Recession spurs spike in women-owned businesses

One of the unintended consequences of an economic slowdown such as the Great Recession is a surge in entrepreneurial activity. And the past few years have given a growing number of women the opportunity to be their own boss.

A new study from American Express OPEN, the 2014 State of Women-owned Businesses Report, estimates that there are more than 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States, up from 8.6 million in just the previous year.

Even more impressive, the report calculates that women are starting new businesses at a rate of 1,288 a day.

The report estimates that there are at least 92,000 women-owned businesses in San Diego, up from 86,900 in 2013. Of the 25 major metropolitan areas included in the study, San Diego ranks No. 17 in growth.

The vast majority of these companies are considered small businesses, but still they employ 7.9 million people nationwide and nearly 90,000 in San Diego.

“The report clearly shows that women are choosing the path of entrepreneurship at record rates. Imagine the economic impact if more of these new ventures were transformed into thriving businesses,” said Randi Schochet of American Express.

Despite the challenges faced by all businesses — health care reform, rising taxes, finding qualified employees — owners of women-owned companies are feeling very good about their personal and professional opportunities.

A separate study by the National Association of Women Business Owners finds 87 percent of its members are optimistic about their economic outlooks, up 12 percent from just a year ago.

“Women small-business owners are not just more optimistic about their own businesses, they’re also more bullish about the prospects for female entrepreneurs who are just starting out,” said Billie Dragoo, national chair of NAWBO.

When NAWBO members were asked about their biggest concerns in 2014, 90 percent said gaining new customers and 81 percent were worried about being able to retain existing customers.

To grow their companies, women business owners are stepping up the use of social media. The preferred platforms are LinkedIn (25 percent), Facebook (21 percent), and YouTube (20 percent).

“Women small-business owners recognize the importance of the Web, mobile and social media to engage, capture and nurture customer relationships, and they are increasing investments in these resources to drive growth,” said David Brown, CEO of

Beyond their day-to-day challenges, 80 percent said they were worried about business taxes, up 12 percent from 2013. And 71 percent said the cost and accessibility of health insurance is a significant issue.

In a community such as San Diego, dominated by small businesses, the rebound from the Great Recession has rewarded owners who were able to survive. Now comes the opportunity to thrive.

“With a positive outlook and strong entrepreneurial spirit, women business owners continue to be a driving force of our economy,” NAWBO's Dragoo said.

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