Back to Basics for Many New Women Business Owners?

The recent publication of the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses report is chock-full of interesting trends and statistics, some of which we’ve covered here in recent blogposts. This time, the focus is industry diversity – and, while women-owned businesses are found in every industry and the longer-term trend is increasing diversification, over the most recent post-recessionary time period (2007-2016) the greatest growth we’re seeing is in some of the most traditional, foundational sectors for women.
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To wit, between 2007 and 2016, when the number of all women-owned businesses increased by 45%, the following four industries grew much more substantially:

  • Women-owned firms in the Other Services sector (hair and nail salons, pet sitting services) nearly doubled in number (up 98%);
  • Administrative, Support and Waste Management Services (including janitorial and landscaping services and travel agencies) are up 64%;
  • Accommodation and Food Services businesses increased by 62%; and
  • Women-owned Construction firms increased in number by 56%.

Two of these sectors are – and have been – among the most popular sectors for women in business:

  • There are currently 2.5 million women-owned firms in Other Services, accounting for 22% of all women-owned firms;
  • Health Care and Social Assistance (including child day care and home health care services) women-owned firms number 1.7 million and comprise 15% of the women-owned firm population;
  • Women-owned Professional/Scientific/Technical Services firms (including lawyers, accountants, architects, public relations firms and management consultants)number 1.4 million, comprise 13%; and
  • The Administrative, Support and Waste Management Services (including janitorial and landscaping services as well as office administrative support and travel agencies) sector is home to 1.3 million women-owned firms, comprising 11% of the women-owned firm population.

It is worth noting that a significant share of the growth in these sectors is accounted for by women of color. Overall, the report notes that 44% of women-owned firms are now minority-owned, and that nearly eight out of 10 (79%) of net new women-owned firms launched since 2007 was started by a woman of color. A significant number of these women are starting firms in traditionally female sectors. For example, while 22% of all women-owned firms are in Other Services (a large share of which are hair or nail salons), fully 36% of African American women-owned firms and 33% of Asian American women-owned firms are in this sector. In addition, while 11% of all women-owned firms are found in Administrative Services (janitorial and landscaping), 21% of Latina-owned firms are found in this sector.

So, despite more and more women launching a growing variety of businesses, certain types of traditional lines of business remain very popular – more so for many women of color.

Economic Impact of Women-Owned Firms Growing Across the U.S.

As noted in the recent 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report – and in our previous blogpost – women-owned firms are continuing to grow in number and economic clout at rates well above the national average. But where, geographically speaking, are women-owned firms growing? The short answer is: everywhere!

When looking at the growth in the number of women-owned firms as well as growth in revenue and employment (which we call, collectively, growth in economic clout), the 10 fastest-growing states for women-owned firms between 2007 and 2016 are:

  • North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas (all three tied for first)
  • Iowa
  • Indiana, Wyoming (tied for 5th)
  • Georgia, Tennessee (tied for 7th)
  • Utah
  • Maine

These are states in the Northeast, Midwest, South and West.

A look at the top-ranked metropolitan areas for growth in the economic clout of women-owned between 2007 and 2016 paints a slightly different picture. All of the top ten metro areas (listed below) are found east of the Mississippi River – or in Texas! However, most of the 50 most populous metropolitan areas in the country are either east of or on the banks of the Mississippi River.

  • Charlotte NC/SC
  • San Antonio TX
  • Dallas TX
  • Memphis TN/MS/AR
  • Austin TX
  • Indianapolis IN
  • Miami FL
  • Detroit MI
  • Richmond VA
  • Houston TX

Comparing heat maps of the top states and top metro areas for growth in economic clout since 2007 finds that some of the fastest-growing states are those without large cities (such as North and South Dakota, Iowa and Wyoming) and some of the fastest-growing cities (Charlotte, Miami, Detroit) are growing faster than the rest of their states.

This geographic analysis also tells us that things are definitely hopping in Texas – the top-ranked state home to four of the top 10 metro areas. Perhaps everything really is bigger in Texas!

Women of Color Driving Growth in Women’s Entrepreneurship

For the sixth year running, Womenable and American Express OPEN have taken a look at the state of women-owned businesses across the U.S., this year focusing on trends that have taken place between 2007 and 2016. The latest numbers – which can be found in The 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report and the companion Summary Tables document – are remarkable in a number of ways.

First, here are the latest back-of-the-envelope numbers for you to write down and keep handy for speeches and cocktail conversation:

  • There are now 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., employing nearly 9 million people and generating over $1.6 trillion in revenues;
  • Women-owned businesses now comprise 38% of the business population, employ 8% of the country’s private sector workforce and contribute 4% of the nation’s business revenues; and
  • Since 2007, there have been 1,072 net new women-owned firms launched each and every day.

What are the most remarkable positive trends we’re seeing in this report? Here are three:

  1. Between 2007 and 2016, while the total number of firms increased by 9%, the number of women-owned firms increased by 45% – meaning that over this period the number of women-owned firms grew at a rate fully five times the national average;Women of Color Soar
  2. Who are entering the ranks of women business owners at a fast clip? Women of color; their numbers have more than doubled since 2007, to nearly 5 million. They comprise fully 44% of all women-owned firms; and
  3. The 10 fastest-growing states for women-owned firms since 2007 in terms of economic clout (a combination of growth in number, employment and revenue) are found in every region. They are:
    • North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas (all tied for first);
    • Iowa;Top States and Cities for Growth in Women-Owned Firms
    • Indiana and Wyoming (tied for 5th);
    • Georgia and Tennessee (tied for 7th);
    • Utah; and
    • Maine.

And, on the flip side, what findings bear further scrutiny, as they may indicate a lack of advancement? Again, we’ll highlight a trio:

  1. While the share of women-owned firms keeps climbing – from 28% in 2002 to 38% today – their share of employment (8%) and revenues (4%) remains essentially unchanged;
  2. Although the number of minority women-owned businesses has increased at a rate nearly three times that of all women-owned firms since 2006 (127% versus 45%), their average annual revenues are less than half that of the average women-owned firm (just under $69,000 per annum compared to $143,000); and
  3. Despite broadening industry diversity over the past two decades, since the recession the industries with the greatest share of new women-owned firms are in some of the most historically traditional sectors for women: other services (which includes hair and nail salons, up 98% compared to 45% overall); administrative, support and waste management services (home to janitorial and landscaping businesses, +64%); and accommodation and food services (+62%).

This is just a taste of the information now available in the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. To learn more about the current state of women-owned businesses, download, read, and share the executive report, the news release, or the full set of statistical tables by clicking on these links.

And follow this blog for additional posts on trends uncovered in the report in the coming weeks and months.

Three Hidden Gems From the 2012 SBO

Happy International Women’s Day, fellow womenablers. Yesterday, at the National Women’s Business Council’s public meeting, Council member Teresa Nelson and I discussed the Council’s just-released analysis of the 2012 women’s business census, The Growth and Development of Women-Owned Enterprises in the United States, 2002-2012.

By now, many of you will know the overarching facts and trends, including:

  • Women now own nearly four in ten (36%) businesses in the U.S. These firms number nearly 10 million, employ over 8 million workers, and generate $1.4 trillion in revenues.
  • Women-owned firms are growing in number at 2-1/2 times the national average over the 2002-2012 period, and business starts among women have picked up significantly since the recession, even as overall firm formation has stagnated.
  • The number of firms owned by women of color is nothing short of phenomenal. In 2002, there were just under 1 million firms owned by women of color; that number stands at nearly 3.8 million just one decade later.

But what you might not know are three other trends that are included in this report. For the first time, the analysis includes a look at female veteran-owned firms, trends in the top 50 most populous metro areas, and a look at trends in some detailed industry categories. We found that:

  • There’s been a quadrupling in the number of female veteran-owned businesses just in the past five years, from under 100,000 to nearly 400,000.
  • Despite growing industry diversity, nearly one-third of women-owned firms can be found in these four sectors:
    • Personal care services (mostly beauty and nail salons): 987,375 women-owned firms
    • Other personal services (including pet care/pet sitting/dog walking): 732,352
    • Child day care services: 661,630
    • Services to buildings and dwellings (mostly janitorial, housecleaning and landscaping/lawn services): 655,943
  • Between 2002 and 2012, the number of women-owned firms in Memphis skyrocketed by 160%, compared to national growth of 52%, making the Bluff City the fastest-growing metro area among the 50 most populous cities in the U.S.

These trends and more can be found in the new NWBC report, The Growth and Development of Women-Owned Enterprises in the United States, 2002-2012.

New Data Show Increasing Growth Among Women-Owned Firms, and Yet…

The first wave of information from the 2012 Survey of Business Owners has just been released from the U.S. Census Bureau, and the news is largely positive – for women-owned businesses at least.SBO_infographic1

While the final numbers will not be out until the end of the year, preliminary figures indicate that:

  • there are now 9.9 million women-owned firms,
  • employing nearly 9 million workers, and
  • generating $1.6 trillion in revenues.

These numbers reveal that women-owned firms now comprise 36% of all privately-held firms (a full accounting of U.S. firms, including large publicly-traded firms, won’t be published until December) – up from a 29% share in 2002.

Where’s this growth coming from? By and large, from women of color. Back in 2002, one in seven (14%) of women-owned firms was led by a woman of color; that share has risen to nearly four in 10 (38%) as of 2012. The growth in the number of women-owned firms over that decade – 53% overall – is strongly outpaced among African American (+179%), Latina (+173%), Native Hawaiian (+138%) and Asian American (+122%) women-owned firms, and also surpassed by Native American/Alaska Native (+68%) women-owned firms.

Looking at trends by industry sector finds the strongest growth in the number of women-owned firms to be in administrative support and waste management services (think office administrative services, landscaping and janitorial services, +101%), educational services (including private schools, computer and language instruction, +92%) and other services (including auto repair, pet sitting and beauty salons, +86%). At the other end of the spectrum, there’s been just an 11% increase in women-owned retail trade businesses.

When looking at the growth in women-owned firms compared to all privately-held firms, the news is quite positive overall: women are now starting businesses at a higher rate post-recession compared to the five years leading up to the recession, while start-ups have plummeted overall.

That said, however, while women now represent over one-third of all privately-owned firms, their share of employment and revenues among this population has declined between 2002 and 2012.

This represents the grey lining in an otherwise silver cloud – but the full picture won’t be revealed until more detailed tabulations by employment and revenue size of firm and more detailed geography are available late in the year.

 

(Click on the infographic at the right to view the interactive version on Womenable’s infogr.am page.)

Business Support “On Equal Terms” in Sweden? Nära Skjuter Ingen Hare!

After eight excellent years of promoting women’s entrepreneurship in Sweden, the newly-elected government has closed programmatic support in this area (thus highlighting once again that elections do matter).
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In wrapping up their efforts, however, Tillväxtverket (the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth) has compiled some lessons learned reports. Here, for your enlightenment, are:

Many thanks to fellow womenabler Gunilla Thorstensson for sharing these reports with us. Unfortunately, business promotion “on equal terms” (meaning “one size fits all”) will likely not stand women entrepreneurs in Sweden in good stead going forward. As they say in Sweden, nära skjuter ingen hare!

Perhaps this will spark advocacy and action among women’s business groups there. From adversity can come increased strength and sisterhood.

Mixing Purpose With Passion: Women’s Enterprise in Scotland

Having recently returned from Scotland, I was struck by a new-found energy and optimism. Though the recent independence referendum was defeated, it brought out a renewed national spirit – which certainly carried over in the surge of support for the Scottish National Party in the recent U.K. elections.

wes-logo-colourThis energy surge is also manifest in support for women’s enterprise development in Scotland. Last year, Scotland launched a Framework and Action Plan for Women’s Enterprise, based on feedback from the women’s business community and other stakeholders and containing a series of policy and program recommendations.

What took me over to Scotland was a Think Tank gathering, #WESMovingOn, in which best practices from within and outside Scotland and the U.K. were considered and discussed. The day was kicked off with a thoughtful presentation by futurist Anne Lise Kjaer on a more inclusive view of ‘the good life’ and the drivers of change in the future, incorporating the four P’s of people, planet, purpose and profit.

Then we (“womenablers” from government, the private sector and the third sector, from the U.K., Europe and North America) all rolled up our sleeves and shared our views – from our countries and communities – of what’s working, what lessons we’ve learned, and what recommendations we’d make for Scotland moving forward. I was asked to reflect on some lessons learned from the U.S. perspective, based on the 27 years of progress (and pitfalls) since the “big bang” of women’s enterprise development in the U.S.: the passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988. Here’s a brief summary of the ideas that I shared:

  1. Policy is only the starting point. For progress and sustainability attention must be paid on three key levels:
    • In the public sector level, to set such frameworks AND to establish programs based on policies;
    • On the customers/clients of women’s enterprise support: listen to them, then modify programs based on changing needs. This is something we do NOT do nearly enough of in the U.S.; and
    • On intermediary groups, such as implementing partners. This is the all too often forgotten link between policy and customer.
  2. Don’t “fence in” women business owners. By this I mean not isolate them, but don’t limit their growth by setting policy sights too low. U.S. federal support for women’s business centers is a prime example of this; they are hampered by restrictions on what clients they can serve with their federal grant money, which leaves many growth-oriented women business owners underserved;
  3. DATA, DATA, DATA: it’s critically important to measure. In the U.S. government, policy efforts are limited by restrictions on conducting research, so the Center for Women’s Business Research (now defunct) was critically important in 1990’s, as it monitored progress and showcased needs;
  4. Private sector partnerships: Enlightened corporations and financial institutions need women business owners as customers and as suppliers, so they are stakeholders, too.

We also heard from several of WES’ excellent women’s entrepreneurship ambassadors: women business owners who give back by speaking to women and girls about what it’s like to start and grow a business. One of them was Sylvia Douglas of MsMissMrs. You owe it to yourself to CLICK HERE to learn more about her enterprise … and her empowerment pants. (Here’s us posing with some during the Think Tank discussion.)empowermentpants

What’s next for women’s enterprise development in Scotland? I’d say that they will be a leader in the U.K., if not throughout Europe and beyond, for their inclusive, consultative approach, for thinking well outside the box and all along the size continuum, for being inclusive of diversity from the outset, and for bravely stepping out in front and leading the way. Keep an eye out for the report from this think tank event, and keep an eye on Women’s Enterprise Scotland … the Brave!