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Women-owned businesses on the rise in 2012

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One of the unintended consequences of a recession is the rapid development of small businesses owned by people who by choice or circumstance find themselves going out on their own. And no group has embraced the situation like women-owned businesses.

A new report commissioned by American Express OPEN, a service provider supporting business owners, finds firms owned and operated by women in California and San Diego are on the rise.

The State of Women-Owned Businesses Report finds there are more than 1 million women-owned businesses in California, employing 977,600 people and contributing an estimated $189.5 billion to the state's economy.

In San Diego County, the American Express report identifies 88,600 women-owned businesses with 90,200 employees and providing $13.4 billion in support of the region's economy.

To be sure, small businesses of all kinds have been critical to the economic recovery. The most recent ADP National Employment Report issued earlier this month showed U.S. payrolls grew by 216,000 in February.

Of that amount, 108,000 were at small businesses, companies with fewer than 50 employees. Medium-sized businesses, 50 to 499 employees, added 88,000 jobs, and 20,000 of the new jobs created in February were at large companies with more than 500 employees.

Small businesses are often willing to step into areas that require flexibility and seize opportunities when they are presented.

Cindy Erie, president of E-World Recyclers based in Vista, was selected as the Small Business Person of the Year in 2011 by the San Diego District Office of the Small Business Administration. Her success comes in an industry that has not always been friendly to women.

“We are seeing more women involved due to the social and environmental responsibility it invokes," Erie said. "There are also many opportunities, because regardless of your gender, the goal is a common one. Being good stewards of our environment by managing the proper recycling and disposal of electronics is a charter trait.”

She credits a part of her success to being able to reach out and get assistance when necessary.

“We utilize community resources, such as the Vista Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Development Center and network within industry trade associations," Erie said. "We also contribute to charities and nonprofits that have given so much to causes that we want to support.”

There are two Small Business Development Centers in San Diego County, one at MiraCosta College in Oceanside and the other located at Southwestern College in Chula Vista. They are part of a network of 38 centers in California providing free one-on-one counseling for entrepreneurs as well as many low-cost training programs.

The recently released 2011 annual report for California Small Business Development Centers finds the programs helped entrepreneurs create 5,900 new jobs and retain an additional 3,200 jobs previously slated for elimination.

“The changes from 2010 to 2011 were substantial and primarily attributable to the commitment and investments made by the state of California," said Priscilla Lopez, state chair of the California Small Business Development Centers. "We listened to the Legislature and were laser-focused on job creation by assisting business owners obtain capital and to increase their sales because that is where job creation originates.”

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