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Women-owned business is booming, American Express study shows

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The closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday was rung by Andrea Jung, CEO of Avon Products Inc. The company was acknowledging “125 Years of Empowering Women.”

Also on the podium at the NYSE were family members of David McConnell who began the company with the goal of encouraging women to achieve financial independence. Interestingly, the company got its start 34 years before women in the United States won the right to vote.

McConnell would be pleased with the results of his efforts and the work of others.

Today, there are more than 8.1 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. with annual sales of $1.3 trillion and employing 7.7 million people.

American Express recently released a study comparing the state of women-owned business to a previous Census Bureau report in 1997. During that period, the number of women-owned businesses grew by 50 percent, well above the 34 percent increase in the total number of businesses.

“Women are driving the growth of our smaller businesses," said Susan Sobbott of American Express. "During a period when larger enterprises grew at the expense of small, privately held firms, women-owned businesses actually grew faster than men-owned firms up to the 100-employee threshold and million dollar revenue marks.”

It probably comes as no surprise that California is home to the greatest number of women-owned firms in the country, a position it has held for more than 15 years. The report calculates there are nearly 1.1 million women-owned businesses in California — up 54.2 percent from 1997 — as of 2011, well ahead of Texas, with 636,000 such companies.

“Even in the current business landscape where all businesses are forced to do more with less, women business owners are holding their own and contributing significantly to the overall economy,” said Helen Han, president of the National Association of Women Business Owners, which held its annual meeting in San Diego earlier this month.

The group used the event as an opportunity to induct four new members to its Hall of Fame. Included was Koni Kim, CEO of Koni Corp., a San Diego-based supplier of soft goods like linen sand draperies to the hospitality industry worldwide.

Koni Corp. was also ranked second on the list of the Top 50 fastest-growing women-owned businesses in the United States and Canada.

Despite the growth and success of women-owned businesses, they have concerns about the current economy in the U.S. and its leadership. A survey of the National Association of Women Business Owners membership finds their biggest concerns include the federal budget deficit, job creation, health care and illegal immigration.

“While most NAWBO members believe the country is past the worst of the recession, they remain cautious about the short-term economic situation and are less optimistic looking forward to the end of the year than they were last year at this time,” national chair Kelly Scanlon said.

“However, in the big picture, women business owners are actually more positive in their view of where we are in the current recessionary cycle than the average American adult,” she added.

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