Mississippi is ranked sixth in the nation in the growth of women-owned firms between 1997 and 2013, according to American Express OPEN’s 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report: A Summary of Important Trends, 1997-2013.
The report showed that Mississippi had a 77.4 percent growth in the number of women-owned firms between 1997 and 2013. The growth in firm revenues over that period was 56.6 percent, giving the state a firm revenue ranking of 35. Growth in employment was 6.1 percent for a ranking of 34. Overall, the state ranked 22 in combined economic clout of women-owned businesses.
“It is estimated that there are over 8.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating over $1.3 trillion in revenues and employing nearly 7.8 million people,” the American Express report said. “The growth in the number, revenues and employment of women-owned firms over the past 16 years exceeds the growth rates of all but the very largest, publicly traded corporations in the country. This year’s report expands its focus to look specifically at the phenomenal growth of firms owned by women of color. …The growth in the number of African American, Asian American, Latina, Native American/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women-owned firms are all up over 100 percent from 1997-2013, topping the growth in the number of non-minority women-owned firms over the past 16 years.”
Key report findings include that the number of firms owned by women of color has skyrocketed to an estimated 2,677,700, and now comprises 31 percent of women-owned firms.
Those statistics come as no surprise to Rita Wray, founder and CEO of Wray Enterprises of the Jackson area, which does work in areas of regulatory compliance, risk management, leadership development, organization effectiveness and strategic planning.
“I have seen an increase over the years,” said Wray, a former vice president of the national group One Hundred Black Women and president of the Central Mississippi Chapter of that group. “It has been a wonderful surprise to walk into various business association meetings and see more people who look like me. In recent years, a lot of women have decided to step out on the stage and take a risk. It is our time.”
The growth is particularly noteworthy having come during the worst economic downturn in the U.S. since the Great Depression. Wray said that the recession could have actually encouraged some women to take the leap into business ownership. They might have been laid off or reduced in hours at their previous position.
“A lot like me decided to pair their passion with a niche they had found in the marketplace,” Wray said. “They perfected their elevator pitch and then delivered on their service or product. They focused and became result oriented. When I speak with other business women, especially the newer ones, I tell them that ‘no’ stands for the next opportunity. If we all stopped at ‘no’, we would absolutely not own businesses today.”
Small Business Administration (SBA) District Director for Mississippi Janita R. Stewart said the information in the report on women in business is very promising because this demographic is certainly making its presence known nationally, and making a mark on Mississippi in a positive way.
“Although women-owned business statistics are lower than their male counterparts, data shared in this report seems to parallel the small business profile for Mississippi published by the SBA’s Office of Advocacy in 2013 which reflects growth, in that there are approximately 61,000 women-owned businesses (defined as 51 percent owned and controlled by a woman or women) in our state, up from 57,000 in 2007, generating about $7.3 billion in revenues,” Stewart said. “We’re not surprised at all that the report reflects our state ranking in the top ten in terms of growth in the number of women-owned businesses. Our SBA Mississippi District and Gulfport Branch Offices get inquiries practically daily from women wanting to start a business of their own of some sort. They each have a dream they want to fulfill of being their own boss, creating jobs and contributing to the economic well-being for their families and for Mississippi.”
Danielle Hope Blankenship, owner, To the Rescue Bookkeeping, LLC, Biloxi, said the statistics about women owned business fits with what she has observed about the situation.
“It seems to me it is headed in that direction all over the U.S.,” said Blankenship, who does business in four states. “Just being involved in Chamber of Commerce and networking events here, I’m definitely seeing that women-owned businesses are on the growth all over.”
Blankenship, whose business in Mississippi is three years old, said it was nerve racking going out on her own.
“You have to pull your bootstraps up and get that business,” she said. “I like being in charge of how much money I can make and not having someone else tell me what that is.”