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Capstone Partners Reports: Female Executives Prioritize Market Expansion to Drive Business Growth, Show High Preparedness for M&A

BOSTON, May 15, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Capstone Partners, a leading middle market investment banking firm, released its inaugural 2024 Women Entrepreneurs Study, which analyzes the responses of more than 200 female business owners across the U.S. for key findings related to business decisions, growth strategies, and legacy expectations. By comparing the survey results to Capstone's annual Middle Market (MM) Business Owners Survey, the report seeks to identify and elevate key differences and challenges that female founders face.

Capstone Partners logo (PRNewsfoto/Capstone Headwaters,Capstone Partners)
Capstone Partners logo (PRNewsfoto/Capstone Headwaters,Capstone Partners)

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

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


According to our results, women entrepreneurs are more prepared for an exit than they perceive. When prompted directly, 43.3% of female CEOs noted they have started to plan a business exit. However, when provided a list of exit preparation steps, 74.8% identified that they have completed at least one step. Many women entrepreneurs have built a strong executive leadership team (37.1%), determined financial needs (34.3%), and maximized growth strategies (31.9%) in 2023 to prepare for a future exit.

When it came to top concerns for the future growth of their company, inflation headlined the chart, comprising 55% of responses. Customer retention was the next highest concern at 35%. These figures mirrored the top two concerns in Capstone's MM Business Owner Survey. At the same time, increased workload or stress appeared third on female founders' list compared to seventh for overall MM business owners. Funding for growth and credit availability were also more heavily weighted.

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

Also included in this report:

  • An overview of the current size and growth of women-owned businesses in the U.S.

  • Key findings on female executive's business operations and strategies.

  • Commentary on the challenges women face around credit availability and fundraising.

  • Commentary and Q&A from select Capstone advisors on key service areas that women business owners identified as areas of interest or demand.

To access to full report, click here.


For over 20 years, the firm has been a trusted advisor to leading middle market companies, offering a fully integrated range of investment banking and financial advisory services uniquely tailored to help owners, investors, and creditors through each stage of the company's lifecycle. Capstone's services include M&A advisory, debt and equity placement, corporate restructuring, special situations, valuation and fairness opinions and financial advisory services. Headquartered in Boston, the firm has 175+ professionals in multiple offices across the U.S. With 12 dedicated industry groups, Capstone delivers sector-specific expertise through large, cross-functional teams. Capstone is a subsidiary of Huntington Bancshares Incorporated (NASDAQ:HBAN). For more information, visit

For More Information Contact:
Sarah Doherty
Director of Market Intelligence


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SOURCE Capstone Partners