As a team living and working in the center of New York City we are acutely aware of the potential mirage of female entrepreneurship created by being in a media and tech hot spot. With women-only networking and co-working spaces popping up regularly; accelerators and women-owned venture firms receiving coverage; and conferences shining bright with marketing gloss; we worry that the truth is more complicated – from locale to industry. And the data backs our hunch up:
A geographic profile paints a complex portrait of women-owned businesses. The broad stroke conclusion is that while the media focuses on women raising equity capital in major venture capital centers, women are succeeding in overlooked states and cities.American Express, “2019 State of Women Owned Businesses Report”
And we are talking about nearly 13 million women-owned businesses with more than 1,800 being created each day. This represents 42% of all businesses in the country. And it also means 9.4 million employees and revenue of $1.9 trillion. So addressing them locally matters. And it matters a LOT.
Where Female Entrepreneurs Build Their Businesses
There is a tendency to focus on the shiny, pretty, media-friendly version of the female business owner. And, for sure, there are many smart, savvy, interesting entrepreneurs to celebrate in NYC, LA or SF. But if we want to reimagine a world where women-owned businesses are supported equally to men, it’s important to really understand the landscape (literally and figuratively).
According to the same American Express study; between 2014 and 2019, the metropolitan areas with the most robust women-owned business growth rates (in terms of number of firms, employment and review) were actually:
- Detroit, MI
- Charlotte, NC/SC
- Atlanta, GA
- Austin, TX
- San Antonio, TX
- Riverside, CA
- Las Vegas, NV
- Jacksonville, FL; Miami, FL (tied for eighth place)
- Cleveland, OH
There are a number of ways that American Express slices the data (all showing diversity in location) but looking at states also instructive:
- Idaho, Nevada (tied)
- South Dakota
The Dirty Secret: How We Define and Prioritize Women-Owned
Without a doubt there are organizations and champions of women-owned businesses that are inclusive and supportive. But circling back to the idea that the media disproportionately covers those in major urban centers; they also cover just one kind of entrepreneur.
The truth is this: technology is primarily a means to an end. And sometimes it’s an end (hardware, software; you get the idea). But the biggest disappointment of the Internet age is the idea that it’s an industry rather than a way to enhance all industries. After two decades it is changing. But the reason this matters? Because a successful clothing store owner in Salt Lake City seems less sexy than a woman in New York City running a popular e-commerce site.
And on top this, we might be forgiven for thinking that the majority of women-owned businesses were in the industries of fashion, beauty or family goods & services. But the reality is different. American Express breaks it down into three categories:
- Other services (including hair and nail salons and pet businesses)
- Healthcare and social assistance (day care and in-home healthcare)
- Professional, scientific, technical (such as lawyers, public relations firms and consultants).
And it’s important to note that these categories of business tend to be of the lowest in revenue generation.
The Takeaway: We are Everywhere
The conclusion should be that we need to wake up and take stock of the where and who of women-owned businesses. While the media covers exciting concepts in New York and Los Angeles they should look farther afield. And while women’s clubs and the like are fun to talk about and cover; the truth is women need much, much more.
And it’s a win-win for us all. With 42% of all businesses in the US started by women – imagine the possibility if we help them do even better? And wherever they are.