It's funny: I never set out to be a female business owner. Sure, growing up I'd pretend that I was running a pet store or a hotel or a restaurant, but that was just the pretend playtime of a little girl with a big imagination. Being an adult "entrepreneur" sounded big, scary, and like a lot of numbers were involved. And, in some ways, it is all that. But now that I've somewhat stumbled into being a business owner after running a fitness blog and website for more than four years, I've learned that it's also a lot of fun. And I'm not alone.
In fact, according to the the second-annual study The State of Women-Owned Businesses by American Express OPEN, women-owned businesses are growing at a pace faster than that of any other group in America. In the past 15 years, women-owned businesses have been growing 1.5 times greater than their other business counterparts. Talk about woman power.
Women-owned businesses are booming everywhere, but they're specifically growing in a few states and cities. According to the survey, women-owned business have enjoyed the most growth and have the most economic clout in the District of Columbia, Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona, and North Dakota. Cities including San Antonio; Houston; Baltimore; Riverside, Calif.; and Sacramento also have the greatest combined growth in the number of firms, revenue and employment for women-owned businesses.
So why is this? I believe it has to do with a few of things. First up, possibility. For years, many women—much like myself as a child and teen—didn't think of themselves as "businesswomen." Going into the corporate world or boy's club seemed intimidating and scary. Lots of women did it, thank goodness, but they had to work hard and sacrifice a lot to get there. Nowadays, with more female business owners out there who serving as examples and role models, it makes the path for younger women more achievable and attainable. Being a woman-owned business isn't an anomaly now; it's a force to be reckoned with. And I'd suspect that in those states and cities that are having the most growth, they also have strong women's business associations that are helping to support the next generation of female business owners.
Second: the Internet. The Internet has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for women. Now, it doesn't really matter where you live as long as you have a computer and a good Internet connection. You can create, market, and sell, all on online. Whether you're in New York City or rural Wyoming, you can make a product and sell it, or create a service and deliver it across the country and even the world in most industries. The sky is pretty much the limit.
Third, when times are bad, you get creative. Many of the areas with the most growth in women-owned business have also been hit really hard by the economy. I don't think this is a coincidence. When jobs in corporate American begin to dwindle and people are laid off, people have to start fresh again. Although highly stressful, this process leads many women to question what it is they really want to do and then make plans to do that. Many go back to school for the career they've always dreamed of, and others take their dreams of owning their own business from fantasy to reality. After all, most of us wouldn't choose to work in a cubicle if we didn't have to...
For me, starting my business had to do with each of those things. I knew other women were starting blogs and businesses, so I felt like I could, too. And besides having a blog which obviously is web-based, the business resources and connections I've made on the internet through web searches and social media have been paramount to my business being successful. Not to mention that technology allows you to communicate with anyone, any time. I live in Kansas City, but my business partner lives in New Jersey, and it's no big deal thanks to email, cellphones, and Skype. Lastly, although I didn't create my business after being laid off, I wasn't happy in my job and wanted to do something I felt passionate about and connected to. Fit Bottomed Girls became it!
I'm sure there's even more that goes into it than that though, so I'm interested to hear your take on the subject. Are you a business owner? Do you want to be one? Surprised with what states and cities women's businesses are doing the best in? For more inspiring stories about women who have taken the reins and built their own businesses, pick up the October issue of SHAPE, on newsstands now!
Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.