living arrangements of sample 35
4.4 Location of business 37
4.5 Type of business premise 37
4.6 How business was acquired 39
4.7 Numbers of employees in business 40
4.8 Reported Per annum profit 1999-2000 43
4.9 Turnover 1999-2000 43
4.10Reported sales growth 1999-2000 44
4.11Percentage of reported export sales 44
4.12Self reports of business status compared with
4.13Average hours per week on domestic tasks 66
4.14Average hours per week put into business 67
Many people have helped in this research in terms of their willingness to
attend meetings and to fill out the survey. Special thanks must go to those
busy women who gave their valuable time.
Thanks must especially be given to the members of the Steering Committee
for their encouragement, enthusiasm and practical advice: Linette Penhall,
(DSRD Ballarat), Fiona Davey (City of Ballarat), Dr Mandy Charman, (NRE);
Alice Dwelly (DSRD) and to Kathy Coultas (DSRD) for instigating support for
Neroli Sawyer undertook the survey data entry and helped greatly with
analysis. Jill Blee and Leanne Spain gave clerical support and telephoned
potential respondents. Kara Hodgson, School of Business helped with
formatting of the report and Monika Heim with management of finances.
Council staff in the ten Local Government areas were very helpful providing
maps, community and business lists and setting up meeting venues. Other
people have helped give out surveys or alerted those who may have been
interested in being part of the research include Pauline Fort (BRACE), John
Maguire and Dot Carpenter (Ballarat); Bev Blaskett, (Gordon) Dennis
Witmitz, (Executive Officer, Horsham and District Commerce Association,
Horsham), Mary Ashdown (Hepburn), Joan Bennett (Nhill); Karen Beggs
(Willaura); Liz Brooks (St Arnaud); Karen Chambers (Ararat), Judy Dahlke
(Stawell); Jenny Ellender (Daylesford); Lavergne Evans (Nhill); Geoffrey Gray
(Pyrenees); Margaret Hill (CWA Horsham); Donna Lindner (Dimboola); Kay
Macaulay (AIG); Joe McLelland (CEC Rainbow); Michelle Morrow
(Moorabool); Jen Murray (Central Highlands Rural Counselling Service); Jo
Postlethwaite (St Arnaud); Rosemary Robertson (Bacchus Marsh Village);
Jodie Ryan (Ballarat DSRD); Jenny Stewart (Warracknabeal); and Mark
Troeth (CEC Nhill).
1.1 Rural Context
Australia has experienced over the last few decades significant rural decline.
The proportion of the population who lived in rural areas had declined to
about 14% in the 1970s but the 1996 census saw this drop again. Nearly
two and a half million Australians live in towns with populations between
1000 and 19,999, but a third of these towns lost population between 1986
and 1996. The young in particular are the ones to leave (McKenzie, 1995;
AusStat., 1999c, 1999d).
The roots of regional decline in Australia stem from a number of factors, but
significant shifts in the competitiveness of the agricultural sector and the
nature of the farm as an institution have played an important role. Industry
restructuring as well as social, economic and technological changes are
contributing causes. The turnovers for main agricultural products such as
sheep, cattle and grain have declined and the number of agricultural
operations reduced. In 1999 the ABS reported that a fifth of farm businesses
reported a turnover of less than $50,000 (AusStat., 1999c; ABS, 1999a). The
Australian Social Trends report on small towns highlights this situation.
People in declining towns risk losing their savings, livelihood and
support systems as they confront the break-up of their community,
loss of jobs, deteriorating infrastructure and declining property
values. (The concomitant closure of services such as hospitals,
schools, shops and banks have) a direct impact on the health and
well-being of remaining residents (but can also have a less direct
psychological impact on the whole community) (AusStats., 1999d).
Although under stress, the family farm persists and is still the dominant
form of agricultural production in Australia. Governments are reliant on the
farm household to take up the slack when there are market variations. The
rural crisis has given women opportunities to contribute to off and on farm
income (Rickson & Daniels, 1999, pp.235-240). Participation by rural
women in the paid workforce, as a response to rural decline has been noted
increasingly over the last 20 years, but real hope for rural turnaround lies
elsewhere, in the growth of new business ventures. Appreciation of another
economic trend, that relating to small business, is therefore vital.
1.2 The Rise of Small Business – Choice and Constraint
There is increasing international evidence that the growth of small business
is a key strategy in the restructuring and revitalisation of older capitalist
economies currently underway. In most advanced countries the self-
employed and small employers are increasing in number and in economic
importance. Small business through the 1980s and 1990s in Australia
appeared to be on a strong growth trajectory. In the fifteen years to 1998-9
employment from small business had risen 59%, accounting for 3.1 million
people or 47% of the private sector workforce1 (Carter, 1993, p.148; Collins,
Gibson, Alcorso, Castles & Tait, 1995, pp.15-17, pp.98-99; Baines &
Wheelock, 1998; AusStats., 8127.1 1998; AusStats., 8127.1 1999a).
There are two sides to this trend. One is the optimistic espousal of
‘enterprise culture’. This term is associated with a ‘regeneration of values
associated with the freedom to work for oneself and to emerge from
dependency on the state, from public sector industries as well as from
welfare provisions’ (Allen & Truman, 1993, pp.1-2). The growth of the small
firm that is able to be flexible, to specialize on small runs, to adapt quickly to
technological change has been seen by some to be a sign of a new post-
fordist era of work and industry.
The other side to the growth of small business may be more to do with
constraint rather than choice and this may be a sign of recession, or at least
of an employment trend leading to core and periphery sectors of the economy
(Wheelock, 1992, p.151; Deery, Plowman, Walsh & Brown, 2001; Bradley,
Erickson, Stephenson & Williams, 2000).
Growth in home work, termed ‘outwork’ in Australia, the dependence and
subjection of small scale businesses to large scale economic organisations,
and the proliferation of outsourcing and privatisation has contributed to a
Victoria at 3.1% growth over this period was the second lowest growing State and Territory in
Australia. By 1999 it was apparent that this situation had slowed with growth in the numbers of small
businesses slowing to 2% after a 15 year average growth rate of 3.7%. The slow down was accounted
for by businesses that did not employ anyone rather than those which had employees, as the latter still
increased by 4.2% (AusStats. 8127.0, 1999a).
growth of small business pushed into existence rather than responding to a
drive to be entrepreneurial. These new forms of employment are often termed
the ‘peripheral economy’. Many new jobs are what can be termed ‘non-
standard employment’ and much of the new self-employment is marked by
insecurity. Much of this can be termed ‘non-employment’, as workers often
provide the same service to the organisation that previously employed them,
albeit on a subcontracting basis. To term them as ‘capitalist entrepreneurs is
highly misleading’ as the labour intensification involved allows ‘few resources
for productivity-enhancing investment’ (Rainbird, 1991, p.214. See also Allen
& Truman, 1993, p.7; Bradley, Erickson, Stephenson & Williams, 2000,
pp.51-70; TCFU, 1995; Deery, et al, 2001, p.73).
1.3 The Significance of Women in Growth of Small
Over the last 50 years the proportion of women in the workforce has grown
at more than twice the rate of men, so a growth in numbers involved in small
business is not unexpected. Recent decades have seen a faster growth rate of
women in business in Britain, USA and Australia than the rates for male
businesses (Moore, 1999). In Britain women now account for 25% of all the
self-employed although it must be acknowledged that this reduces to only
16% of all full time self-employed (Carter, 1993, p.149). In the USA growth
rates have been spectacular. Employment by women-owned companies has
increased at double the general national rate (Kuratko & Hodgetts, 1998,
p.14, p.18). In Australia while the number of business operators between
1995 and 1997 increased overall by 4.8%, female business operators
increased more dramatically by 9%. (AusStats. 8127.1 1998).2 Over the
decade 1987 to 1997 the average annual growth rate was 3%, one and a half
times the growth rate for male businesses (ABS, 1997). The Yellow Pages
Small Business Index (1996) found that women played a sole (6%) or leading
role (7%) in only 13% of businesses but claimed they shared a leading role in
another 19%. Businesses run by women have also been reported to be more
In the most recent ABS survey, for the first time the number of female operators
has declined, in spite of an increase in small business operators overall (AusStats.
8127.1, 1999b). Interestingly this decline did not take place in Victoria and
concerned women in business with a man, rather than sole female operators (ABS.
viable than male operated businesses (Sykes, 1989). Women owned
businesses thus represent the fastest growing segments of small business.
In rural areas, too, women are increasingly the drivers of new
entrepreneurial ventures. Such ventures either enhance household income
through vertical diversification, value adding to rural commodity products,
or horizontally through the development of new ventures not related to the
agricultural supply chain (Walsh-Martin, 1998; ABC Landline, 1997, 1998,
1999; O'Brien, 1991).
At the same time that the growth in women’s business has been noted the
significance of small family business for ethnic minority groups has also
come under scrutiny. Researchers into ethnic family business have observed
the reliance on the unpaid labour of women and children; a gendered
division of labour in the business; and motivations to take up small business
arising as much from discrimination in the general labour market, as from a
desire to be an entrepreneur (Phizacklea & Ram, 1996, p.332-337; Collins,
Gibson, Alcorso, Castles & Tair, 1995). Such issues are worth bearing in
mind for understanding women in small business generally.
In regional and rural Australia, the situation of rural decline and the
decreased importance of ‘standard’ agricultural products, suggests the
necessity of looking at the scope for small business and small business by
women in particular, as a path towards greater viability and sustainability of
regional and rural Australia. Before such a path can be followed a thorough
understanding of the nature of women and small business must be
obtained. The objective of this research is to clarify the nature of regional
business in Victoria and thus develop and refine a model for success for
female entrepreneurs within a rural/regional context. The above discussion
locates this phenomenon within a broader western economic framework,
which reveals two dimensions to the marked growth of small business
(choice and constraint).
2 LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Gender and Research
In the world of business and economics generally much research has been
uninformed by a gender perspective. It has been acknowledged for some time
that women’s participation in agriculture, in particular, has remained under
recognized (See Alston, 1991; James, 1989; McKenzie 1996). Despite
apparent equal legal status and significant labour contribution women are
often not noticed. Coming from this history where the labour of farm women
has been termed invisible, the last few decades have seen change in that
women are registering their involvement.
Recorded farm employment has changed from a ratio of 1 female to 10 males
to one to three. National Forums call for women’s perspectives on future
direction and farm productivity and so on. Current research on income
diversification and pluriactivity on farms demonstrates the strong
involvement of women in these activities and augurs well for greater visibility
of gender issues for rural women on farms (Alston, 1991; James, 1989;
Rickson & Daniels, 1999, p.237; Cullinen, 2001). Family farming, although
declining, is still the most predominant form of farming in Australia (Voyce,
1993), so can be gainfully included in general understandings of small
Invisibility of women in agriculture has not been an isolated instance of
gender blindness. Gender dimensions are often neglected in generic business
research as well. Serious academic research into small business has followed
its revival in the economies of the west and most of the research until now
has, in effect, concentrated on male-owned businesses. Those studies that
have concentrated on women specifically have come up with a range of
common themes. A focus on women alone in business and a failure to cover
the many women in business with their husbands and to ask comparable
family related questions of men, detracts from the generalisability of such
studies (Allen & Truman, 1993, p.1; Carter, 1993, p.149; Baines &
Wheelock, 1998, p.18).
For instance men in Australia have been reported as leading the push for
more flexible working hours, as they want to spend more time with their
families, but this is not a question asked in business research. Furthermore,
some of the variables suggested for gender difference in business have not
been tested with men, for example the impact of life cycle stage and the
reason that credit was given or refused by banks (Allen & Truman, 1993,
A few studies now are suggesting that both sexes sometimes define and
sometimes blur boundaries between family and business and that men, too,
have non-economic goals for business (Baines & Wheelock, 1998, pp.18-19).
There has been some acceptance that, aside from motivation and start up
barriers, few significant differences exist between male and female operated
companies (Carter, 1993, p.149). For example, Johnson and Storey (1993)
compare demographic profiles and find more similarities than differences.
Kallenberg & Leicht (1991) in relation to the 'how' of entrepreneurship, in
terms of their start-up and mode of operating over time, suggest that gender
does not make a difference (Stevenson & Jarrillo, 1990). However, debate
persists over this issue (Miner, 1997; Langan, Fox & Roth, 1995).
Detailed comparative studies are beginning to test the assumption of gender
difference more rigorously, but for some features there is general agreement
that there is difference. Women’s businesses are smaller, younger, take fewer
risks and derive lower earnings (Loscocco & Leicht, 2000, pp.2-3; Soutar &
Still, 2000). Empirical studies suggest that new ventures, run by women,
have very different growth, cash flow and survival characteristics to
businesses run by men (Still, 1988; Sykes, 1989).
As it stands, the following issues appear to have substantive support for
gender differences: individual characteristics such as motivation and notions
of success; institutional factors such as banking and legal practice and
social structural constraints arising out of a gender division of labour. The
following section will address these issues.
2.2 Individual Characteristics Of Business Women
2.2.1 Motivation and Success
Attempts to isolate factors leading to success have historically been
difficult. An Australian case study looking at success factors in small to
medium enterprises involved in high technology, concluded that strength
of the partnership between two (male) founding members, based on trust
and respect was most significant (Warren & Hutchison, 2000). Such a
finding may have implications for understandings of small family
business. Most studies, however, focus on individual motivations and
perceptions of success and they also problematise both the definition of
success as well as the characteristics that might be associated with it
(Marlow & Strange, 1994).
Gilligan, a feminist psychologist, says that a defining feature of women’s
business is the ‘intimate integration between the business and the social’
(cited in Baines & Wheelock, 1998, p.18). Self-employment is as much a
life strategy as a business strategy (Richardson & Hartshorn, 1993;
Moore, 1999). It can be a household response to the effects of economic
restructuring on a peripheral labour market’ (Wheelock, 1997, p.163).
Many studies suggest that women’s motivations are different to those of
men and also that their views of success may differ (eg. Moore, 1999;
Still & Timms 2000). Some authors have even argued that women have a
fear of success (Horner 1972). However, Marlow and Strange (1994)
argue that definitions of success traditionally used in small business
research, like profitability and turnover are inappropriate to the study of
many ventures and what should be taken into account is what the
original motivations and aims are. They argue that a major aim of many
women is to reconcile the competing demands of waged and domestic
labour and that if they manage to achieve this by undertaking business
ownership, they have been successful. This discussion has led to debate
about typology of female entrepreneurship.
Goffee and Scase’s (1985) typology of female entrepreneurs recognises
the classic entrepreneur committed to individualism and self-reliance
and others committed to traditional, often subservient, gender roles.
Recognition of difference within females is sound but a finer
understanding requires further qualification. Business can change the
woman as much as the woman changing the business and superficial
similarities in, for example, commitment to independence, can mean
different things at different stages in a woman’s life cycle (Carter, 1993,
An American study that measured business growth in relation to family
circumstances found that sole mothers were ‘driven’ as much as
breadwinning males by the need to provide (Loscocco & Leicht, 1993).
This finding may not transfer too well to a British or Australian context
where there is more state aid for sole parents and less expectation that
mothers should find paid work to support their children. A British study
(Baines & Wheelock, 1998) suggests that of family businesses
categorised by chief concerns and motivations, only one of four types
aimed for the business growth expected by government policy makers.
Furthermore, this ‘Achievement’ type was more likely than other types to
use human resources beyond the family.
Various scholars have attempted ideal types or continuums to categorise
motivation to engage in small business. ‘Men have been found to put
more emphasis on economic goals than women; alternatively women
have been found to sacrifice some economic performance in favour of
social goals such as increased customer satisfaction and work/family
balance’ (Souter & Still, 2000, pp.9-10). New research notes the
significance of push factors or constraints ‘forcing’ women to take up the
small business option (Still & Timms, 2000). The cruder dichotomies of
male entrepreneur money-makers versus female social lifestyle workers
have been superceded by models which recognise heterogeneity within
the sexes. Goffee and Scase (1985) constructed a 4 way typology on the
basis of the different combinations of two variables: commitment to
traditional gender roles and commitment to entrepreneurial values.
There is also a two way model which differentiates between the
‘opportunist’ and the ‘craftsperson’, or Gray’s three way model
differentiating between concerns with money, lifestyle or safety. Baines
& Wheelock (1998) built on this latter model recognising four sets of
concerns and priorities in their data on male, female and mixed operated
micro businesses from the south-east and north east of England.
The four motivations and concerns are: survival and security; business
intrinsic; creative; and achievement. The ‘survival/security group
characteristically struggle to achieve livelihood in the face of very limited
choices and may suffer from the dependency on larger more powerful
organisations. Those concerned primarily with survival worked long and
often inconvenient hours. Relying on one’s own labour was a stress
rather than a freedom and the financial rewards were precarious (Baines
& Wheelock, 1998, pp.25-6).
The second category entitled ‘business intrinsic’ embraced most of the
British sample. These were the people who gained satisfaction from
being their own boss and from having some choice over whom to work
for and when. There was an overwhelming desire for independence and
reluctance to seek help from outside agencies.
The new category proposed by Baines and Wheelock (1998) was termed
‘Creative’: these businesses evinced the desire to be recognised by peers
for the quality of their work. This group were more positive about
involving their spouses in the business, but had difficulty employing
others. They were more likely to be located in the arts and media.
Those driven by ‘Achievement’ wanted wealth, recognition and the
opportunity to have influence. They were the only group whose values
approximated the enterprise criteria set by the British small business
policy makers. This group fitted ‘classic’ entrepreneur personality types
and tended to have conflict and tension with spouses as well as
employees. They were less likely to embed their ‘economic behaviour in
social relations with their immediate family’ but more likely to be
‘energetic users of non family networks’ (Baines & Wheelock, 1998,
Models of success and motivation have moved from simple gendered
dichotomies to more complex understandings, across and within the
sexes. A range of priorities, from household survival to classic
entrepreneurial drive, operates among small, family and micro
businesses but it seems likely that women may be associated with more
of those motivations not representing the ‘classical entrepreneur’ .
2.2.2 Training and Experience
It is often argued (Baines & Wheelock, 1998, p.31; Carter, 1993, p.152;
Loscocco & Leicht, 1993, p.7; Boden & Nucci, 1997) that women in small
business lack the knowledge, experience and training of men. In Britain
and the US, men have been more likely to have work experience and/or
education related to their present venture. In husband and wife
businesses, women sometimes struggle to perform tasks for which they
are not trained.
Such shortcomings in training and experience could be related to the
‘lack of confidence’, ‘lack of credibility’ and ‘failure to be treated
seriously’ found among women in Canadian and British studies cited by
Carter (1993, p.151). There are suggestions that, given the time
constraints and domestic commitments of women, they should have
training courses well away from these responsibilities ‘to allow the time
and space for women to re-assess realistically their existing obligations
and the taking on of new ones’ (Allen & Truman, 1993, p.10). Given that
spouse support is vital for survival in many family businesses, Baines
and Wheelock (1998, p.31) suggest that there could be benefits in
offering joint training to husbands and wives.
While women partner their husbands in business they are probably
more likely to be working away from their gendered experience and
therefore, unless they are able to access relevant training, more likely to
be restricted in role and authority to make decisions as a consequence.
Gaining skills and knowledge depends to a large extent on access to
formal and informal business networks.
Kaur and Hayden find that a crucial factor in the difficult process of
starting a new enterprise is ‘an ongoing support network . . . that
provides professional help and advice staffed by those with the
knowledge and skills relevant in the industry, from sources of raw
materials through to its markets’ (cited in Allen & Truman, 1993, p.11).
Baines and Wheelock (1998) in their British study attempted to measure
the significance of networks and associations beyond the family and
found that while nominal membership of organisations such as
Chambers of Commerce was high (nearly 40%), there was a lack of
enthusiasm for such bodies compared with the high value placed on
‘loosely linked groups, often composed of other owners and small
businesses and of colleagues known through former employment’. They
were valued for practical advice and moral support. As stated, the
practice of calling upon people outside the business and family was
associated with a positive attitude to business growth (1998, p.22).
Networking has been recognized as something women do strongly on the
social, relationship plane (Moore, 1999), but deficiencies on the business
and professional level have been noted. Some have been addressed with
the establishment of government-aided networks (Still & Timms, 2000,
p.4) including the Rural Women’s Network and Professional and
Business Women’s Network. These go some way to compensate for
women’s lack of links with male-dominated professional organisations
and community bodies like Rotary and Chambers of Commerce, but
younger professional women at least are now ‘aggressively networking in
the male domain’ (Still, 1993, p.174).
A recent comparative study of 1000 businesses in Western Australia
found that women sought more information sources at start up than
men and while accountants were the most important source for both,
women relied more on immediate family and friends and colleagues than
did men (Soutar & Still, 2000). The significance of kinship, household
and friendship ties was also apparent in Baines and Wheelock’s major
British study (1998, p.17). Family members give substantial practical
and moral help and a family tradition of business ownership can also be
significant (Baines & Wheelock, 1998, p.17, p.21; Allen & Truman, 1993,
While networking socially is recognized as being quite strong among
women, it is the style and content of the network that may differentiate
women from men. If the focus of business women is on family, friends
and colleagues, it is possible that they will not obtain the professional
and relevant help that has been associated with growth and objective
success. While networking has been presented as an individual
characteristic, it involves links with institutions. Another theme in
general studies on women in small business concerns institutional
2.3 Institutional Discrimination
Institutional discrimination can be seen as a result of a culture of prejudice
or a result of policies and procedures within the institution.
2.3.1 Banks and Finance
Many of the gendered barriers associated with start up are put down to
problems receiving finance. Previous studies have found difficulties in
accessing capital and credit. Lack of capital forces the women to rely more
on their own labour and efficiency and is cited as one of the reasons the
businesses of women start and remain small (Allen & Truman, 1993, p.8;
Agencies like banks are generally geared to the perceived needs of men. The
procedural criteria they apply make it more difficult for women to set up a
business (Sykes, 1989; Koper, 1993). Australian small businesswomen have
knowledge of prejudice and discrimination, but in a recent major study
(Yellow Pages, 1996) they did not link this to their own circumstances.
Although there was recognition of prejudice against women in small
business operations and a lack of sympathy from banks, the women rarely
acknowledged being personally affected by this (1996, p.1). It could be
surmised that mainly sole operator females would be affected by such
prejudice, whether it be personal or structural. A resistance to making
personal complaints may be associated with a reaction to what some women
see as a ‘welfare’ approach to woman as ‘victim’ (Still & Timms, 2000, p.4).
For those with a focus on achievement goals it seems likely that a strong
ideology of individualism and commitment to the idea that the self has
considerable scope for action, would also act against recognition of
institutional discrimination and structural constraints.
2.3.2 The Law
The most noted form of legal institutional discrimination relates to family
farm businesses. Patterns of inheritance and the modification of the Family
Law Act (to avoid dissolution of property after divorce), operate to continue a
patriarchal structure. Women in such small businesses may be born into a
business and lack knowledge on whether they are to have a future role in it
(Bowen, 1995), or may marry into a situation where they are regarded as a
conduit to the next generation and transfer of the farm may be delayed
decades until a daughter-in-law ‘settles in’ (Voyce, 1993). Such women lack
a resource and power base from which to conduct the business in the equal
manner to which many aspire.
2.4 The Gender Division of Labour: The Nexus Between
Domestic and Other Work
At the wider social level there are economic structures and patterned
arrangements relating to the gender division of labour, that have endured for
decades and some even for centuries. Despite the fact that women are
entering the paid workforce in greater numbers, with women in Australia
now making up 43% of the paid workforce (ABS, 1999d), it has been
reported that women continue to take a larger share of domestic
responsibilities (eg. Burton, 1991; Davidson & Cooper, 1992; Parker &
Fagenson, 1994; Pringle & Tudhope, 1996; Still & Timms, 2000, p.7).
An understanding of domestic household labour both prefigures and follows
an understanding of the division of labour in industry sectors and in
business enterprises (Marlow & Strange, 1994, p.181). The lower financial
reward associated with work seen as feminine, domestic or linked to the
nature of women, factors back into the continuation of a system in which
women remain primarily responsible for domestic work. If they earn less in a
female type job or business employment in the paid economy, it becomes
more likely that it is in a household’s interest to prioritise the (male) work
that can bring a bigger income and leave household responsibilities to the
woman. If they earn less in wage labour they are more financially
constrained with the scale of their new business initiatives (Boden & Nucci,
1997, p.1). In the following discussion the division of labour across industry
sectors; the division of labour within small business; and the division of
labour within the household are discussed, in relation to the need to
recognise the specific needs of women in small business.
Western labour markets are defined by horizontal segregation in that women
predominate in a few sectors. These sectors are often outgrowths of the
support and service work that may go on in a household. The types of
business which women are in reflect the traditional female labour market
segregation and location. Throughout the world women are more likely to be
found in food production, nutrition, health and child care. Women
predominate in non-standard employment sectors. Some scholars believe
that most income differences for women in small business can be attributed
to organisational, occupational and industrial segregation (Loscocco &
Leicht, 1993, p.2, p.19; Carter, 1993, p.150; Allen & Truman, 1993, p.9;
Deery et al., 2001).
The industries in which there are high proportions of women relative to men
in Australia are Education (61%); Health and Community Services (55%);
Personal and Other Services (52%); Accommodation, Cafes and Restaurants
(48%); and Cultural and Recreational Services (43%). The industries most
women work in with their own business are the retail trade and property and
business services (ABS 1301.0, 1997b).
Within shared businesses a gendered division of labour persists. Past
studies of the division of labour in farm businesses see women as
undertaking book-keeping and accounting roles whilst males are dominant
in labour management and capital issues (Craig, c1990; Rickson & Daniels,
Unpaid support in small business where the wife may or may not be a
partner, can also follow such gender lines, women typically working in a
clerical, service or support capacity. ‘Symmetrical partnerships were rare’
(Baines & Wheelock, 1998, pp.21-24).
Talk of equality in business operations is not always matched by empirically
proven equality in decision making over serious issues. For example,
Queensland farm women had more say on ‘inside’ issues than broader
general issues concerning farming and the environment, according to
Rickson and Daniels, 1999, p.244.
Studies of rural women testify to the resilience of gendered responsibilities
for household tasks (Dempsy, 1992). Shelton and Firestone in 1989
estimated that 8% of the gender gap in general US earnings was a direct
result of women’s greater domestic burden. They spend more time per week
on domestic work and take the main responsibility for care giving to
dependent children (Loscocco & Leicht, 1993; Allen & Truman, 1993, p.9).
Carter (1993, p.151) claims that many women feel guilt and role conflict due
to difficulties meeting business and family obligations. Involvement of
women in small business is often underwritten by the need to reconcile the
competing demands of waged and domestic labour (Marlow & Strange, 1992,
p.182). Domestic responsibilities restrict time and mobility but we cannot
assume that business is always subordinate to family (Allen & Truman,
While industry sector may structurally disadvantage a sole female operator,
the division of labour within family farms and other ‘husband and wife’
operated businesses may detract from true equal understanding and ability
to make strategic decisions. The division of labour in the household is
possibly the most important structural disadvantage for all women involved
Female invisibility and gender blindness have marked earlier studies of
women in farming and other small businesses. Current debate about the
level of difference and similarity between men and women in business is
hampered by a lack of truly comparative data linking business with family
and social aspects. Women’s businesses though are smaller, younger and
take lower earnings. While women in these businesses appear to vary from
men’s businesses in motivations and notions of success, they can also be
differentiated by motivational categories such as ‘survival and security’ and
‘achievement’, that cross male and female businesses. Women in business
lack training, relevant experience and involvement in business and
professional networks. Institutional discrimination appears to persist in
terms of divorce and inheritance factors for agricultural businesses and
access to finance through banks for business generally. A gendered division
of labour in which women remain primarily responsible for domestic tasks
and in which they are still associated with ‘feminine’ work in the general
labour market, underpins an involvement in business that reflects this
‘horizontal segregation’ and sees the persistence of a separation of tasks
within businesses. Such separation may provide a basis for a lack of true
equality in strategic decision-making in shared partnerships.
Regional and rural contexts for current developments for women in small
business should take into account the issues discussed above. In
ascertaining the nature of small business in the Western Region notions of
choice and constraint and a critical appreciation of ideas and measures of
success are central. In the following section the Methodology sets out the
rationale for the current research and clarifies the methods used to address
the above issues.
3 METHODS OF RESEARCH
Multiple research techniques were used to gain an understanding of the
situation that could furnish both objective descriptive statistics of the
current situation, enabling the charting of simple correlations, as well as
providing more qualitative insight into the passions and concerns of the
women involved in enterprise throughout the region. Multiple research
methods, also referred to as triangulation (Reinharz, 1992, p.197) allow for
creative research designs and increase the richness of the findings because the
subject is investigated from a number of different approaches (Reinharz, 1992).
Through the use of such methods, understanding of the respondents’
perception of reality is likely to be increased, thus the validity of the findings is
Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used in this project. This
approach is supported by Toby Jayaratne (1983, p.140) who, though aware of
the restrictions of positivistic methods, also advocates the use of both
qualitative and quantitative research methods, believing that such an
approach is more effective in developing and explicating theory. While
quantitative methods can provide a wealth of facts about a phenomena, the
additional qualitative methods allow exploration of reasons for, and feelings
that led to, a phenomena, as well as feelings about a phenomena (Jayaratne,
1983:140). The qualitative approach focuses on meaning, rather than
measurement, of social phenomena (Hussey & Hussey, 1997:53). Qualitative
• the importance of establishing rapport between the researcher and the
• the need for the researcher to value and respect the subject’s view of their
own reality; and
• for the subject’s own words to be used in the subsequent written report.
(Hussey & Hussey, 1997, p.53).
This research was conducted using a combination of questionnaires and
interviews. The central research tool for the former was an extensive
questionnaire and for the latter eleven meetings were held throughout the
region and note was taken of telephone conversations with potential survey
respondents throughout the period of data gathering.
The focus group interviews had a dual purpose. The first group in Ballarat
enabled the piloting of the questionnaire and some minor improvements to
be made. For the other ten group interviews, personal contact with regional
centres and women’s groups in the context of holding group discussions
promoted a more thorough distribution of questionnaires, more thoughtful
and considered responses, as well as more reliable returns. The data from
the focus group interview/discussions add a deeper dimension, another
layer of information which can ‘validate and refine’ questionnaire responses
(Reinharz 1992, 201).
Ethics approval for the research was granted through the Human Research
Ethics Committee of University of Ballarat on June 7, 2001.
3.1 The Survey
The survey (See Appendix A) was designed by the researchers between
March and April, modified after a steering committee meeting in May 11, and
piloted by two women from Southwestern and Northwestern Victoria who
responded to a media release. In order to have a more thorough critique, it
was piloted again by women at the first focus group in Ballarat June 15.
The population of participants for the survey consisted of all adult, female
small businesses (employing less than 20 effective full time workers), which
were either sole operated or consisting of partnerships with men or women,
in the Western Region. The Western Region consists of 10 Local Government
areas: Rural City of Ararat, City of Ballarat, Hepburn Shire Council,
Hindmarsh Shire Council, Horsham Rural City Council, Moorabool Shire
Council, Northern Grampians Shire Council, Pyrenees Shire Council, West
Wimmera Shire Council, and Yarriambiack Shire Council.
The sample of 359 was drawn through two major means: a general
snowballing database for a mail out following an introductory phone call,
and a series of advertised meetings in Ballarat, Beaufort, Ararat, Stawell,
Horsham, Dimboola, Warracknabeal, Nhill, Edenhope, Willaura and
Daylesford. The limited time available to women for meetings and the small
number at the meetings meant that greater effort had to be applied to direct
phone calling of lists, ‘subcontracting’ lots of surveys to helpful community
members and finally, to creating targeted lists through the Yellow Pages
Local Government areas were contacted to provide maps of the boundaries
for the regions and lists of social groups. Some initial contacts were made
through the CWA but were found to be of limited use because of the lack of
women involved in business in the groups. Advertisements were also placed
in the Rural Women’s Network magazine however, and unexpectedly, there
was minimal response.
The Western Region’s DSRD Women in Business list was used as a starting
point to invite women to attend the first focus group and pilot of the survey,
then was further used as a data base to telephone to ask permission to send
surveys. The Rural Women’s Network and Australian Industries Group
provided useful short lists of contacts. Other council areas were able to
provide lists of all businesses in the area though some were considerably out
of date. Some councils were able to direct the researchers to key women in
the community with local knowledge of businesses. The sample was thus
recruited through contact with Council, Social & Economic Development
officers, women's groups, traders' associations, State and Regional
Development, Western Region, and advertisements in the Rural Women's
Network, a CWA conference, a Quilters website and the Australian
Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Network.
Every effort was made to reach as many women in business as possible. For
example a worker at the National Enterprise Incentive Scheme posted 45
surveys to those who had completed NEIS business courses at Ballarat. A
contact in Horsham distributed two questionnaires to 50 businesses, (100 in
total) hoping each one would pass the second questionnaire on to an
appropriate person. A contact in Edenhope National Resources and
Environment agreed to take 10 surveys to send out, three contacts took bulk
surveys to distribute in Edenhope (10), Nhill (50) and Rainbow (15). The
Council worker in Ballan arranged for 100 surveys to be given out at
meetings in Ballan and Bacchus Marsh. Contacts in Ballarat distributed by
hand to Gordon businesses (Moorabool), and to Zonta (15) and Soroptomist
(10) meetings in Ballarat.
To further enhance the number of respondents, hand deliveries and pick ups
were made to businesses in Sturt St Ballarat, East Ballarat, Sebastopol,
Buninyong, Mt. Pleasant and Daylesford during the weeks September
In September and October, two research assistants were hired to do
intensive phone calling in the Hepburn, Northern Grampians, Ballarat and
Moorabool local government areas once again for the purpose of increasing
the number of survey participants. In October 19 and 20th advertisements
were run in the Wimmera Mail Times and Ballarat Courier respectively but
both newspapers failed to make use of editorial copy provided. The
Daylesford Advocate and The Glenlyon ran both advertisements and
In terms of population of the Western Region, the Local Government areas
varied immensely in size. Where possible some effort was made to replicate
in locations of businesses in the sample, the population proportions of the
differing Local Government Areas. The following table sets out this
Table 3.1 Local Government Area Proportional Population of Sample
Local Government Area Sample proportion of Population proportion
Business locations (%) (%)
Ararat 6.7 6.2
Ballarat 32.5 43
Hepburn 11.5 7.6
Hindmarsh 5.5 3.7
Horsham 8.4 9.6
Moorabool 6 12.5
Northern Grampians 12.4 6.9
Pyrenees 3.3 3.8
West Wimmera 5.7 2.8
Yarriambiack 6 4.4
NB 2.1% of sample businesses locations were outside of the region. This
occurred particularly when a business was in multiple locations.
There was more success in meeting targets in the less populated, areas as
well as the Stawell (Northern Grampians) and Daylesford (Hepburn) areas, as
a result of access to extensive listings. Poorer returns for Horsham and
Moorabool can be linked to an over-reliance on intermediaries and bulk
deliveries rather than intensive phone calling. A return rate of 34% was
achieved overall for usable surveys (1 failed to meet the criteria and another
9 were received too late for data entry.) The data were entered and analysed
using SSPS software, the social science package for statistical analysis.
3.2 Group and Individual Discussions
The Ballarat Focus Group Meeting was held on June 15 in the Board Room
of the Victorian Business Centre Ballarat, and small meetings were held in
Council rooms at Beaufort, Ararat, Stawell, Horsham, Warracknabeal, Nhill
and Edenhope. Other meetings were held in the Dimboola Footwear
premises and the Willaura Hotel between July 9 and 13. A final group
meeting was held at in the Hepburn Council Chambers at Daylesford on
September 17. A total of 49 women were involved in these meetings.
Additionally some informal conversations were held while delivering surveys
in the main streets of towns such as Warracknabeal, Stawell, Willaura,
Daylesford and Ballarat.
Individual discussions were held by telephone, face to face and email
throughout the period of the research and some effort has been made to
include these understandings in our analysis.
The results section of the report is divided into three main parts: a
description of the sample, basic data on the businesses and business
themes and issues. Qualitative data is integrated with the quantitative data
and comparisons made with regional demographic data from the appropriate
Statistical Subdivisions from the 1996 Census (ABS) and the 1999 ABS
study Characteristics of Small Business where appropriate. In the final
section on themes and issues, the elements of business experience and
practice are cross-tabulated with the structure of the business ownership
and with measures of business success.
In this report the categories have been collapsed into two. The first category
combines women as sole operators and women in partnership with a
woman. The second category combines women in partnerships with men
irregardless of whether they take a leading role or are in a shared leading
role. The majority of women in partnerships with men claimed to have a
shared leading role with their male partners. Women took a leading role in
only 6.7% of businesses. It is important then to recognise a potential
influence by male partners in the women’s attitudes and experiences.
Because of this potential the experiences of women in business on their own
and the experiences of women in partnership with men are discussed
separately in this report where it is deemed important for this distinction to
4.2 Sample Description
In this section the age, ethnicity, education, residence and household
structure of the sample population are described and compared with
regional and/or Victorian characteristics.
The sample held a large proportion of older women, seventy percent being
over 40 years old. Similarities to the Victorian demographics in the 1999
ABS survey on Small Business (ABS 8127.0, 1999) are apparent.
Table 4.1 Age Structure of Sample and Victorian Women’s Small
Age range Sample % ABS % 1999
Under 30 6.7 7.5
Between 30 and 50 63.8 66.2
Over 50 29.5 26.4
The sample were almost all Australian born (90.5%) of whom 0.6% were
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Of the 9.5% born overseas, none
used a language other than English in their business dealings. One
hundred percent of the sample therefore used English as their language
for business. In the Western Region as a whole in 1996 97.1% used
English at home (ABS, 1996.)
Table 4.2 Place Of Birth And Ethnicity Of Sample And Region.
Sample % Western Region %
Overseas born 9.5 7.6
Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islanders 0.6 0.7
NB. Statistics derived from 1996 Census, ABS 2901.0 Statistical Subdivisions
of North and South Wimmera, Ballarat City, Western and Eastern Central
Highlands. ABS 2000.
Although typical of the region itself this aspect is less reflective of the
Victorian small business population as a whole that had in 1999, 28%
overseas born female owners (ABS 8127.0, 1999, p28). This study
should not therefore be generalised to the wider Victorian situation in
relation to issues affecting non-English speaking background.
Over half the sample had gone no further than high school, a situation
certainly affected by the age of the sample. The following pie chart
demonstrates the proportions of the variously qualified women.
Figure 4.1 Highest Level Of Education In Sample
degree or diploma
This study sample was less well-educated than Victorian business
women as a whole but there are more women with degrees and post
graduate qualifications than women in the region generally. These were
more likely to be held by sole operators or women in partnership with
other women. Table 4.3 sets out this comparison.
Table 4.3 Education Level of Sample By Region and Victorian Business
Women (Per cent).*
Sample Sole & With male Western Vic. Small
Total female partner. Region Business
Did not finish 35 27 39 45 -
Completed 23 24 23 30 46
Basic or Skilled 8 8 8 8 16
Degree or 21 22 20 10 34
Post Graduate 8 11 5 2 -
Currently 6 8 5 5 -
* Data on Western Region is adapted from Statistical Subdivision East and
West Central Highlands, North and South Wimmera and Ballarat data (ABS
2901.0, 2000). B12 categories 16 years and under for ‘Age left School’ are
taken as ‘Did Not Complete High School’, 17-18 are taken as Completed High
School’, and Still at School for ‘studying’. For B17 data on qualifications,
higher degree and post graduate diploma are merged for ‘Completed Post
graduate’, Bachelor Degree and Undergraduate Diploma are merged for
‘Completed Degree or Diploma’ and Associate Diploma, Skilled Vocational and
Basic Vocational are merged for Completed basic or Skilled training’. Victorian
small business data from ABS 1999b.
The pie chart Figure 4.2 Sets out the size of the towns in which survey
respondents resided. The biggest proportions are living in Ballarat (the
only town greater than 20,000) or in small towns between 1000-9999,
but a sizable proportion of 18.2% lived in rural towns or areas with fewer
than 500 people.
Figure 4.2 Size Of Town/Area Of Residence of Sample
less than 500
Two of the towns in the Western Region have been identified as
experiencing a population decline of over 10% between 1986 and 1996
(Ararat 14% and Beaufort 13.3%), so the reality for some of our sample
is a declining local market (AusStat, 1999d). About a third of Australia’s
small towns have been experiencing a decline, mostly in inland areas.
Such people ‘risk losing their savings, livelihood and support systems as
they confront the break up of their community, loss of jobs, deteriorating
infrastructure and declining property values’ (ABS Australian Social
Trends 1998, pp.1-7).
Of the 48.8% of the Australian population who live in towns of less than
500,000 population (ABS Social Trends 1998) 31.9% live in towns of
under 20,000 (cf sample 71.3%) and 10.9% in towns/areas of less than
1000 (sample 28.7%). So the sample may be seen as representing a more
rural and small town demographic profile than general ‘non-city’
4.2.5 Household Unit
The household unit structures represented by Figure 4.3 reveal that
85.8% of the sample lived with a partner or with partner and
dependents. This contrasts with the proportions of family/household
types in the region in that there are fewer living alone and fewer living
without partners. The age and life cycle of the women in the sample goes
some way to explaining this, but it may also be an indication of a feature
of business women and families.
Figure 4.3 Household Living Arrangements of Sample
no partner & deps alone
partner and deps
Victoria has a slower expected population growth than Australia as a
whole. However one household type, female lone person, is projected to
increase by between 51% and 86% between 1996 and 2021 (ABS
Demography 3311.2, 1999). Not all of this anticipated growth is due to
the ageing population and differing mortality rates between men and
women. Greater numbers of women will never marry or have children
(Australian Women’s Year Book, 4124.0, 1997). The fertility rate of the
region is 1.9 (Central Highlands) and 2 (Wimmera) compared to the
Victorian average of 1.7 (ABS 3311.2, 1999) which may also have a
bearing on future household types and regional differences in family
Table 4.4 Proportions of Sample Household Type Compared to
Western Region (Percent)
Family Household Type Sample Western Region
Living Alone 7.5 13.3
Living With Partner 43.5 19.4
Living with partner &
Dependents 42.3 54.2
Living without partner,
with Dependents 4.2 5.7
Other 2.5 7.3
Source: ABS 2000, 2901.0
4.2.6 Summary Of Basic Demographic Data
Descriptive frequencies on the characteristics of the survey sample
reveal that a typical respondent was an Australian-born woman, over 40
years old, living with her partner, with or without dependents. She had a
high school education and was likely to live in Ballarat or in a town of
1000-9999 people. In relation to age the sample reflects small business
women generally but in ethnicity it reflects the Western region rather
than Victorian small business in general. In education the sample
differed from Victorian data, with lower qualifications but were still
higher qualifications overall than for the rest of the population in the
region. The sample lives in smaller and more rural areas than non -city
Australia as a whole and two of the major towns have experienced
significant population decline. In addition, the present sample is more
likely to live with a partner and no dependents, than others in the
4.3 Business Basic Data
4.3.1 Premise Location And Industry Sector
Figures 4.4 and 4.5 indicate the type of business premise and where this
premise was located. Most business premises were shops/galleries but there
were also a significant percentage with a home office or a town office or
factory. A music teacher had an academy and a horse-riding business made
use of a bush shed. Most businesses were in towns smaller than 10,000, in
the town over 20,000 (Ballarat), or at home.
Figure 4.4 Location of Business
The following Table shows the proportional representation of the different
industry sectors in the sample compared with the proportions of female
employees in those same industries in the western region.
Figure 4.5 Type of Business Premises
The following table compared the sample representation with the industry
sector employment of Western Region females.
Table 4.5 Sample Representation Compared to Western Region Female
Employment in Industry Sector
Industry Sector Sample Female Western Region
Business % (n 359)
% (n 28,377)*
Mining 0 0.2
Manufacturing 12.5 8.6
Construction 2.2 1.5
Wholesale 1.7 2.7
Retail 34.3 18.2
Accommodation 16.4 6.5
Transport 1.1 1.5
Communications 2.5 1.3
Finance/Insurance 0.3 3.5
Property Services 5.3 6.1
Education 0.6 12.3
Health and Community Services 4.7 22.9
Cultural and Recreational 3.1 2.1
Personal & other 8.1 4.1
Agriculture 7.2 8.3
*Statistics derived from 1996 Census, ABS 2901.0 Statistical Subdivisions of
North and South Wimmera, Ballarat City, Western and Eastern Central
Highlands. ABS 2000. Electricity, Gas merged with Business and Property
All industry sectors except mining were therefore covered.
Understandably employment in Health and Community Services and in
Education, embracing as they do government employed teachers and
nurses, are less represented by women in small business, while retail,
accommodation/cafes and personal services are more significant.
Appendix A lists all occupations alphabetically and reveals the
continuing significance of a gender structured labour force. Whether the
business was sole/female or partnered with a male also made a
difference. For example those in partnership with males dominated in
Construction (100%), Transport and Storage (100%), Farming and
Agriculture (85%), Accommodation and Cafes (83%) and Manufacturing
(76%). Sole women or women in business with another woman were
more significant in Personal and Other Services (73%), Cultural and
Recreational Services (73%), Health and Community Services (59%) and
Property and Business Services (53%).
4.3.2 Age Of Business And How Started
Table 4.6 Age of Business
Years business %
Up to 5 years 44
6-10 years 24
11-20 years 20
21 years or more 12
A little less than half the businesses (44%) were less than five years old,
a finding parallel with that for Victoria in the ABS study of Small
Business (8127.0, 2000 p.39). Mean years held was 12 years.
Figure 4.6 demonstrates that most women (55%) either started the
business themselves or purchased it as a going concern (38.5%).
Figure 4.6 How Business was Acquired
obtain a franchise
buy going concern
37.9% start business
began direct selling
4.3.3 Personal/Household Income
Three quarters of the sample (75.2%) claimed that the business was the
principal source of their personal income and a little less than two thirds
(63.6%) stated that it was also the main source of their household
income. The businesses surveyed were therefore generally perceived as
much more important than ‘pin money’.
There was a significant difference noted between the respondents who
answered the above question affirmatively, and their profile (χ2 39.70, df
= 1, p = <.001). Seventy six per cent (n = 167) of respondents (n = 221)
who said that the business was the main source of household income
were partnered with men, compared with 24% (n = 54) of sole/female
operators. Understandably, there is a significant relationship between
whether business is the main source of family income, and whether the
respondent is partnered with a male or is a sole operator/female
The mean number of people employed by the small businesses, including
the owner/s was 5, though the standard deviation at 7 showed
considerable range. The effective full time employees, also including the
owners was 3.13 with a smaller standard deviation of 3.65. The 359
businesses surveyed were providing employment then for almost 1800
people in the region.
Figure 4.7 Numbers of Employees in Businesses
As the survey was designed to include up to 20 full time employees it differed from the 1999 ABS
research which in the absence of effective full time statistics, based its calculations on total employees.
Table 4.7 Numbers Employed in Businesses
Numbers employed %
4.3.5 Marketing, Raw Materials
The major means of acquiring raw materials were through local
distributors (58.6%) and deliveries from Melbourne (56.7%), though
interstate deliveries and self-drive from Melbourne were also used by
around a third of the respondents. The supply of services was more
localised with almost two thirds acquiring them through local
distributors. Self drive and deliveries from Melbourne were also
important. The following table outlines the various sources of raw
materials and services.
Table 4.8 Source of Raw Materials and Services
Source Raw Services
Materials % %
Local Distributor 59 64
Delivered from Melbourne 57 34
Interstate 34 17
Self-drive Melbourne 29 24
Carrier to nearest town 23 15
Mail Order 19 15
Overseas 8 4
Intermediaries 7 9
Major regional centre 2 2
Marketing and advertising by word of mouth (80%) was the most
commonly reported method used but newspapers (50%), fliers (41%),
shop fronts (42%) and existing personal relationships (40%) all featured
prominently. Internet (17%) and television (12%) were used by a smaller
Marketing strategies also included more innovative methods such as
combining farm stay with craft workshops. One respondent commented
“Some of the customers came on the farm stay for ‘teddy weekends’ .
These visitors tried to complete their craft project during their weekend
stay, so they had on hand advice.”
A woman who dealt in produce and saddlery talked about the customers’
positive response to the smell of leather, hay and feed in the store.
Other women noted the potential for aroma to attract custom, as in the
well-known baker of north-eastern Victoria who piped the smell of
baking bread to the front of the shop.
A manufacturing firm that sells nationally rather than locally wanted to
move into international markets but did not fit the criteria for export
help, (understood to include $500,000 turnover and 3 years of export
experience). Furthermore they found it difficult to get a secure patent for
their product and already someone had copied and was selling. “We now
travel around at field days and take orders.”
More than a fifth of the respondents failed to complete questions on
profit and turnover but, of those who did, the category ‘did not make a
profit’ was the largest. The low response on this question could indicate
a resistance to revealing information they regarded as personal and
Table 4.9 Per Annum Profit 1999-2000 Financial Year
Frequency Valid Percent
N = 280
Valid no profit 49 17.5
Less than $1,000 18 6.4
$1,000-$4,999 28 10.0
$5,000-$9,999 26 9.3
$10,000-19,999 46 16.4
$20,000-29,999 33 11.8
$30,000-49,999 31 11.1
$50,000-74,999 26 9.3
$75,000-99,999 10 3.6
$100,000+ 13 4.6
Total 280 100.0
Missing System 79
Figure 4.8 reveals that 39% claimed a profit of between $10,000 and
$50,000, 43% claiming less than $10,000 profit.
Figure 4.8 Reported Per Annum Profit 1999-2000
Missing entries 13.6%
less than $1,000
Figure 4.9 indicates that the most commonly reported response was a
turnover of $100,000-300,000.
Figure 4.9 Turnover 1999-2000
Figures 4.10 And 4.11 indicate reported sales growth and percentage of
export sales. Almost a half reported that their growth was moderately
strong or rapid and, given that 164 did not reply to the question on
export sales and 87% of those who did reply, had ‘none’, it can be argued
that this aspect was not important to most businesses.
Figure 4.10 Reported Sales Growth 1999-2000
nil or declining
7.2% low (< 10%)
mod strong (10-24%)
Figure 4.11 sets out the reported export sales of the sample.
Figure 4.11 Percentage of Reported Export Sales
Missing entries 0%
The following Pie chart reveals that a large majority of respondents
report themselves as keeping up or performing well in comparison to
Figure 4.12 Self Reports of Business Status Compared to
Given the number of missing responses and reasonably significant
numbers who reported no or low profits, in contrast to positive self
reports of ‘growing moderately strongly’ and ‘performing well’, it is
somewhat difficult to come to a definite conclusion about how the
businesses were faring in reality. Up to half appear quite optimistic and
4.3.7 Sole And Partnered
In defining the categories ‘sole operator’; ‘in partnership with female/s’,
‘in partnership with male/s, shared leading role’ and ‘in partnership with
male/s, leading role’ the survey followed the Yellow Pages Small
Business Index, Special Report (1996, p.1). Table 4.10 Sets out the
ownership proportions of the sample in comparison to the Yellow Pages
survey. This research sample has more sole operators and fewer women
who play a leading role when in business with a male than the yellow
pages survey. A little less than two thirds of the sample are in
partnership with a male.
Table 4.10 Business Ownership Structure of Sample and Yellow
Category of Ownership Sample % Yellow Pages Survey %
Sole Operator 33.6 15
In partnership with female/s 3 3
In partnership with male/s
shared leading role 56 59
In partnership with male/s 6.7 22
4.3.8 Summary Of Business Basic Data
Of the businesses surveyed a third were sole operated and most of the rest
involved partnerships with men. Most were in shops, offices, factories or
private homes in small towns or Ballarat. The business women had a similar
engagement in female industrial sectors except that there were more in
retail, accommodation and personal services and less in education and
health. Almost half the businesses were quite recent and most started or
purchased their business rather than inheriting them. Income from the
business was an important source of personal and household finance. The
mean effective number of full time employees in the businesses was three.
Local distributors were most important for raw materials and services and
the most important form of advertising was ‘word of mouth’. Almost half of
those who responded to questions on profit were optimistic about the state of
their business. In terms of comparisons with wider surveys the Western
Region businesses from the sample were younger and more likely to be sole
4.4 Business Themes And Issues
Start up finance ranged from a few hundred dollars to a million dollars with
62% of responses starting with less than $50,000. The same proportion used
their own money, with 50% also using banks.
A Mann-Whitney Test of independent samples indicated that there is a
significant difference between the amount of ‘start-up’ finance and the
“profile” of the respondent (µ 5583, p <.001). The amount of start up finance
where businesses were operated on a partnership with a male (n = 155) was
significantly higher (median = $45,000) compared to those in sole/female
operation (n = 102), (median $17,500).
Sixty percent of respondents were dependent on loans and 50%, at least
partially, upon their own savings. This was a common situation for those
women who preferred to avoid risk.
For those women who preferred to avoid risk a typical comment was,
I had no trouble with finance as I started the business with my
own savings and the bank knew my partners from growing up
in the town. I would not like the pressure of paying back so
much if I had borrowed to begin.
Those who borrowed for start up finance usually used the money to buy or
build the business though in a number of cases it was used for stock and
tools and equipment as well. Of some interest were those who gained money
from father (8%), mother (5%) and those who sold assets (9%) to gain money.
There is a significant relationship between respondents who sought to
borrow, and their partnership profile (χ2 8.329, df = 1, p = .004). Of those
who sought to borrow for their business activities, 71% were in a
partnership (n = 121), compared to 29% of respondents (n = 49) who were
There was also a significant relationship between those who were successful
in borrowing and their partnership profile (χ2 10.344, df = 1, p = <.001). Of
the respondents who had successfully borrowed for ongoing business
activities, 77% were in a partnership (n = 105) compared to only 23% of
sole/female operators (n = 32).
Ten percent of respondents applied for, but were refused finance to start
their business. The differing outcomes with respect to gaining finance
potentially affects size, growth and profitability of business. A number of
studies previously mentioned have shown that women derive lower income
than men from small business, however there are characteristics of women’s
businesses that explain such results, none the least the issue of difficulty in
getting finance. Women in this research too have cited discriminatory
treatment by financiers.
There is a significant relationship between respondents and sought to borrow
and their profile (χ2 8.329, df = 1, p = .004). Of those who sought to borrow
for their business activities, 71% were in a partnership (n = 121), compared
to 29% of respondents (n = 9) who were sole operators.
There was also a significant relationship between those who were successful
in borrowing and their profile (χ2 10.344, df = 2, p = .001). Of the
respondents who had successfully borrowed from ongoing business
activities, 77% were in partnership (n = 105) compared to only 23% of
sole/female operators (n = 32).
Table 4.11 sets out the proportions for reasons given for the 36 who had
finance rejected at start up phase and those 24 women who were refused a
loan to finance on-going business activities such as expansion.
Table 4.11 Reasons for Refusal of Finance
Reason given Percentage of Percentage of Responses
Responses re start re growth (n = 24)
up (n = 36)
Not enough security 33 38
Insufficient cash flow 33 29
No business plan 20 17
Unable to service loan 13 12.5
Unemployed/other 2 4
Examination of the experiences of women who had been refused start-up
loans showed that the sorts of responses found by Sykes (1989), that
focussed on negative attitudes about women’s ability to manage businesses,
were still given by financiers. Because of the perceived risk of lending to
women, security was required by women attempting to set up business on
their own. Typically, in a number of cases the “security” involved providing a
male guarantor. The following are comments made by two women in
partnerships with men.
I was 22 years old and told I was too young and inexperienced
to own a business. They would however give me a loan if my
husband was a partner – who knew nothing about the
business. I used my own money. I am still told by the banks
that it would be better for my husband to be doing the financial
I had to have my mother and father’s land as security to borrow
$25,000. I was told it was too big a risk even though I provided
$10,000 of own money.
On the other hand one woman was told that the amount she wished to
borrow was not large enough for a loan. Some anecdotal evidence exists that
those wishing to borrow small amounts of money, for business or otherwise,
are encouraged to use their credit cards. This was indeed the experience
mentioned by a respondent. The bank manager had suggested to her that,
rather than take out a loan, she should survive on bankcard. The woman in
question chose to save the amount instead.
Women on their own attempting to get finance were at times treated by
financiers in a way which one woman describes as “Their attitude was very
‘look down the nose’”. Another woman commented that, “I did a business
plan but they (the financier) were still not happy. Arrogant bank manager.
He was OK while my husband was there.”
One woman, attempting to start her business on her own found herself with
a $50,000 debt and in a ‘Catch 22’ situation. She described how,
I was granted a $50,000 business loan. I needed an extra
$15,000 to complete the set up and stock but the bank would
not give this for 6 months. … luckily I was able to rely on my
husband, so my husband took out a private loan.
At this point she was in debt but could not start her business to generate
Financiers also refused loans on the basis of age and lack of business
experience. “I’ve never owned a business before so it’s assumed I don’t know
what I’m doing!”
Almost half of the women (49.7%) had sought to borrow for ongoing business
activities and most of these (41% of 49.7%) had been successful.
Those 24 who were unsuccessful (See table 4.11) were provided with similar
reasons by financiers as those women who were refused loans for start-up.
We were refused a loan later, 10 years into the business, to
expand – the reason given that it really only was “just a small
women’s business” but was later retracted on discriminatory
grounds, when the accountant stepped in.
Even when a business may have been operating relatively successfully some
women nevertheless had to rely on male partners to get a loan. Age was
again another reason given for refusal. As one woman said, “I was too old.”
A woman in business on her own who did not attempt to borrow money
I have not sought support from a financial institution since
becoming a sole parent in 1997, because I know from past
association with banks that my present status as a single
parent/sole trader makes them consider me to be a poor risk,
Financiers perception of women as poor financial managers is not supported
in practice. Of the women in this study, the majority (68%) did their own
bookkeeping during operation, 18% paid someone to do their books and 13%
made use of kin, (mostly husbands).
4.4.2 Risk And Planning
Women’s cognisance of the need for risk planning and financial planning are
exemplified in their responses to questions of how they managed on-going
operations of their businesses. In terms of planning, 58% had a formal
business plan, 78% a financial plan and 74% formal goal setting and
planning. In ‘attitude to risk’ responses varied but few opted for the ‘big
financial injection’ (4.4%). Respondents were almost equally divided in their
perception of whether they were a risk avoider (55%) or risk taker (42%) and
some insisted that they were both or ‘in between’ (3%).
In order to manage risks most opted for goal planning (63%) or having a
contingency plan (42%). A small minority (5.5%) acknowledged they ‘go for
Many women wrote comments relative to how they manage risk. The women
in business on their own who were risk avoiders expressed some degree of
caution relative to taking risks in the setting up and operation of their
businesses. As one woman said, “I am not making a large net profit. I would
never have started my business except for the fact of an independent
income”, and one of the 26.3% women who stated that they prefer to avoid
borrowing said “I try small then grow and develop if I’m on the right track. I
am a risk avoider and prefer to avoid bank loans.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by women in business with men who
were risk avoiders, “I am self financed and I only take risks I can afford to
lose,” and “I never put the house and basic pension income at risk. So if the
business should fail, one is still OK.”
Eleven percent of respondents stated that they had strategies in place to
manage risk. “I know that I’m not dependent on the business for survival. I
have eggs in different baskets,” and “I know exactly how much I need to
cover all the bills and rent every week. After that it is a profit.”
Slightly less than half of all respondents (42.1%) saw themselves as risk
takers, though only 38.1% were women in business by themselves or with a
woman and 44.9% of them had male partners. One woman with a male
partner said that, “I rely on my husband and a little bit of go for broke,” and
a woman in partnership with a man who described herself as a risk taker
said, “We call it taking calculated risks” but another added, “I married the
One female sole operator maintained, “I manage risk by just deciding and
doing it” while a second woman said, “To go into business certain risks must
be taken unless you are already wealthy.”
4.4.3 Perceived Hindrances
Lack of finance, confidence and prior experience were the most
acknowledged factors inhibiting start up phase of the business. Comparable
proportions (34%-39%) believed that finance, mentors, training courses and
financial advice would have helped them in start up. The main inhibiting
factor at operation of the business once again was lack of finance though
50% of respondents had not sought to borrow for on-going business
activities such as expansion. Most (41%) of the 49.7% who had attempted to
borrow more money were successful.
Lack of time was the other major barrier (47%) that women identified as
getting in the way of the successful operation of the businesses. Of the
factors limiting business growth, time and competition are the most
Table 4.12 Factors Hindering Business Percentages rounded.
Factor Start up Operation % of
% of Cases Cases
Lack of finance 43 49
Lack of time 47
Lack of community support 8 16
Lack of confidence 30 16
Lack of prior experience 30 10
Lack of information 23
Lack of information and support services 18 10
Bank not treating seriously 17
Lack of child care 15 9
Lack of infrastructure 13 7
Accountant not treating seriously 7
Lack of support from spouse/partner 6
Different family priorities 6
Government/GST/tax office 2
Type of business partnership had some influence. Lack of finance did not
differentiate between the partnership profiles, nor did lack of access to
information. In addition, rejection, lack of prior experience, and lack of
information and support services did not differentiate between the
categories. However, lack of confidence was statistically significant (χ2
9.991, df = 1, p = .002). On this question, 71% of respondents who said that
lack of confidence was not a problem were in a partnership with a man, and
29% were sole/female operators.
Competition ( n = 95 in partnership, n = 42 sole operators), time available (n
= 52 partnered, n = 49 sole) and size of outlet (n = 13 partnered, n = 6 sole
operators) were the most frequently answered responses in relation to factors
No significant difference was noted in the profile of the respondents on lack
of finance, confidence, community support, childcare, prior experience, time
or information and support services, tax office, staffing, Government or GST.
In addition, area profile, different family priorities and weather did not
differentiate the groups.
However, on the item ‘bank not treating you seriously’, at on-going operation
phase, a significant relationship was noted (χ2 9.201, df = 1, p = .002). The
majority of respondents who stated that the bank had not treated them
seriously were sole operators (77%, n = 10) compared to 23% who were in a
partnership (n = 3). (Once again, attention is drawn to the small number of
respondents in this analysis). In contrast, 65% of individuals who had no
concerns with their treatment from the banks were in a partnership, as
compared with 35% of sole operators.
In addition, lack of infrastructure and profile also differentiated the groups
(χ25.08, p<.05). Lack of infrastructure was seen as a factor which hindered
or inhibited operation or business by 884% (n = 15) of respondents who were
in a partnership, compared to 12% of sole operators (n = 2). Because of the
small numbers in this analysis, the results cannot be used for the purposes
During the focus group discussions the factors inhibiting start-up and
operation were explained in greater depth. The women there highlighted the
areas of childcare, infrastructure and government and availability of
information, knowledge and skills as also being major barriers.
Discussion around housework and childcare exposed the women’s reality of
“you’ll always be responsible for the children’ and ‘that’s the trouble, we have
to do it all now”. As members of one group concluded:
“Being ‘superwoman’ is not something we should have to aspire to”. “Often a
male’s perception of helping out is either not up to standard or not a full
equal responsibility”. “In many rural areas child care is almost non existent
or may involve a long drive to relations”.
In one town only one person was registered to run Family Day Care and a
high school girl did baby sitting, but only out of school hours. She often had
to be transported long distances to client’s premises. Women noted that
many grandmothers were doing the child minding and some were being paid.
Alternatively relatives helped with childcare but for several, the children were
brought up in the business – neither they nor their mothers thought this
was bad for them.
Two women commented that twenty years ago when both started their
businesses they had to ‘fly by the seat of their pants’. There was no child-
care. If one wanted to work she had to do it from home and combine it with
child rearing. One said that it would take ‘generations’ before anything really
changes in relation to child rearing responsibility and housework. The
women maintained that there was a strong need for affordable childcare.
Whilst the issue of adequate childcare was clearly an important issue, so too
were concerns about the level of government regulation. Forms of regulation
by authorities and various levels of government was an area frequently
commented upon in focus groups, though not addressed specifically in the
Over regulation was the term used to describe what they felt were
unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles. For example significant frustration was
felt about the amount of paper work, especially relative to the GST. There
was a perception that there were many levels of bureaucracy to get through
even for simple issues such a taking on a trainee. As one woman concluded,
“Dealing with a big organisation is very difficult.”
Over regulation was also considered to be a problem in areas such as health,
hygiene, sewerage and so on. Other examples were the expense in meeting
the standards, for example health regulations requiring $30,000 for a septic
system. One woman also maintained that, “Even when there is a bushfire
the women are no longer able to bring cooked food from home to feed the
men because of hygiene rules.” Regulations also placed barriers on stalls in
the street. Furthermore it was claimed that regulations were “… killing
voluntary cooperation. It has stopped cooperative fencing and cropping.”
The issue of taxation was a bone of contention. Taxation and GST include
hidden costs that a retailer cannot pass on and there is much ‘down time’
trying to sort out tax mistakes.
The problem with taxation is that there is no human
intervention or overall appreciation of the logic of how it all
works until well down the line when there is a problem. In
many situations you have to go through eight different people,
who give different opinions and advice, so perhaps you may as
well just wait until you hear one you agree with.
Payroll tax was also seen as a burden and there was also complaint of a
double tax, where shop insurance had both stamp duty and GST.
Employment policies were blamed for the difficulties in dealing with public
service bureaucracies. “The people we deal with are all on short contracts so
there is a lack of security and of continuity in dealing with government
services.” One woman now has a personal policy to avoid direct contact with
the authorities – she just does what she wants to.
There was general agreement because of the mire of legislation and
regulation at various levels of government, accessing information was not
always easy. Respondents seemed to feel that local Government should be
the entry point to an overview of all schemes relevant to those in small
business in rural area.
Some women found difficulty accessing the information they needed to start
(23.1%) and run their businesses. Lack of prior experience was cited by
30.6% at start-up phase as a major reason. Women were forced to learn
completely new skills for example dealing with technology. One woman
found barriers in learning about export and claimed that, “it is a nightmare”.
She had to find out about customs laws and exchange rates on the internet
and found it hard to work in two time frames to communicate with Asia.
For another the major barrier was finding out how to do things, like use
computers. She eventually found a book which,
… took you through 24 hour steps to create your own web
page. Local libraries should stock such user friendly books but
they claim the software changes too quickly. People who do not
have the time to attend courses can work through the skills at
home by themselves in their own time.
4.4.4 Business Style
The most important sources of information that aided the sample businesses
were professionals such as accountants and solicitors, with magazines and
journals and mentors next in significance. Newspapers, then radio, television
and internet were not far behind. While some read local newspapers
generally others focused on specific industry related sections of The Age or
subscribed to industry specific journals.
Business communication style with friends and acquaintances was
overwhelmingly ‘face to face’ (71%), most using this method for interaction
with experts and specialists, suppliers as well (41%), although in this case
telephone was used in 23% of the cases. Only 141 of the sample
communicated with Women’s or Business organisations and here telephone
contact (40%) was more important than face to face (31%) and email contact
not insignificant (14.9%).
Most of the women seemed to prefer face to face communication though this
was not always possible. For reasons of distance, time and lack of
effectiveness their preferred communication style was not always used.
Except for experts/suppliers, email contact was preferred over fax,
“Sometimes face to face contact would be better re experts/specialists advice
etc. But generally, telephone contact possibly followed up with fax/email is
For rural business in particular it is not always possible to have face to face
contact as expressed by one woman “It is hard to be face to face when you
are 300 kilometres apart.” The situation for rural women is summed up by
As we work in a relatively isolated area, most ordinary
information gathering must be done remotely. Phone contact
at least initially is most efficient, and I use either phone, fax or
email as the situation requires.
Networking is a critical communication factor in both the start up and
operation phases of a business. Networking activities that worked for various
women were both formal and informal. All agreed that knowing what is
available has been important. For one woman being in Rotary helped. She
also has good contacts with the Council (local government). Another knew all
the main courier services. For two businesses a good network of friends
delivered and picked up parts when they were already going to Ballarat.
At a focus group discussion women had mixed responses when asked if they
wanted a women’s business network. They were interested but thought that
women need to think they are getting something out of it – some skill or
motivation. One hundred and thirty people in Ararat attended a business
dinner with a motivational talk by football coach David Parkin. If something,
even one thought or idea is gained from a meeting or network, it can be seen
as worth the effort.
Networking and asking questions, as stated, was a common way of gaining
information, especially at start up. One woman mentioned a male mentor
who had been in the same business. He advised her to buy what she liked
and set the trend, to avoid over buying and to buy within the clients’ market.
She had followed this advice successfully.
Networking between business people also occurred. The women particularly
mentioned the encouragement from other traders and locals when someone
opened up a business, for example flowers and cards were given. When one
woman began her business, everyone in the street called in and gave her
bouquets of flowers to welcome her. Happy customers also helped to
promote business and word passes around through sporting and other
The networking and communication styles of female business operators
largely informed the way they dealt with staff. Most respondents reported
themselves as having a responsive management style with staff. Relative to
participative management and decision making 39.3% chose the option that
they “presented ideas and invited suggestions before making a decision” and
23% thought that to “allow subordinates to function independently within
limits” reflected their decision making style the best. A minority of
respondents used authoritarian styles or at the other end of the continuum,
laissez faire styles. Four percent said they would make decisions, “then
announce it to the staff” and 3% would let the staff make group decisions.
Ultimately almost all those with staff presented themselves as having
flexibility and authority in relation to staff management.
The relationship women business owners have with staff is demonstrated in
their responses to general employee relations questions (see Table 4.13).
Those respondents for whom the question was applicable indicated
overwhelmingly that they had both flexibility and authority.
Table 4.13 Staff Management Style
Staff management % True
Staff willingly work back when required 95%
Staff have a say over when they take their
annual leave and some flexibility to
suit family needs. 94%
I generally feel that I have the skills required
to effectively manage my staff. 94%
Staff respect my authority 98%
The final category of exploring business style focussed on respondents’ use
of information technology. Three quarters (75.5%) of the sample had access
to the internet through a computer. Interestingly there was a higher
proportion of internet access among this sample than in the ABS survey of
1999 in which 33% had access to the internet. Of those who had access to
the internet 68% used it for email, 58% for research, and 12.5% to conduct
main business activities such as buying and selling. Furthermore, as many
as 27% had their own home page.
Table 4.14 Use of Internet by Sample and Australian Small Business
Use of Internet Sample % ABS Australian Small Business %*
Access to Internet 75.5 33
Email 68 25
Research 58 23
Buying or selling 12.5 5
Website or homepage 27 6
* Predominantly female operators. (ABS 8127.0 1999)
Though email is widely used it is not preferred.
Although telecommunications makes it possible to work from
different home bases, I felt that you need the direct and
immediate response through a telephone call, where there is
banter, a personal relationship and the chance to check up on
something on the spot.
Although generally the take up of information technology is positive for some
it was still seen as a barrier. One businesswoman had tried a computer
course in order to learn excel but found it “a bit fast” and could not keep up.
This year she has not even set up the excel for her tax. She now rarely puts
the computer on as she is “so busy”.
Another woman also commented on difficulty with new technology. She is
convinced local libraries should stock such user friendly books but says that
library staff claim the software changes too quickly. She said that people
who don’t have the time to attend courses can “… work through the skills at
home by themselves in their own time.”
A third woman did not quite trust computer technology,
…you cannot rely on computer inventories - you need someone
to really check up on the shelves. Ecommerce would not work
for me, though I may get listed on the town web page.
Although access to technology is high some problems with application
remain which may become relevant for training issues.
4.4.5 Training And Background
Most (72%) of the sample had work experience before setting up their
business and the most useful aspects of this experience for their business,
according to proportion of total responses, were customer service and
management skills (33.5%); same industry experience (27.4%) and
Respondents were asked if they were aware of, made use of and found useful
a number of specialist services and courses for the start up phase of their
small businesses. Of some interest are the following items.
Table 4.15 Use of Services by Sample
Percentages of valid cases on all training options*
Training Course/ Aware available Used Found Useful
NEIS 31 6 13
Australian Taxation Office 39 29 9
Chambers of Commerce 60 8 4
Women’s Assoc/networks 25 5 4
Accountants 24 39 32
Solicitors 37 34 17
Other eg. Colleagues 9 25 43
*Percentages refer to the valid responses for each column category and bear no
relation to other columns.
In terms of help available the sample endorses the importance of colleagues,
accountants and New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS), had some
reservations about the Tax Office and solicitors and made limited use of
Chambers of Commerce and Women’s Associations.
Training is a practical area that governments can respond to, hence
considerable resources are committed in this area. There were some
concerns expressed about the quality and experience of those running
business training courses.
I am very suspicious of courses, I feel that anyone running a
course for business needs to have hands on experience. If not,
all I have had anything to do with live in a fantasy business
world and do more harm than good.
In spite of some complaints about inappropriate content, timing, place, cost
and eligibility of courses (12%) and a few who thought they were poorly run
(4%), most women found the course they did useful. The NEIS was
particularly commended, as the following comments highlight:
NEIS was most useful in providing bookwork skills and
knowledge necessary for our business. NEIS gives us security
to get through the teething stages of starting up, and assists us
with any unanswered questions we may have.
I used the NEIS scheme which helped set out my business
plan, helped finance while starting, and provided continual
back-up in case of any problems. The NEIS scheme helped us
to make a business plan, and showed us how to budget to keep
NEIS course was most useful in helping with confidence and
forming contacts. Free information and mentoring was great. It
was comforting to know NEIS was available if needed.
However, few of the women who were aware of NEIS actually made use of it,
see Table 4.15. The restrictive eligibility criteria were one reason cited by
those who were aware of the NEIS program but who did not make use of it.
I asked about NEIS but they said I wouldn’t qualify. I had a
determination to succeed and did a Horticultural course at
Longerenong. I also used common sense and hard work.
Those women who lived in or close to Ballarat or close enough to other TAFE
colleges or other providers found the business related courses run by these
institutions very useful. For example “My first year of marketing at TAFE
produced a marketing plan which was useful. Computer technology at
BRACE was also very useful,” and “I did a small business bookkeeping
management course through BRACE which was excellent and didn’t
consume too much time. I did extra hard work, learning the hard way.”
That most women who completed courses found them useful suggests that
extension of TAFE and other small business courses could also be
considered. This need was evident in the following responses:
I did a small short business course at TAFE before starting a
business that was very basic. I made a huge amount of
mistakes in the early days of the business. Took a long time to
learn to get education before mistakes. Industry courses have
been excellent; there is a huge gap in education on delivery of
customer service, effective communication, goal setting, etc.
Of some interest are the responses from 206 respondents who set out how
they compensated for a lack of courses.
Table 4.16 How Lack Of Training Compensated For
Factor Percentage of responses
Experience or professional qualif. 35
Self taught 11.8
Use/employment of specialist 11.4
Trial and error 11.4
Mentor/seeking advice 10.6
Instinct/gut feeling 8.5
Perseverance/hard work 6.3
Organised own training 4
Strength of partner relationship 1
Prior experience and (less often) professional qualifications were perceived as
very important. Thirty-one percent of women stated that they had experience
in a similar or the same industry. Twenty-nine percent had bookkeeping
skills 47.8 had customer service, staff supervision and management
experience. Of the latter group often the skills were acquired whilst working
previously in a similar industry, as noted by one woman, “Twelve years retail
experience helped me to cope as six years had been in management.”
Another woman summed up with:
Although formal training has its place, nothing teaches you
more quickly than practice and mistakes and listening to other
people. My family had their own small business. I love owning
my own business.
The skills and knowledge gained from professional qualifications were also
My management certificate provided me with clearer objectives,
and allowed me to formulate my business plans. I still use my
knowledge re marketing, finances etc. most days. I continue to
use my Bus. Grad. Certificate skills as I operate the business.
The Diploma of Management was excellent to build my
business/management skills. I also learned through trial and
error. I had accountant support and network support in the
As one woman concluded, “You can’t beat experience.”
There was also an interesting minority opinion voiced concerning a natural
proclivity for business expressed as ‘instinct’, ‘gut feeling’, and ‘common
sense’. This is exemplified by the following comments: “I used my brains”, “I
had to use my own gut feelings,” and “I used my common sense, that’s all
that is necessary. I read instructions re tax returns or car fix-up manuals.
Read.” Additionally women spoke of trial and error, learning on the job
(being self-taught) and the importance of mentors.
Women who were in a business partnership could also draw on their
husband’s or male partner’s experience. Many of those women commented
on the invaluable help this gave them. For example “My husband had prior
qualifications,” and “My partner had been in small business before, same
industry, and had much experience.”
Of more importance however is making use of specialists, with 38.6% of
women making use of accountants. “At the time of setting up business,
minimal help was available – Accountant the best. I managed hard work by
At the conclusion of the survey, respondents were asked what courses or
training they would like to see available. Almost all who responded asked for
small face-to-face workshops (94%). Only 8% of cases wanted internet chat
groups. More than half wanted courses at night, 27% wanted day time
courses and a little less than half wanted part time (49%). Table 4.17 below
indicates the percentage of cases requesting various types of course content.
The three most important were Marketing, Financial and Promotion.
Table 4.17 Courses Desired By Sample
Content Percentage of cases
Interpersonal skills 22
Staff supervision 16
In terms of accessing courses a number of respondents commented on the
difficulty getting to the larger regional centres where many courses are
conducted. At a focus group meeting the comment was made that, “The
main talks, seminars that we’d like to attend are in Melbourne.” A
suggestion for self-paced learning (correspondence and internet based) was
made. For example “There are some training courses that I would be
interested in. E.g. Workcare, Workplace relations, Awards etc. but they tend
to be in Melbourne and expensive for us,” and “I am really unable to leave
work early. Self-paced learning is the best and would need to be of a
standard that would be useful.”
4.4.6 Domestic/Family Issues
Underpinning many of the constraints facing women in business are issues
concerning household responsibilities and kinship links. When asked which
household tasks they were mostly responsible for, business women
responded in a way that clearly reflected a gendered household division of
labour, but they also revealed significant involvement in outdoor, ‘male’
Table 4.18 Proportion with Most Responsibility for Domestic Task by
Task % Sole female & % Females in % Total
female & female partnership with n =352
n = 130 males n= 222
Minding children 33.8 43.9 38.7
Transporting 36.9 43.2 40.7
Cleaning house 87.6 91 89.8
Cleaning clothes 94.6 91 92.9
Cleaning dishes 81.5 84.2 83.3
Buying food 91.5 91.4 91.5
Cooking food 89.2 91 90.4
Maintaining garden 60.8 56.3 58.2
Lawn mowing 26.9 24.8 26
Waste handling 45.4 37.8 40.7
Maintaining 30 18.9 23.2
House/car 40.8 23 29.9
Budgeting & bills 81.5 77 78.8
Almost all women, whether in partnership with a male, or in business on
their own or with a female, were mostly responsible for cleaning clothes,
buying and cooking food and cleaning the house. The style of partnership
made a notable difference for maintaining a vegetable garden, minding
children, waste handling, and house and car maintenance. Here sole
operators and those few with a female business partner had more primary
Business partners were almost all family members, mostly husbands (n
=203). Other family members included sister (4), mother (2), father (3),
brother (3) and, where there was a second partner, child (12). The most
common reason for forming a partnership was the close kin or residential tie
(n = 117) but a number of others noted that access to complementary skills
was important (n = 55) and, to a lesser extent, business network (11),
finance (11) and tax minimisation (11). Women in business with females
were mainly so because of close kin ties (6) or complementary skills (3).
Family members were also those most noted for offering unpaid labour and
advice. The numbers who answered this question (and who did not) give the
impression that sole operators were more reliant on family and friends than
others and less likely to gain unpaid helped from local and state government
sources, but numbers are too small to attach statistical significance.
Table 4.19 Sources Of Unpaid Help Noted By Total Numbers
Source % Sole female % Females &
& females males
Family 41.5 29.7
Friends 19.2 11.7
Associates 4.6 5
Suppliers 5.4 7.2
Local Nil 3.2
State Nil 2.7
Other 3.1 1.8
* Responses relating to help were compared to total number of women in different
partnership arrangements, rather than those who answered this question.
The type of help offered was mainly work in the business (n = 72), advice
(40), childcare and housework (24) and cleaning and maintenance of
business (22). The type of help was not altered by the type of business
operation. Many could not estimate the time given to these activities per
week but of the 139 who did, unpaid help given amounted to a mean of 8.8
hours a week (median 5, mode 2 and standard deviation 12.2).
Family help extended for some to financial aid for start up of business.
Fathers were mentioned by 8% (over-represented by sole–female businesses
with 14, compared with 13 responses) of the sample and mothers by 5%
(over-represented by sole/female businesses with 8 c.f. 7 responses). Most,
as stated, were reliant on their own (and partners’) savings and bank loans.
Although responses were rather small for some of these issues, questions
relating to domestic issues reveal the continuing overwhelming responsibility
for domestic work by women and the centrality of marriage partners to their
business partnerships noted in focus groups. Some unpaid family help on
businesses is strong and a minority received financial aid from family
members. On a number of these measures sole women and women with
female partners differ, undertaking more of the outside domestic tasks and
receiving more help from family members.
Figure 4.13 demonstrates the average hours per week that women estimated
they spent on domestic tasks. (The detailed task-related questions were
designed as a memory aid for this estimation.) Over half of the respondents
work more than 20 hours a week and almost a fifth, more than 40 hours a
week on domestic tasks.
Figure 4.13 Average Hours per Week on Domestic Tasks
2.5% less than 10 hours
over 40 hours 12.3%
10.9% 10-19 hours
Group discussions revealed that women’s biggest constraint is time. They
know what they have to do but do not have time to do it, or do it well.
Recently at a meeting of farm women from Nhill, they were advised by the
facilitator to take off a day a week for their family, and the response was
incredulous laughter. Other women too spoke of their responsibilities arising
out of gendered expectations.
Some women feel isolated because, even if they could afford to pay for
household services like cleaning, they are too far out from town, so have to
do it all themselves. Two said they would “feel bad” about paying out for
something they could do.
It was hard to get someone to ‘run a house’. Some women had minimal help
with ironing etc. and some were not negative about housework. If their
partner took the long shift at work they were given the flexibility to start later
and do other things. One found the break from home office work useful.
Vacuuming for one woman was a physical release that allowed thinking
time. An older woman in retail however expressed anger at having to do all
the housework and household organisation, as well as running a business.
When the survey data on domestic work data was cross-tabulated with type
of business operation some differences were perceived. Female sole operators
and those in partnership with women were likely to work fewer hours on
domestic tasks in spite of their acknowledgement that they were mainly
responsible for more tasks. More, however, did perceive that the time on
domestic tasks was likely to increase in the next 5 years.
Table 4.20 Estimation of domestic work in five years by business
Estimation % Sole female & females % Females & males
Stay same 56.6 62.7
Decrease 24 26.4
Increase 19.4 10.9
Given past research that suggests that women may have only a part-time
commitment to business, it is noteworthy that more than half of the sample
work more than 40 hours a week on the business activity and a fifth work
more than 60 hours per week.
Figure 4.14 Average Hours Per Week Put Into Business
more than 80 hours less than 20 hours
A bigger proportion of sole female operators worked 40-59 hours a week in
comparison with women in partnership with men. The latter, however, had
proportionally more working over 80 hours a week.
Table 4.21 Hours Worked In Business By Business Operation
Hours % Sole & female % Partner with male $Total
n = 127 n =224
Less than 20 11.8 15.2 14.1
20-29 11 12.1 11.8
30-39 16.5 11.2 13
40-59 45.7 36.2 39.7
60-79 11.8 13.8 13
80+ 3.1 11.6 8.5
There is a statistically significant difference between the hours spent in a
business, and whether the respondent was partnered or in sole operation (χ2
11.406, df = 5, p = <.05). Of those who put in less than 20 hours per week
on their business, 69% were in partnership with males, (n = 34) compared to
31% of sole/female operators (n = 15). Furthermore, for respondents who
put in more than 80 hours per week, 87% of this group were in a
partnership with a male (n = 26), compared to 13% (n = 4) of women in sole/
female partner operation. Those in partnerships with males therefore more
likely to do both low part-time hours as well as extremely high hours.
Over half the sample wished that the time they put into the business could
decrease. Given that when business workloads are added to domestic
workloads many women were working in excess of 80 hours a week, the wish
for the workload to decrease is understandable.
Table 4.22 Preferred Time Commitment
Desired time % Sole female & % Females & males Total
Decrease 49.6 57.5 54
Stay same 36.8 32.1 33
Increase 13.6 10.4 12
4.4.8 Indicators of Success
220.127.116.11 Objective Success Indicators
A main objective of the research was to attempt to isolate features associated
with success. Usual indicators of success for economists include profit and
turnover measures and age of business. In this research a substantial
number of respondents (79 or 22%) chose not to fill out questions relating to
such measurable returns in particular the item relating to profit/income. It
was decided therefore to construct an objective measure of success based on
four indicators and to include as successful, those businesses with three out
of the four criteria. The indicators of the “success” variable were:
• Profit of $10,000-19,999 or more in 2000;
• In business for 5 years or more;
• Respondent reported ‘Moderately Strong’ to ‘Rapid Sales
• Respondent reported Business ‘Performing Well’.
When these criteria were applied exactly one third of the sample proved to be
a ‘success’. That two thirds were not may be some cause for concern, given
the large time input of most women.
Cross tabulations were made with a number of variables but many that may
have been expected to make a difference to success, did not. For example,
there was no statistical relationship between ‘success’ and where
respondents lived; the number of hours spent per week on domestic tasks or
on business work; work experience; source of start-up finance; how they
obtained raw materials and services, how marketing was done or how
financial records were managed. None of the points listed on the question
exploring ‘factors influencing start up’, that is, finance, confidence,
information, bank not taking you seriously, rejection by finance, lack of
experience, lack of information and support, were statistically significant.
Furthermore, out of the 258 respondents who answered the question on
amount of start up finance, 167 (65 %) did not meet the criteria of success,
and 91 (35 %) did meet the criteria of success. There was no significant
difference between the median amounts of start-up finance used (i.e. those
who were successful started with a median of $27,000, while those who were
not, started out with a median of $30,000). A Mann-Whitney test of
independent samples indicates that there is no significant difference between
the amount of start-up finance acquired by those who were successful, and
those who were not (µ = 7554, p >.05).
Many aspects of business style failed to make a difference to objective
‘success’. There was no significant relationship between success and style of
communication in business, communications and interaction with staff, and
managing and interacting with employees. Neither having access to the
internet, nor using it for research and constructing a web page, made a
difference to success.
The following aspects are however statistically significant, or approaching it,
and are therefore worthy of more detailed analysis.
a) Living arrangements and “success”:
There was a significant relationship between the living arrangements
of respondents, and those who met the criteria of “success” (χ2
13.400, df = 4, p = <.05). Only 7% of people living alone (n = 27) met
the criteria of “success”, whereas 36% of respondents who lived with a
partner (n = 156) met the criteria of “success”.
b) Local government area and “success”:
There does not appear to be a relationship between which local
government area the business is located within, and meeting the
criteria of “success”. However, proportionally more of the expected
ratio of 33% successful businesses, were from the farming areas of
West Wimmera (50%), Hindmarsh (48%) and Yarriambiack (47%).
Least successful Local Government Areas were Moorabool (24%),
Northern Grampians (29%) and Hepburn (29%). It is possible that
farming business has skewed this success ratio.
c) Number of employees and “success”:
There was a statistically significant relationship between the number
of staff employed in the business, and the criteria of “success” being
met (χ2 17.864, df = 3, p = <.001). Of the businesses that employed
between 1-4 employees, 27% met the criteria of “success” (n = 66),
while 73% did not (n = 180). Of the businesses that employed
between 5 – 9 employees, a greater proportion (53%, n = 36) met the
criteria of “success” when compared to those who did not meet the
criteria (47%, n = 32). This could suggest that there is a relationship
between an optimum number of employees and “success”.
d) Main source of household income and “success”:
There is a relationship between the criteria of “success” and whether
the business is the main source of income (χ2 4.717, df = 1, p = <.05).
Of the respondents who stated that the business was their main
source of household income, 38% met the criteria of “success” (n =
85), whereas only 27% of those who did not use the business as the
main source of income, met the criteria (n = 34).
e) Type of loan, gift, own savings, sale or assets and “success”:
The type of loans, gifts, own savings, sale of assets, credit, and
government allowances did not differentiate respondents in terms of
meeting the criteria of “success”. However, where respondents
received a ‘superannuation or redundancy’ payment, this did
differentiate between those who met the criteria of “success”, and
those who did not (χ2 4.450, df = 1, p = <.05). Respondents who
received a superannuation or redundancy payment were more likely
to reach the criteria of “success” (67%, n = 6) compared to 33% (n = 3)
who did not meet the criteria. However, because of the small numbers
involved in this analysis, it is not possible to generalise from these
f) Training courses, services, agencies, and “success”:
On this question, a significant difference was noted between the
respondents who met the criteria of “success” and those who made
use of various training courses, services and agencies. Various
possibilities were tested, and these included the Chamber of
Commerce, Industry Associations, TAFE, Women’s Associations or
Networks, Accountants, and Solicitors. There was no significant
relationship between being aware of, or using these various agencies
and meeting the criteria of “success”. However, with regard to the
NEIS scheme, a significant difference was noted between respondents
who were aware of, or had made use of this scheme, and meeting the
criteria of “success” (χ2 12.308, df = 3, p = <.05). It is of interest to
note the direction of the difference obtained. Almost a third of the
respondents who met the criteria of success were not aware of the
NEIS scheme, and a further 45% of “successful” respondents were
aware it was available, but did not use it. In total, 92% of
respondents (n = 12) who made use of the NEIS scheme, were not
successful by our criteria, although attention is drawn to the small
number of respondents. This result can largely be explained in terms
of the recent start-ups of most of these businesses and the profile of
those eligible for NEIS, those who are unemployed for twelve months
and lack their own assets. Also, the types of businesses that are
started by participants of NEIS tend to be very small, and require low
start-up capital, thus struggle to meet our criteria.
g) How lack of training was compensated for:
There was a relationship between meeting our criteria of “success”
and seeking advice from a mentor (χ2 4.394, df = 1, p = <.05). A small
number of respondents (n = 29) stated that they had sought advice
from a mentor, and of these, 55% met our criteria of “success”. This
was significantly more than expected. This suggests that mentoring
has a positive outcome on the success of the business.
h) Formal written plans:
There was a statistically significant difference between respondents on
this question. Those who had a business plan were much more likely
to meet the criteria of “success” than those who did not (χ2 5.405, df =
1, p = < .05). Forty per cent of respondents (n = 60) who had a
business plan met the criteria of success, whereas only 28% (n = 54)
of those without a formal written business plan were “successful”.
i) Factors limiting business growth:
This question considered if a relationship existed between “success”
and factors that may have limited business growth. Three areas were
chosen to provide a focus: competition, time and size of outlet. There
appears to be a significant relationship between what respondents
believed to be limiting factors and whether they were “successful” (χ2
21.468, df = 2, p = <.01). Of these factors, competition was the most
frequently mentioned response (n = 138). Of those respondents who
thought that competition was a limiting factor, only one quarter met
the criteria of “success” (25%), whereas 75% of this group failed to
meet the “success” criteria.
One hundred respondents commented that ‘time available’ was a
factor limiting business growth, and 54% of this group (n = 54) met
the criteria of “success”. This number was more than the expected
33%. Of the 20 respondents who believed that the size of their outlet
was a contributing factor to business growth, 40% (n = 8) met the
criteria for “success”. Hence time and size of outlet were more likely to
be seen to limit successful businesses, while competition was more
likely to be seen as a limiting factor by those not successful.
j) Attitude to business risk:
This question addressed whether success or failure was dependent on
an individual’s attitude to risk. Fifty four per cent of those who had
strategies in place to manage risks met our criteria for “success”
(compared with 46% of respondents who did not meet the criteria).
There appears, then, to be a relationship between attitude to risk and
“success”, which is approaching significance (χ2 9.260, df = 4, p = .
k) Perception of risk avoidance:
There is a significant relationship between our measure of “success”
and self perceptions of being a ‘risk avoider’ (χ2 4.910, p < .05). Of the
respondents who met our criteria of “success”, 50% saw themselves
as ‘risk avoiders’, whereas only 38% of those not “successful” were
risk avoiders. Of the 200 respondents who indicated they did not
avoid risks, 71% did not meet our criteria of “success”, and only 29%
did. Therefore, it appears that if people do not avoid risks, this
exacerbates the likelihood that they will not be “successful” by the
objective criteria. This result suggests that risk avoidance may be
associated with success.
l) Key success factors of your business:
This question addressed if there was a relationship between our
definition of “success” and what the respondents thought were the key
success factors for them in their businesses. No relationships were
noted on skills, reliability of suppliers, location, networking, creative
ideas, quality, weather, genuine care for clients or being unique.
However, on the factor ‘dedicated friendly staff’, sixty nine per cent of
respondents (n = 13) who considered that dedicated friendly staff was
a key success factor in their business, also met our criteria of
“success”. This is much more than expected. It is noted, however,
that a small number of respondents answered this question, and
hence caution must be taken when considering these results.
Objective success, then, is not clearly distinguishable from a lack of success.
Successful women in business were more likely to live with a partner, to
come from west Wimmera, Yarriambiack or Hindmarsh, to employ 5-9
people, and to recognise the importance of good staff. The business was
mostly their main source of income and although they were likely to be risk
avoiders, they were more likely to have strategies in place to manage risk as
well as having formal business plans. In addition, they made more use of
18.104.22.168 Subjective Success.
Several questions on the survey produced some understanding of subjective
motivation and success and these were elaborated and qualified by open
ended questions and group discussions.
The following responses to reasons for being in business were as follows:
• sense of achievement (n = 168)
• creating employment for self (n = 125).
• a sense of being in control of one’s own destiny (n = 114),
• better lifestyle (n = 100).
• extra income for the family (n = 98)
• desire to ‘be their own boss’ (n = 61).
The question, What does business success mean to you? considered the
various subjective responses made by the sample in relation to the meaning
of business success. The following categories created in relation to the
answers received, were cross-tabulated with success.
a) Market dominance (n = 12)
Greater than the expected number of those respondents who met the
criteria of “success” wrote responses that could be encapsulated by
the concept “market domination”. There were 83% (n = 12) of
respondents who met the criteria of “success”, compared to 17% (n =
2) who also wrote similar responses but did not meet the criteria of
b) Market respect (n = 90)
Greater than the expected number of respondents who considered
market respect important (47%) met the criteria of “success”,
compared to 53% who did not meet the criteria of “success”.
c) Better income, profit and comfortable lifestyle (n = 103)
Of those respondents who reported that better income, profit and
comfortable lifestyle were an important definition of business success
to them, 73% were not “successful”. This is considerably more than
expected (65%) whereas only 27% of respondents (n = 28) who said
that better income, profit and comfortable lifestyle were important met
the definition of “success”. That is, more respondents met the criteria
of “success” who did not consider that better income etc. were
important aspects of their definition of success.
The profile of the business partnerships did not indicate a difference between
any of the factors (i.e. market dominance, market respect, family subsistence
or security, satisfying and happy work environment, better income, profit
and comfortable lifestyle, and achieving the self worth and rewards of hard
work). This suggests that there is no relationship between subjective
measures of business success, and whether or not the respondent is in a
partnership with a male.
When asked what their original aspirations were regarding the size of their
business, ‘steady growth’ summarised the most common response (29.6%).
The comments relative to growth included, “Within two years be able to
financially justify building studio to work in and within three years to be
able to work five days per week on good money,” and “… to be as big as a
supermarket”. The second most common (27.1%) response was staying
small, i.e. to fit with family responsibilities. Many also desired market
respect in that they had a product or service that they could be proud of and
that clients and peers thought well of them (20%). A minority wanted market
dominance, for example the biggest shop in the area, the best product made
(7.5%) or a large income, profit and a comfortable lifestyle (8.6%). A not
insignificant proportion of the responses focused on family subsistence
(10.4%) and work for self or family members (15.7%).
Though for those whose concern was family lifestyle a more modest idea of
I never ever wanted to get too large to handle the
business on my own. No desire to complicate things by
going too big or employing staff. My original idea came
about to be here for the children when little and now
I’m still here before and after school - very important.
For these women it was considered important to, “… be able to maintain a
regular income on a weekly basis sufficiently supporting myself and
There were others whose desire for growth was a means to a more complex
end. For example , “To grow as rapidly as possible, to provide for myself and
for local young workers.”
Others wanted to grow to a point where they were able to employ a certain
number of staff, “To be able to employ 4-5 people; make an income and pay
my bills, and “Two or three employees and sufficient income to provide
weekends off and an annual holiday.”
Responses that suggested a desire for steady growth were the most often
cited, for example: “To grow as rapidly as possible, to provide for myself and
for local young workers, and “It was operating as a three day a week
business; we aim for a 6-7 day a week business.”
The majority however wanted to stay small or grow only to the point where
they could support themselves and their families. Their main objective was
independence and flexibility, “Self employment of ourselves only, not to
employ staff. “We thought we would like it to remain small and
manageable,” and “Not to become bigger than we can control. Self
employed”, and “I wanted to make enough money to personally survive on,
enough to save well and live comfortably without worry.”
A quarter of the respondents said they would be happy if their business
could ‘break even’ and they kept enjoying the work. This may have meant
covering business costs with or without a salary being drawn. However, the
majority (60.7%), wanted the business to grow and make more profit, a little
less than half of these wanting to produce or service more for the same
market. Others wanted to produce more for a different market (18.6%), or to
produce something else in the same sector (19.2%). Only 11.3% anticipated
employing more people to enhance growth.
When asked what business success meant, the women mentioned similar
motivations to their original aspirations. Self-worth and reward for hard
work was the most common type of response (36.5%) with better income,
profit and a comfortable lifestyle second most important (34.4%). Once again
market respect (30.1%) was important and market dominance (3.7%)
reflected the views of a smaller minority. A satisfying happy work
environment (28.1%) and family security or subsistence (23.4%) were also
significant. Personal autonomy was mentioned by 8% of the sample and 6%
saw success as serving the community in some way.
When asked what the key success factors were for their business the most
frequently mentioned response was ‘skills’ (77.6%) followed by ‘creative ideas’
(44%), ‘location’ (42.9%) and ‘reliability of suppliers’ (37%). Networking was
mentioned by a quarter of the sample and several pointed to the significance
of staff (4%, n=13), quality of product or service (7%, n=23) and genuine care
for the client (45%, n=14) in the ‘Other’ category. A few attributed their
success to being a market leader, or having a unique product (n=5).
At the focus groups women were also asked to discuss their perceptions of
business success. Their responses and those from the survey can be
categorised as both intrinsic and extrinsic measures of success. Enjoyment/
personal satisfaction and achievement can be termed intrinsic measures of
success. There was discussion of success leading to self-confidence and the
importance of positive feedback to self worth.
One woman described how her initial shyness and reluctance turned to self
confidence as she began to realise that clients were responding positively to
With Avon type selling it is all set up for you so you do
not have to make any big decisions but the first time
selling was difficult. Now I find it easy and I go inside for
20 minutes rather than leaving the catalogue in the
letterbox as some do. Some clients like the social
interaction and like me to stay longer.
In terms of intrinsic measures of success women in business on their own
and women in business with men said similar things. The following
comments focus on achievement, job satisfaction and confidence. A number
of women noted that their reason for going into business was that they
wanted to achieve and that it gave them social contact. “I have financial
security, sense of achievement, job satisfaction,” and “confidence in my own
abilities of various types. A purpose in life as well as happiness and room to
do whatever I want.” The following comment is also typical of many
responses. Whilst this woman emphasises personal fulfilment she also
recognises the need to be profitable and the importance of how her business
is perceived by others.
Personal and employee satisfaction and fulfilment.
Obviously we must be profitable enough to justify
remaining in the business, such as return on capital.
Business name and reputation I view to be very
important in gauging success.
Growth, profit and business status can be termed as extrinsic measures of
success. To have achieved growth and be making a profit was also deemed
important as a measurement of success, as the following comments
demonstrate, “For me it is financial independence, to build a reputation as
an effective operator in charge of my destiny,” and “To have lots of money
and a sense of self worth - next step world dominance.”
It is worth noting that even when extrinsic factors are spoken of relative to
success the women still focus on satisfaction and personal lifestyle issues.
“Doing what I do with a passion; keeping my business small and
manageable, but also making a profit”, and “Having a balance between work
and life-style. Being financially self-reliant.”
Financial independence and security was also an important measure of
success for many of the women. Often these two issues were their reasons
for starting the business. Many women wanted to work because they needed
a second income to keep their farms afloat. The rural downturn and the
subsequent lack of jobs in rural and regional areas was another factor. The
women knew that in the absence of opportunities for waged work they had to
make their own work by running a business.
Success factors discussed in previous research include a focus on a small
multi-skilled staff and a strong orientation toward customers (Ackroyd,
1995). Many respondents in this research nominated high quality staff and
their ability to satisfy customers as an indication of success.
Both women operating on their own and women in business with men also
placed emphasis on customer satisfaction. For example one woman noted
that, “Being able to provide a personal service that has my character and
individuality associated with it,” was important to her and another woman
felt that, “Having a good reputation in the community, giving satisfaction to
clients and providing a high quality effective service,” was important.
Additionally another woman said,
Being responsible for the improved quality of life and a
means of communication to my clients and their
families. As a result continuing to receive referrals and
maintain a good reputation.
Ultimately the main issue was that customers are satisfied and “gladly
return to do business”.
Mostly women understandably placed importance on financial reward
however they also placed great importance on intrinsic rewards such as
happiness and a sense of achievement. For example, “A sense of
achievement and I suppose to create an identity for myself. I like myself
better when I can make a contribution,” and “A feeling of achievement and
increased self-worth, “Validation of existing skills and talents”,
“Independence, financial and personal”, and finally “Business success to me
means that after all the hard work a sense of achievement and personal
satisfaction and self-worth has been conquered”.
The number and scope of businesses, the significant proportion of sole
operators and strong optimism among women in business in the Western
Region reflects the growth and interest in women’s businesses in recent
decades. On the other hand the data bear out some aspects of the influence
of rural decline and the struggle some households have to survive, in terms
of long hours input and limited financial returns.
In conclusion we draw attention to some other ambivalent findings. First the
Western Region sample has many similarities with the general literature and
similar surveys of women in small business generally. Secondly the sample
as a whole has some internal, broad-based, commonly experienced features.
Thirdly within that homogeneity, diversity can be discerned. On some
matters there is a wide range of experience of business. Comparisons
between sole/female businesses and those partnered with males, and
between those objectively defined as successful and those not, bring to light
some characteristics of interest that should allow a more refined approach to
5.2 Similarities To Women In Small Business Generally
The study revealed that there was much about the sample that reflected
general patterns for women in small business described in literature and
previous surveys. They were broadly similar in terms of education, age,
industrial sectors, gendered division of labour, business style and preferred
communication patterns, and use of family links and help. They claimed to
be flexible in staff dealings but not to lack authority.
Although there was no direct evidence of acts of discrimination, the gendered
horizontal segregation of industries could be a factor constraining women to
a restricted number of employment options. The gender division of labour in
the home and business reflects previous studies of ethnic family business
and wider women and business studies. The occupations of the women and
industry sectors of the businesses reflect a growth in service work but do not
appear to reflect ‘non employment’ of people forced to contract for their
former waged work. Most of those surveyed do not appear to be such
5.3 Internal Homogeneity
Most of the sample worked long hours when domestic and business work
was considered jointly and half wanted their time on the business to
decrease. On the other hand 60% wanted their business to grow. Most also
had some work experience before going into business and had strong regard
for pragmatic experience as the best preparation for business. Lack of
finance, confidence and prior experience were considered the most
significant factors hindering them at start up and, once operating, time,
competition and finance were most important.
Domestic work competed with business time, but isolation, finance and guilt
reduced the potential for outsourcing housework. Although not addressed in
the survey dominant concerns with bureaucratisation and over-regulation
appeared to erode the social capital of the community. The growth of non-
standard work amongst salaried community workers also compounded this
Professionals, in particular accountants, as well as mentors and colleagues
were deemed by respondents as more vital help to business success than
training courses and business organisations, but informal interaction and
support from fellow traders and similar business owners was valued.
Dominant marketing techniques such as ‘word of mouth’ could be
considered basic. Although many did not make a profit the majority
remained optimistic about their business.
5.4 Differences within the sample
In spite of similarities the study also brought out the range of scale of
business and spectrum of attitudes within the sample. A close look at the
demography revealed some differences that may prove to be important.
Although many of the sample were mature women, it was younger than the
Victorian business women’s sample and contained more sole operators. The
women had more access to the internet than previous studies of small
business had shown.
Turnover ranged from less than $10,000 to over $1 million. Profits ranged
from nil to $100,000. Just over half claimed they were risk avoiders while
the rest self-defined as risk takers. Attitudes to success ranged from minimal
subsistence, to a desire for world dominance (perhaps tongue in cheek); from
strong commitment to strengthened self worth, to community altruism.
Some had a strong wish to be entrepreneurial and others were constrained
by the need to find employment for themselves or for family members.
In relations to motivation and success then the findings support a model
that embraces diversity and extrinsic and intrinsic features among women,
which might also cross over to men’s motivation (Baines & Wheelock, 1998).
Survival and security are obviously important to many and market
dominance, market respect and the desire for profit appear to reflect the
enterprise culture or classic entrepreneur of a smaller minority.
When sole/female businesses and those partnered with men were separated
out more differences emerged. Although the research did not directly
compare men’s and women’s businesses, the comparison between sole and
female partnered businesses and others revealed some interesting points of
agreement with previous generalisations about women’s business, especially
in relation to size of business and finances. The sole businesses were more
likely to be in Personal, Cultural, Health and Property sectors, to experience
banks not treating them seriously, to have responsibilities for more
household tasks but to spend less time on them. They were more reliant on
family and friends for unpaid labour and financial help. Data support the
notion that women, particularly sole operators are more kin and social tie
bound and could benefit from more use of official, business, professional
Women in partnership with a male were dominant in Construction,
Transport, Farming, Accommodation and Manufacturing sectors and the
business was more likely to be the main source of household income. They
obtained more start up finance, sought to borrow more and were more
successful when they did. They made more use of unpaid help from Local
and State authorities and were more likely to work both short, part-time
hours and extremely long hours in their business. Thus the model of women
in business with men has similarities to male business.
5.5 The Success Model
Isolating success factors proved to be difficult, for while there were some
significant differences between the objectively successful and the others on
some variables, there were very few independent variables that appeared to
affect the dependent variable. The successful business women were more
likely to be living with a partner and for the businesses to be the main
source of household income. They were more likely to have between 5 and 9
employees and to see lack of time and size of outlet as hampering factors.
They did appear to recognise and value good employees and to value
mentors. Their aims were more likely to be market dominance, market
respect, more profit and a comfortable lifestyle. Although more likely to be
risk avoiders, they tended to have strategies in place to manage risk. More
had formal business plans. Comparisons that suggest that the farming LGAs
(Local Government Areas) appear more successful should be viewed with
some scepticism, as primary production should be analysed within a larger
time frame and financial context, including some recognition of debt.
5.6 Final comment
Time, future training needs, and access to finance could hinder future
success of women’s small business. Greater family equity, efficiency or
outsourcing of domestic tasks may have to be negotiated to allow the
necessary time release for those committed to business growth. The long
hours worked by the women in small business in the western region warrant
greater levels of success and survival than is currently apparent.
In relation to training, although most women prefer face to face contact for
business interaction, the wide use of computers and the high email
accessibility of the 162 who expressed their wish to be on a data base
suggest potential developments in an IT direction. In addition, the women,
like those in the Assessment of Rural Women’s Business Training Needs
(1999) want, foremost, marketing and financial planning business skills.
Finally, finance was a major problem perceived by many of the women in
small business. This problem in all likelihood applies more broadly to small
business, and has been reported in earlier studies (Mason & Harrison, 1992,
p.148). The present research has found that financial difficulties may be
more acute for sole/female traders.
University of Ballarat
Mt. Helen Campus
PO Box 663
Ballarat Vic 3353
Dear Small Business Owner
The University of Ballarat in partnership with the City of Ballarat recently attracted
funding from the Department of State and Regional Development and the Department
of Natural Resources and Environment to identify the extent of women’s involvement
in small business within the Western Region.
The project entitled ‘A Model of Success: Women’s Entrepreneurial and Small
Business Activity in Regional Areas’ is being managed through the University’s
School of Business. The information gathered as a result of this project will influence
future government policies and aims to assist women in rural areas.
To assist in providing information and identifying the factors leading to success, we
require your assistance in completing the attached questionnaire and either handing it
to the researcher in a sealed envelope or posting it in the reply paid envelope
provided. It will take approximately thirty (30) minutes to complete the
All information provided will be treated with the strictest confidence and data will be
stored separately from any listing that includes names and addresses. Aggregated
results will be used for government reports, research purposes and may be reported in
scientific and academic journals. It should be noted that individual businesses will
not be traceable.
Your consent to the above is implied by completing and returning the questionnaire.
School of Business
A return by late October would be greatly appreciated.
SURVEY ON WOMEN'S ENTREPRENEURIAL AND SMALL BUSINESS
ACTIVITY IN REGIONAL VICTORIA
(For this survey small business is defined as a business employing less than 20 people.)
Questions are on both sides of the page. Please tick the box provided or write on line
1. Age Less than 30 40-50
30-39 Greater than 50
2.Ethnicity Born in Australia Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
Born Overseas If yes, year arrived in Australia _________
What is your most commonly used language in relation to running
your business __________________
3.Education Did not finish high school
Completed high school
Completed basic or skilled vocational
Completed Degree or Diploma
Completed post-graduate degree
Other eg. Currently studying (explain)
Rural town/area below 500 people Rural town 10,000 to 19,999 people
Rural town/area 500-999 people Rural town over 20,000 people
Rural town 1000 to 9999 people Bi-local (move between different areas)
5. Are you:
Living with partner
Living with partner and dependent children
and/or elderly/disabled dependant
Living without partner with dependent
children and/or elderly/disabled dependant
Age of children (if applicable) ___________________
6.What are your main domestic responsibilities? (tick only those that you are mostly
minding child/ren/elderly parent,
or arranging for their minding lawn mowing
transporting child/ren waste handling
cleaning house maintaining vegetable
cleaning clothes garden/chickens
cleaning dishes house and vehicle
buying food/household provisions maintenance
cooking food budgeting & bills
other (name) ________________________________________________
7. How many hours a week, on average, would you spend on all these tasks?
Less than 10 hours 30-39 hours
10-19 hours Over 40 hours
8. Do you anticipate that in the next 5 years your time on this domestic work will:
remain the same
CURRENT BUSINESS PROFILE
Sole operator In partnership with male/s, shared leading role
In partnership with female/s In partnership with male/s, leading role
10. If in partnership, what is your starting point partner’s relationship to you, and
reason for forming the partnership?
Partner 1’s relationship to you Partner 2’s relationship to you
husband partner husband partner
father friend father friend
mother acquaintance mother acquaintance
brother Other brother Other
sister __________ sister __________
Reason for forming partnership: Reason for forming partnership:
Close kin or residence tie Close kin or residence tie
Access to finance Access to finance
Access to business network Access to business network
Access to complementary skills Access to complementary skills
Tax minimisation Tax minimisation
11.Tick the category that best describes the primary activity of your business (Choose
Mining Manufacturing Construction Wholesale trade
Retail Trade Accommodation, Transport & Communication
cafes & storage services
Finance & Property & Education Health &
Insurance Business community
Cultural & Personal & other Farming &
Recreational services agriculture
12.What type of product/service do you make or exchange? ______________
13.Please give a 2-5 word description of current business.
14. Local Government Area of business.
West Wimmera Hindmarsh Horsham
Yarriambiack Northern Grampians Ararat
Pyrenees Hepburn Ballarat
15. Location of your business
home residence farm
town (less than 10,000 population) on net ( e business)
town (less than 11 - 20,000 population) Other (please state)
large town (more than 20,000 population) ______________________
16.Type of business premise/s
desk at home shed/studio at home
room/office at home office and/or factory in a town
shop/gallery Other (please state) _______________
17. Numbers employed in this business including self __________________
18. Effective number of full time employees (ie 2 half times = 1) __________
19.Unpaid labour and advice.
Source of help Type of help Estimate of average
weekly hours of help
Local Government agencies
State Government agencies
20. Is the business your principal source of personal income? Yes No
21. Is it the main source of household income? Yes No
CURRENT BUSINESS - START UP PHASE
22. Beginning the business Year
Time first conceived idea of having this business _______
Year business actually began _______
23. Did you:
Start this business Purchase business as a going concern
Inherit this business Obtain a franchise for this business
Take on direct selling Other _________________________________
24. Did you have past work experience prior to setting up your business?
25. If ‘Yes’, what knowledge and skills that you acquired from your prior work
experience have been the most useful in your business? (eg. bookkeeping, staff
26. Source, type and amount of actual ‘start up’ finance.
Source eg. self, Type eg. loan, gift, own Purpose Amount in dollars
father, bank, savings, sale of assets.
27.If you were refused finance, what were the main reasons given by the financier?
unable to service loan insufficient cash flow
not enough security no business plan
28. Tick if you were aware of, used and/or found useful the following training
courses, services and agencies in your region for the start up phase of your business.
Training Course/Service/ Not Aware Made Found
Agency Aware available use of useful
NEIS (New Enterprise Incentive Scheme)
Certificate II to IV in Small Business
Certificate III to Diploma in Business
Diploma of Business
Certificate II to III in Retail Operations
Certificate IV to Diploma of Retail
Australian Taxation Office
Dept of State & Regional Dvlpt
Koori Business Network
Small Business Counselling Service
Victorian Civil & Admin.Authority
Rural Finance Corporation of Victoria
Victorian Workcover Authority
Chambers of Commerce
Victorian Business Centres
Business Enterprise Centres
Australian Customs Service
Consumer & Business Affairs, Victoria
Council Economic Development Unit
Other, eg Colleagues
29. Please comment on usefulness of courses, if applicable.
30. If you did not make use of any courses, how did you compensate for this?
Factors influencing start up
31. Which factors hindered or inhibited start up phase, if applicable?
Lack of finance Lack of prior experience
Lack of confidence Lack of support from spouse/partner
Lack of access to information
Lack of community support Lack of infrastructure
Lack of child care (eg.water supply, telecommunications)
Bank not treating you seriously Lack of information and support
Rejection by financial institutions services
(eg banks, building societies) Accountant not treating you seriously
32.In hindsight what would have helped you in start up of your business?
Finance Training Courses Business
Mentors Financial advice Other _________________
CURRENT BUSINESS OPERATIONS
33.Do you have: Yes No
a formal, written business plan?
a financial plan?
formal goal setting and planning?
34. How many hours are you able to put into the business per average week?
Less than 20 hours 40-59 hours
20-29 hours 60-79 hours
30-39 hours More than 80 hours
35.Would you like this amount of time to:
decrease stay the same increase
36. Tick if you were aware of, used and/or found useful the following training
courses, services and agencies in your region for the operating phase of your business.
Training Course/Service/ Not Aware Made Found
Agency Aware available use of useful
NEIS (New Enterprise Incentive Scheme)
Certificate II to IV in Small Business
Certificate III to Diploma in Business
Diploma of Business
Certificate II to III in Retail Operations
Certificate IV to Diploma of Retail
Australian Taxation Office
Dept of State & Regional Dvlpt
Koori Business Network
Small Business Counselling Service
Victorian Civil & Admin.Authority
Rural Finance Corporation of Victoria
Victorian Workcover Authority
Chambers of Commerce
Victorian Business Centres
Business Enterprise Centres
Australian Customs Service
Consumer & Business Affairs, Victoria
Council Economic Development Unit
Other, eg Colleagues
37.Please comment on usefulness of courses, if applicable.
38.If you did not make use of any courses, how did you compensate for this?
Obtaining Raw Materials & Services
39.How do you obtain the following: (Raw Materials/resources = RM; Services = S)
RM S RM S
Local distributor Melbourne (self drive)
Mail Order Melbourne (delivered from)
Overseas Carrier to nearest major town
Marketing and Advertising
40.What is your main method of marketing and advertising?
Internet word of mouth
existing personal relationships newspaper advertisements
shop front incentives to current customers
exhibitions and trade shows television
Other (please state)___________________________________________________
41. How do you manage your financial records?
I do my own bookkeeping. A family member _________(name
I pay someone to do my books. relationship) or friend does my books.
Measures of profit and growth
42. Per annum profit last financial year 1999 –2000 43. Turnover 1999-2000
did not make a profit 0- $10,000
less than $1000 $10,001 - 20,000
$1000-$5000 $20,001 - 50,000
$5001-$10,000 $50,001 - 100,000
$10,001-20,000 $100,001 - 300,000
$20,001-30,000 $300,001 - 500,000
$30,001-50,000 $500,001 –1,000,000
$50,001-75,000 $1,000,001 +
If business is more recent,
estimate last quarterly profit $ ____________
44. Sales Growth 1999-2000 45. Percentage of Export Sales
Nil or declining 0%
Low (less than 10%) 1-9%
Moderately strong (10-24%) 10-19%
Rapid (25% +) 20-39%
46. Compared with your competitors, would you say you were
Performing well/growing Struggling
Keeping up Other ______________________
Factors limiting business growth.
47. Please tick the 3 most important.
competition size of outlet
time available domestic responsibilities
venture finance transport of product
access to market lack of information
infrastructure (roads, telecommunications)
Factors affecting Operation
48.Which factors hinder or inhibit operation of business?
Lack of finance Lack of information and support services
Lack of confidence Lack of support from spouse/partner
Lack of community support Bank not treating you seriously
Lack of child care Lack of infrastructure
Lack of prior experience (eg.water supply, telecommunications)
Lack of time Other (please state)___________________
49.Have you ever sought to borrow for ongoing business activities (eg expansion)?
50. If ‘Yes’, were you successful? Yes No
51. If ‘No’ what reason was given by financier?
unable to service loan insufficient cash flow
not enough security no business plan
Attitude to business risk.
52.Tick the statement that is closest to your attitude.
a) I prefer to avoid large bank loans.
b) To do something properly you should start with a big financial injection.
c) I prefer to produce only a small batch and see how a product goes, or start in a
small way with service provision, before investing too much money.
d) If I really believe in what my business has got to offer, I am prepared to take
risks to start or build up my business.
e) I have strategies in place to manage risk.
53.Would you perceive yourself as a risk avoider?
or risk taker?
54.How do you manage risks?
Goal planning ‘go for broke’(not worry)
Rely on others having a contingency plan
Information and Communication
55.Main sources of information that aid you in business. (Rank from ‘1’ most
important to ‘7’ least important, until not applicable).
Radio (specify program) ____________________
Television (specify program) ____________________
Newspapers (specify) ____________________
Magazines/journals (specify) ____________________
Rural Women’s Network
Professionals (eg accountant, solicitor)
56.How do you communicate with your business partner/s, if applicable.
(P1 = Partner 1, P2 = Partner 2)
Typical frequency Type of interaction
P1 P2 P1 P2
Daily Set, formal meetings
Several times a week Telephone contact
Weekly Fax contact
Less than weekly Email contact
Less than monthly Web contact
Varies Other (please state)
57. How do you generally communicate with staff as a whole, if applicable?
Typical frequency Type of interaction
Daily Set, formal meetings
Several times a week Telephone contact
Weekly Fax contact
Less than weekly Email contact
Less than monthly Web contact
Varies Other (please state)
58.What is your normal style of communication for business (Tick the appropriate
STYLE OF COMMUNICATION
WHO YOU Face to face Telephone Fax Email/
COMMUNICATE WITH contact contact contact internet
Friends and acquaintances
accountants, suppliers, other
like businesses etc.
Women's or Business
organisation eg. Chamber of
59. Generally, what is your preferred style of communication in your business
dealings? (Tick appropriate box)
STYLE OF COMMUNICATION
WHO YOU Face to face Telephone Fax Email/
COMMUNICATE WITH contact contact contact internet
Friends and acquaintances
accountants, suppliers, other
like businesses etc.
Women's or Business
organisation eg. Chamber of
60. If your actual style of communication and your preferred style differ please
comment on the reasons for the difference.
Managing/Interacting with Employees
61. Decision making style with staff, if applicable. Please tick one statement that is
closest to your typical style of making business decisions.
I allow subordinates to function independently within limits.
I make a decision then announce it.
I present a tentative decision and allow that it is subject to change.
I let the staff make group decisions within defined limits.
I present ideas and invite suggestions before making the decision.
I make a decision then explain it.
I present a problem, take suggestions and then make a decision.
62.Mark the statements that are generally true, false or not applicable for your
business. True False NA
I have a fairly quick turnover : few staff stay longer than 6 months.
Most of my staff have been with me since I began/for several years.
Staff willingly work back when required.
I have difficulty getting the staff to work the odd/flexible hours I need for my
Staff work set hours.
Staff have a say over when they take their annual leave and some flexibility to
suit family needs.
Staff can alter start and finish times as long as the required hours are put in.
I generally feel that I have the skills required to effectively manage my staff.
Staff respect my authority.
63. Do you have access to the Internet through a computer? Yes No
64.If yes, tick what uses you make of the internet?
Buying or selling (e-commerce) Website or homepage
Other (please state) ______________________________________________
65. Why are you in business? (tick up to only 3 main reasons)
extra income for family tax minimisation
extra income for self better lifestyle
sense of achievement satisfying work environment
sense of being in control of own destiny creating employment for self
creating employment for family members satisfying a local need
inherited business wanting to be own boss
recognised market niche
Other (please state) ___________________________________________________
Aspirations for business growth
66.What were your original aspirations regarding the size of your business when you
set up or obtained your business?
67.Tick the statement that most fits your aspirations now.
a) As long as I break even and keep enjoying the work I will be happy.
b) I would be happy if I could make $_________(insert number) profit per year.
c) I want to sell or close my business
d) I would like the business to make lots of profit and to keep growing.
If d) This is how I would anticipate growing:
producing more ( or servicing more) for the same market
producing more (or servicing more) for a different geographical market
diversifying, producing something else in same sector of industry
diversifying, producing something else for a different industrial sector
employing more people
Other (please state) ________________________________________
68.What does business success mean for you? ______________________
69.What are the key success factors of your business?
Skills reliability of suppliers location
networking creative ideas not known
70. What sort of courses or training would you like to see made available?
Delivery style Content Timing
Small workshops face to Financial Night
Internet chat groups Marketing Day
Large city based seminars Promotion Part-time
Other Ecommerce Fulltime in block
Thank you very much for your time and cooperation
Janice Newton, Lorene Gottschalk, Glen Wood
THIS SECTION IS DETACHED BEFORE QUESTIONNAIRE CODED AND
MAY BE MAILED SEPARATELY, SO NAME REMAINS ABSOLUTELY
• I would like to become part of a database network for
rural women in small business managed through the
Department of State and Regional Development.
• I would like to be a mentor for other women
Please leave your name and phone number and/or email address, postal address if you
would like to be a mentor or part of the database (Alternatively, you can also phone
this information to Janice Newton 03 53279623.)
Email address if applicable:
Any questions regarding this project can be directed to Janice Newton on telephone number
53279623 . Should you have any concerns about the conduct of this research project, please
contact the Executive Officer, Human Research Ethics Committee, Scholarship and Educational
Development Services Branch, University of Ballarat, PO Box 663, Mt Helen VIC 3353.
Telephone: (03) 5327 9765.
APPENDIX B LIST OF OCCUPATIONS
Bold indicates sole or female partnership
Accommodation (17) 2 General store (2) 1
Accommodation and meals Giftware (3)
Accommodation- B & B (6) 3 Glazier (3)
Accountancy (4) 2 Grain cleaners
Adult education Graphic design
Advertising Grass seed supplier
Agri tourism (2) 1 Grazier
Alternative therapies Grocer (2) 1
Amusement machines Grocery wholesaler
Aromatherapy Hairdresser (15) 12
Art classes and supplies Health advisor
Auto repair (2) Health supplements
Auto sales Hearing aids
Auto-electrical repairs Home help
Bakery (5) 1 Honey gathering and packing
Beauty therapy Horseriding (2)
Builder (3) Hotel (5) 1
Building materials House restumping
Business advisor Human services
Cabinet making Interior design (5) 2
Café (8) 1 IT services
Café & Bakery Jewellery manufacture
Catering (2) 1 Joinery
Ceramics (3) Kitchen manufacture
Chemical manufacture Laminated benchtop manufacture
Cleaner (2) Legal services (2)
Clothing Licensed bar
Clothing alterations Liquor trade
Communication Maintenance manuals
Consultancy Make-up direct sales
Consultant – engineering Manufacture -Navigation buoys
Corporate writer Manufacture – candy
Dance supplies (2) Manufacture – chocolate
Dance teacher Manufacture – confectionary
Dental care Manufacture Clothing (2) 1
Dietetic consultant Manufacture – food (3) 1
Digital illustrations Manufacture – Hand knitting
Doll making – porcelain Manufacture – wrought iron products
Dry cleaning (2) Manufacture Animal food
Earthworks (2) Manufacture –Curtains (3)
Engineering Manufacturer – steel
Environmental management Manufacturing – canvas goods
Farm machinery Marketing consultant
Fast food (2) 1 Massage (3) 2
Florist (4) 2 Milkbar and sandwiches
Food (4) 2 Milkbar and videos
Food – sandwich bar Motel (7) 2
Food – takeaway Motor parts manufacture
Food – takeaway and deli Multimedia consultant
Food products Music teacher
Food –takeaway Natural health
Food, hospitality Natural medicines
Function centre Naturopathy
Furniture maker Newsagency (4) 1
Furniture removals (2) )
APPENDIX C (Continued Retail – small engines
Occupational health and safety Retail – souvenir
training Retail – specialty
Office supplies Retail – sporting goods (2)
Orchardist Retail – sportswear (2) 1
Painter Retail – underwear (2)
Painter and wallpaperer Retail – uniforms
Patchwork quilting (2) Retail – wine
Personnel Retail furniture, removalist
Pet cages Retail –haberdashery
Pet care Retail, petrol, garden supplies
Pharmacy (3) 2 Roadhouse restaurant
Photography (5) 3 Saddlery
Photography, design Secretarial service
Physiotherapy (2) 1 Secretarial support
Picture framer (2) 1 Security
Plant nursery (2) Service station
Postal (2) Service station and mechanical
Primary producer – organic vegetables repairs (2) 1
Primary producer – cereals and Shopkeeper (2)
legumes Snack food
Primary producer – grain (3) 1 Speech pathology
Primary producer – sheep, grain Spray painting
Primary producer – wool (3) Steel fabrication
Primary producer – wool and grain Stockfeed, calf rearing
Primary producer –Agriculture Supermarket (2)
Primary producer –Flowers Superphosphate supplier
Primary producer –Wool, Taxi
Primary producer – cropping, grazing Tourism (2) 1
Property maintenance Transport -sheep and grazier
Property management Travel consultant
Psychologist (2) Veterinary services
Real estate (2) 1 Video hire (3)
Retail –Children’s clothing Vineyard (3) 1
Repair – TV Vineyard and accommodation,
Repairs – electrical appliance tourism
Restaurant – vegan Vineyard, wool, accommodation
Retail (3) Waste collection
Retail – antiques Wholesaler - Chinese goods
Retail – apparel (12) 9 Wildlife Art manufacture
Retail – apparel and Manchester Wood turning
Retail – baby products Writer – children’s book
Retail – children’s clothing (2)
Retail – confectionary
Retail – crystal
Retail – electrical (3)
Retail – electrical motors
Retail – fabric and gifts
Retail – floorcoverings
Retail – Footwear (3) 1
Retail – fuel
Retail – furniture
Retail – garden supplies
Retail – giftware (4) 3
Retail – hardware
Retail – homewares
Retail – kitchen ware
Retail – Manchester (2)
Retail – menswear
Retail – motorcycles
Retail - shopkeeper
ABC Landline [on line] Available www.abc.net.au/landline, [14/12/1997,
Allen, S. & Truman, C. (1993) Women and men entrepreneurs, life strategies,
business strategies, in Allen, S & Truman, C. pp.1-13. Women in
Business: perspectives on women entrepreneurs. London: Routledge.
Alston, M. (1991) Family Farming Australia and New Zealand. Centre for
Rural Social Research, Wagga Wagga: Charles Sturt University.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (1996) Census.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (1997) Agricultural Australia 1996-7, 7113.0,
Australian Bureau of Statistics (1997) Special Article - Women in Small
Business, ABS 1301.0.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (1999a) Agricultural Industries, 1998-9,
Australian Bureau of Statistics (1999b) Characteristics of Small Business,
Australian Bureau of Statistics (1999c) Small Business in Australia, 1321.0,
Australian Bureau of Statistics (1999d) Special Article - Employment
Generation by the Small Business Sector, Australia Now - A Statistical
Profile Industry Overview Year Book Australia, 1301.01.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2000) 2901.0 Statistical Subdivisions of
North and South Wimmera, Ballarat City, Western and Eastern Central
AusStats 8127.1[online](1998) More small businesses and more women
business operators. Available: www.abs.gov.au/ausstats [12/2/01.]
AusStats 8127.0 [online] (1999a) Women turn away from small business.
Available: www.abs.gov.au/ausstats [12/2/01.]
AusStats 8127.0 [online] (1999b). Growth in small business sector slows.
Available: www.abs.gov.au/ausstats [12/2/01.]
AusStats 3218.0: [online] (1999c) Population: population distribution
Available: www.abs.gov.au/ausstats [12/2/01].
AusStats 3218.0 [online](1999d) Australian Social Trends 1998, Population-
population distribution: Small towns: which ones are in decline?
Available: www.abs.gov.au/ausstats [12/2/01].
Baines, S. & Wheelock, J. (1998) Working for each other: gender, the
household and micro-business survival and growth, International
Small Business Journal,17, (1), pp.16-35.
Boden, R. & Nucci, A. (1997*) On the survival prospects of men’s and
women’s new business ventures. Journal of Business Venturing. 15,
Bradley, H., Erickson, M., Stephenson, C. & Williams, S. (2000) Myths at
work, Cambridge: Polity.
Burton, C. (1991). The promise and the price: The struggle for equal
opportunity in women’s employment. North Sydney, N.S.W.: Allen &
Caley, K., Chell, E., Chittenden, F. & Mason, C. (1992) Small Enterprise
Development: policy and practice in action UK Enterprise Management
and Research Association, London: Paul Chapman Publishing:
Carter, S. (1993) Female business ownership: current research and
possibilities for the future. In Allen, S & Truman, C. Women in
Business: perspectives on women entrepreneurs. pp 144-160. London:
Carter, S. (1999) Multiple business ownership in the farm sector: assessing
the farm enterprise and employment contributions of farmers in
Cambridgeshire, Journal of Rural Studies. 15, (4), pp. 417-429.
Clayton, K. (1998). Women’s work: Success in small business.
Collins, Jock Gibson, Katherine, Alcorso, Caroline, Castles, Stephen & Tait,
David.(1995) A shop full of dreams: ethnic small business in Australia.
Leichardt: Pluto Press.
Craig, R. (c1990) Partners or Helpers – farm wives and decision making.
CVAH: unpublished paper.
Cromie, S. & Hayes, J. (1988). Towards a typology of female entrepreneurs.
Sociological Review, 36, (1), pp.87-113.
Cullinen, Kate (2001) Unpublished thesis. Current research for Masters in
Business, University of Ballarat.
Davidson M. & Cooper, C. (1992). Shattering the Glass Ceiling. The Woman
Manager. London: Paul Chapman.
Deery, S., Plowman, D., Walsh, J., & Brown, M. (2001) Industrial relations: a
contemporary analysis. Boston: McGraw Hill. Dempsey, K. (1992) A
man’s town: inequality between women and men in rural Australia.
Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Egan, M. (1997) Getting down to business and off welfare: rural women
entrepreneurs. Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work, 12: 2,
EBSCOhost 1999, 10pp.
Goffee, R. & Skase, R. (1985). Women in Charge, London: Allen & Unwin.
Heckscher, C. & Donnellon (1994) (Eds.) The Post-Bureaucratic Organization.
Hussey, J. and Hussey, R.(1997) Business Research: A Practical Guide for
Undergraduate and Postgraduate Students, London: Macmillan Press,
James, K. (1989) (Ed.) Women in Rural Australia, St. Lucia, Queensland:
University of Queensland Press.
Jayaratne, T. (1983) The Value of Quantitative Methodology for Feminist
Research, in Bowles, G. and Klein, R. (Eds), Theories of Women’s Studies,
London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Johnson, S. & Storey, D. (1993) Male and female entrepreneurs and their
businesses: a comparative study in Allen, S & Truman, C. (Eds) Women
in Business: perspectives on women entrepreneurs. pp.70-85, London:
Koper, G. (1993) Women entrepreneurs and the granting of business credit,
in Allen, S & Truman, C.(Eds) Women in Business: perspectives on
women entrepreneurs. London: Routledge.
Kuratko, D. & Hodgetts, R.(1998) Entrepreneurship: a contemporary
approach, New York: The Dryden Press.
Lake, M. (1985). Helpmeet, slave, housewife: women in rural families 1870
1930, In P. Grimshaw, C. McConville & E.McEwen(Eds) Families in
Colonial Australia). Sydney: George Allen & Unwin, pp.173-185.
Langan-Fox, J. (1995). Achievement motivation and female entrepreneurs.
Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. September. 68,
Loscocco, K. & Leicht, K. (1993) Gender, work-family linkages, and economic
success among small business owners, Journal of Marriage and the
Family 55, (4), pp. 875-888.
Marlow, S. & Strange, A. (1994). Female entrepreneurs –success by whose
standards? In M. Tanton (Ed) Women in Management: a developing
presence. Routledge: London, pp.172-184.
Mason, C. & Harrison, R. (1992) A strategy for closing the small firm’s
finance gap. In Small enterprise development: policy and practice in action.
K. Caley, E. Chell, F. Chittendon & Mason, (Eds). London: Paul Chapman
McKenzie, F. (1995) Rural women: hitting the big time, at what cost? In
Feminine forces: redefining the workplace P. Carroll, .(Ed). Women in
Leadership Project 1995, Edith Cowan University: Perth, pp.143-147.
McKenzie, F. (1996) Technology: the key to freedom for farming women:or
the lock on the door. In Dancing on the glass ceiling: new century, new
workplace, new leaders. L. Lord, A. Kinnear, F. McKenzie, L. Pike. (Eds)
Women in Leadership Project 1995, Edith Cowan University: Perth,
Miner, J. (1997). A typology of successful entrepreneurs. Westport: CT.
Moore, D. (1999). Women entrepreneurs: Approaching a new millennium. In
G. Powell (Ed.), Handbook of gender and work. CA: Thousand Oaks.
Parker, B. & Fagenson, E.A. (1994). An introductory overview of women in
corporate management. In M.J. Davidson, R.J. Burke (Eds). Women in
Management. Current Research Issues. pp.11-28. London: Paul
Phizacklea, A & Ram, M. (1996) Being your own boss: ethnic minority
entrepreneurs in comparative perspective, Work, Employment, Society,
10, (2), pp. 319-339.
Pringle, J. & Tudhope, J. (1996). Family Friendly Policies: The experiences of
three New Zealand companies. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources,
34 (3), pp. 77-89.
Rainbird, H. (1991) The Self-employed: small entrepreneurs or disguised
wage labourers in A. Pollert (Ed) Farewell to Flexibility, pp.200-214.
Reinharz, S. (1992) Feminist methods in social research. New York: Oxford
Rickson, S. & Daniels P. (1999) Rural Women and Decision Making:
Women’s role in resource management during rural restructuring, Rural
Sociology, 64, (2), pp. 234-250.
Rogers, N. (1998) The role of Marital status, family composition, role
commitment, family support of career and role conflict in women
business owners’ success. PhD. Proquest Digital Dissertations, abstract.
Stevenson, H.H. and Jarillo, J.C. (1990). A paradigm of Entrepreneurship:
Entrepreneurial Management. Strategic Management Journal, 11,
Still, L. (1988). Becoming a top woman manager, Sydney: Allen & Unwin.
Still, L. (1993) Where to from here? The managerial woman in transition.
Sydney: Business & Professional Publishing.
Still, L and Timms, W. (2000) Women’s business: the flexible alternative
workstyle for women. Women in Management Review 15, (5/6),
Souter, G. & Still, L. (2000) Sources of Assistance, advice and information
from small businesses: a gender comparison of start-up to operations.
Discussion Paper Series, Graduate School of Management Centre for
Women and Business, University of Western Australia.
Sykes, Helen, (1989) Financing Australian Female Entrepreneurship
(Unpublished PhD), University of New South Wales.
TCFU Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (1995) The Hidden
Cost of Fashion, TCFU: Sydney.
Victorian Women in Agriculture and Resource Management Advisory Team
(1999) Assessment of Rural Women’s Business Training Needs. Rural
Women’s Network: Melbourne.
Voyce, Malcolm (1993) The farmer and his wife: (hey ho the dairy goes).
Alternative Law Journal, 18, (3), pp.121-125.
Walsh-Martin M. (Ed.) (1998). Making It Happen: How 25 Rural Women
Turned Ideas Into Businesses, Carlton North, Victoria: Scribe
Publications Pty. Ltd.
Warren, L. & Hutchison, W. (2000) Success factors for high technology
SMEs: A case study from Australia, Journal of Small Business
Management, 38, (3), pp. 86-92.
Wheelock, J. (1997) Survival and flexibility in the urban small business
household. In J. Wheelock and A. Mariussen (Eds). Households, Work
and Economic Change: A Comparative Institutional Perspective,
pp.157-166. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers
Wheelock, J. (1992) The Flexibility of Small Business Family Work Strategies
In Caley, Kevin, Chell, Elizabeth, Chittenden, Francis & Mason, Colin
(Eds) Small Enterprise Development: policy and practice in action, pp.
151-165. UK Enterprise Management and Research Association, London:
Paul Chapman Publishing.
Willax, P. (1998) More Women Seeking Entrepreneurial Rewards in Business
First-Louisville. 15, (12), October, 1998, Source:epnet, item number
Yellow Pages (1996) Small Business Index: Special Report, Yellow Pages.