By MeiMei Fox
October is national women-owned small business month. With numerous, unpredictable school and business shutdowns in the past year and a half due to the Covid-19 pandemic, women are feeling burnt out. Even so, recent research conducted by Groupon reveals that 95% of women small business owners are happier than ever being their own boss despite facing some challenges.
Groupon is an experiences marketplace that offers local businesses the opportunity to promote themselves by providing discounts. As part of the company’s ongoing efforts to lend a voice to merchants from underrepresented communities, Groupon spoke with more than 600 women small business owners from across the U.S. While 64% said they are still facing the same challenges they faced at the height of the pandemic, and 76% work an average of 12 hours a day, still most of them are making as much or more money than they did before opening their own businesses and, most importantly, they are happy to doing it.
Now, as part of a new campaign called When Women Thrive, Communities Thrive, Groupon is making a donation to help provide new women entrepreneurs with much-needed access to capital. They have partnered with crowdfunding platform Kiva.org to provide consumers with an opportunity to contribute to a fund that supports women-owned businesses across the U.S.
The Covid-19 pandemic also has given Groupon an opportunity to double-down on its values by highlighting and championing merchants from underrepresented groups —who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and civil unrest—by connecting them to a diverse customer base.
“Our merchant partners represent the diversity of the world in which we live. It’s important for us to understand the systemic barriers and biases that exist for those from marginalized communities,” says Groupon’s Chief Financial Officer Melissa Thomas. So the company has been prioritizing businesses owned by marginalized groups throughout the year. In October, they focused on merchants owned by women in recognition of National Women’s Small Business Month. In August, they ran a campaign for National Black Business Month that featured Black-owned businesses, and in September, they highlighted LatinX-owned businesses for Hispanic Heritage Month.
Thomas leads a team of more than 300 dedicated finance professionals spanning the globe. In the past 18 months, she has helped local business owners navigate the impact of the global pandemic and implemented a growth strategy for Groupon.
Both of her parents worked in accounting and finance, so it didn’t surprise them when Thomas excelled in math. Thomas felt particularly inspired by her mother, who was a stay-at-home mom until going back to school in her early 30s, when she then quickly rose to become the CFO of a private company. “My drive as a working mother comes from having had a front row seat to my mother’s experience,” says Thomas. “She proved that it was possible to balance a family and career.”
Finance is no longer about just managing profits and losses, Thomas explains. You must understand how to run a business. This is a big reason why one in five Fortune 500 CEOs previously had CFO experience. She also feels that being able to develop talent is one of her most important responsibilities. Her advice to those in entry-level accounting and finance positions is to be pragmatic in acquiring new skills such as technology and data science, as well as understanding general business principles like leadership and management.
“The best way to position yourself for career longevity and growth is to be passionate about what you do,” Thomas says to those looking to align their career with their life purpose. “That said, I think it’s important and healthy to first recognize that many people will find and tap into their life purpose outside of the workplace. And that’s okay! In your spare time, you can volunteer at a nonprofit for a cause you care about or take up a hobby. You don’t have to open a small business or work for a large corporation. The important thing is to be open-minded and explore new opportunities.”