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WE'RE IN THE TOP 5 — Mississippi a leader as more women are becoming business owners

Be-A-Boss-image_rgbBy LYNN LOFTON 

Women-owned businesses are flourishing in Mississippi and the facts prove it. These businesses increased by 81 percent between 1997 and 2014, according to a study conducted by American Express OPEN, earning the state a spot among the top five states in the country. This growing percentage is part of an ongoing American success story since 1997.

“Women own about 30 percent of today’s businesses nationwide, employing almost 8 million people and representing $1.4 trillion in annual revenue,” said Craig Harvey, president of the Magnolia Business Alliance. “Female entrepreneurs started 1,288 new ventures a day over the past year. The most attention-grabbing trend was that the number of women-owned businesses grew at 1.5 times the rate of all other businesses, with employment and revenue growth rising faster.”

The leading states for growth of women-owned businesses are Georgia, up 118 percent; Texas, up 98 percent; North Carolina, up 91 percent; Nevada, up 91 percent; and Mississippi, up 81 percent. The number nationally has increased by 68 percent since 1997.

» EXCLUSIVE MBJ LISTS: See the lists for the top women-owned businesses in Mississippi as well as the top minority-owned businesses in Mississippi

“We are excited but not surprised that we are climbing in the national rankings for women-owned businesses,” Harvey said. “Mississippi encourages entrepreneurship and focuses on underserved communities, and Mississippi women have always been resourceful and very good at networking.”

Another statistic from the survey data is that women-owned firms have added an estimated 274,000 jobs since 2007. Among men-owned and equally-owned firms, employment has declined over the past seven years.

“I think women are more likely to seek out and ask for help than men,” Harvey said. “Nobody is successful alone. America loves the story of the lone visionary who came out of nowhere, took on the world, and made a million dollars, but that story is a complete myth. The reality of small business is you need all the help you can get day in and day out and stick with it for years.”

Harvey believes technology is a factor in the growth of women-owned businesses. “A new business can set up a website, social media, payment processing, and register with government agencies online for very little money,” he said.

“These advances make it very easy for women to start a business in their free time and grow it. Programs which focus on underserved communities are also having an impact. The SBA, Mississippi Development Authority, and numerous business assistance agencies around the state are all working together to develop women-owned businesses.”

His advice to women thinking of starting a business is to first start it on the side. “Don’t go all in on day one and run up debt,” he said. “Create a business that with little-to-no overhead can survive and grow in the startup years and lean times. And seek out and get all the help from family, friends and experts you can find but make sure you are in control of your business at all times”

The Magnolia Business Alliance has a staff member who focuses on these groups specifically to ensure they are registered and taking advantage of government and private-sector programs available to them.

“We host an annual event called the Empowering Women Minority Entrepreneurs Forum as well the Understanding Opportunities for Minority-Owned Businesses with speakers and networking to help foster support and growth in these business communities,” he said.

A lot of women are in the staffing business, medical support businesses, public relations and social media, Human Resources outsourcing businesses, and have moved beyond sectors that were once thought of as historically owned by women such as hair salons and dress shops. “The Magnolia Business Alliance has several women-owned businesses focusing on high technology and the medical industry,” Harvey said.

“Women outnumber men at American universities. We are in a period of historyonce again where women are redefining their roles in society.”

Harvey says Mississippi is creating a climate that encourages business growth and entrepreneurship.

“Because we are ranked nationally for the growth of women-owned businesses, we must be doing something right,” he said.

The American Express study examined data on startups, employment and profitability. It analyzed the information by state and metropolitan area, by industry and by race. It compared women-owned businesses to other privately held companies and to publicly held companies.

Continuing its support of women-owned businesses, the MBA is a host location for SBA InnovateHer: 2015 Innovating for Women Business Challenge. On March 24, the Long Beach-based alliance hosted a panel for qualifying participants for a chance to win one of two $5,000 grants that were donated by Beverly Dale.

“InnovateHer provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to showcase products or services that have a measurable impact on the lives of women and families, have the potential for commercialization and fill a need in the marketplace,” said Natalie Guess with the Magnolia Business Alliance.

Dale asked the MBA to coordinate the grant and distribute the funds. At press time, the choice had not been made, but Guess said the MBA will choose one woman to have the opportunity to win the SBA InnovateHer challenge and up to $30,000 in additional grant funding.

“If our recipient is chosen to present in Washington, D.C., MBA will pay her travel expenses,” she added.

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About Lynn Lofton

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