Melissa Bushell's Baked by Melissa is one of thousands of ventures identifying themselves as "women-owned" on Yelp. (Credit: Rachel Kramer Bussel, Flickr)
Melissa Bushell’s Baked by Melissa is one of thousands of ventures identifying themselves as “women-owned” on Yelp. (Credit: Rachel Kramer Bussel, Flickr)

Yelp is giving female founders a new way to broadcast that they’re women-owned.

In honor of Women’s History Month, the customer review database partnered with Rebecca Minkoff and her Female Founder Collective to add the option of identifying as woman-owned to business listings. For its debut, the team got several major women-owned firms on board, from beauty business Drybar to women-owned confectioneries Sprinkles Cupcakes and Baked by Melissa.

Miriam Warren, the vice president of engagement at Yelp, told us that “thousands” of businesses have already elected to add the attribute to their business listings — and she’s hoping, of course, that more will join them. “We’re thrilled to help raise the profile of millions of women-owned businesses who drive the local economies of our cities and towns,” she adds.

One caveat: Yelp users cannot yet search or filter for women-owned ventures — surely a disappointment for customers looking to exclusively support women. Warren indicated that the lack of availability is due to the relatively small number of signed-on businesses they presently have — something they encountered before when they first added “gender neutral bathrooms” as a business attribute in 2017. Once more women sign on, she says, it will likely become a search option, as “gender neutral bathrooms” now is.

But Yelp is also working on “woman-owned” window decals for storefronts, according to Warren — those, at least, would be immediately visible. Interested women can apply on the Yelp website by or before March 15.

The aim of both of Yelp’s initiatives is to “not only makes it easier to identify and connect with great women-owned businesses on Yelp, but … also [to] drive more dollars directly to the bottom line for more female entrepreneurs,” Warren says.

[Related: A Victory for Certified Women-Owned Businesses]

“Woman-owned” branding can, indeed, be an effective marketing tool, research shows. Retail giant Walmart’s consumer studies have shown that 90 percent of female customers are willing to go out of their way to buy a product from a woman-owned business. That’s a powerful force for female entrepreneurs to harness, as women control over $20 trillion in spending power worldwide.

Business owners looking to go a step beyond branding can look into formal certification. But it is a multi-step process, and there’s a series of criteria that businesses must meet. Organizations like the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) help women navigate it by serving as third-party certifiers who break down the process.

Liz Whitehead — a director at WEConnect, a nonprofit that educates and supports women business owners — told us that there are benefits to getting certified: The opportunity to differentiate themselves in the market; to allow buyers to gain additional information about products; and to let shoppers show where their values lie.

Either way, it’s all good news for the more than 11.6 million women-owned firms in the United States who are trying to stand out.

[Related: WBENC-Certified Woman Entrepreneur Maggie Hallahan on How Starting Up Helped Her Establish Herself]