The assumption is that, because married women – or women with partners – have more financial support and help with family and household responsibilities, the pressure and demands of starting a business are easier to manage.

Yet, married and single female entrepreneurs have different challenges and advantages. How they manage and leverage these will ultimately determine how successful they are in their careers, says Joanne van der Walt, Sage Foundation Programme Manager for Africa.

According to The Hidden Factors: SA Women in Business research report, carried out by the Sage Foundation and Living Facts, 70% of those who had their own businesses are married or living with someone and this may provide support, financially or otherwise, while 28% of those without a business said their family commitments didn’t allow them to start their own companies.

Built-in infrastructure

“There are other possible reasons why women with partners may be more successful entrepreneurs. Juggling home and work life forces them to organise and prioritise and therefore achieve a better work-life balance. They’re also likely to be better at compromising and communication – two essential business skills,” says Van der Walt.

For Marylou Kneale, founder of Living Facts, women who have a supportive spouse or partner have a “built-in infrastructure” that they can rely on. “A supportive spouse or partner can provide emotional, financial, family, administrative and/or logistical support. Our research suggests that more women with partners/spouses are able to ride the ups and downs that come with having one’s own business than those who are single, because of this support network.”

A case for the single entrepreneur

Because of the massive demands that family places on their time and attention, married women might also feel guilty that they’re not devoting enough time to their businesses or their families – and that’s one area where single women have the upper hand (assuming, of course, that they’re not single mothers).

“With more time on their hands, single women can focus exclusively on marketing and growing their businesses. They also have more time for social activities, which means they’re often able to network more than married women or those with families. This allows them to make smart connections that could help to scale their businesses,” says Van der Walt.

Although single women don’t have the security of a second household income – and therefore have to be more frugal with their money and settle for beans on toast some nights – they do have more flexibility when it comes to taking risks because they don’t have to worry about the impact that risk will have on loved ones if it doesn’t go according to plan.