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Women-owned firms growing fast, according to SBA
[February 21, 2011]

Women-owned firms growing fast, according to SBA

Feb 20, 2011 (The News-Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Libby Hill noticed a pattern in the way she was treated by men when she was setting up operations at her Mentor business, Family Karate, in 2005.

"Interviews with different copier suppliers were the most amusing," recalls the Painesville resident. "First, there was a salesman who brought along a female associate. It may have been to double-team me, but it came off as 'See, we like women.' Another copier salesman kept wondering where my husband was. The third seemed at a total loss because he felt he couldn't tell off-color jokes." Since then, the master black belt has built up a clientele of 115, but still experiences some flak as a woman business owner.

"I have a double challenge: being a woman in business and a woman in the martial arts," she said. "There are many men -- other businessmen, salesmen, customers -- that continue to treat a woman business owner like a patsy. It is assumed a woman doesn't know what she is doing." However, women entrepreneurs are a major and growing dimension within the economy, as far as government contracting, said Sonya M. Wagasky, business development specialist for the U.S. Small Business Administration's Cleveland District Office.

"But, they still receive a relatively small share of the federal procurement pie -- less than 5 percent," Wagasky said. "In 2008, women-entrepreneurs received only 3.4 percent of all government buys." According to the SBA, women-owned businesses employ more than 12 million people and generate nearly $2 trillion dollars in sales. In addition, they account for some 41 percent of all privately held firms and are growing at a rate twice as fast as all firms.

Changing times? Hill sees some inroads have been made for women in business since she owned her first one in the 1980s.

"At that time, women were not invited to be chamber of commerce, Rotary, or Kiwanis members," she said. "We created our own networking group, Women Business Owners of the Western Reserve, to have such an outlet. Now women are not only members, but leaders of these groups.

"I, myself, am the current president of the Painesville Area Chamber of Commerce," she added. "This is a huge improvement. To have the ability to share our business stories and work together not only helps women business owners, but the men as well. Sharing ideas and problems at networking events has helped me grow." Wagasky noted that there is a new Women-owned Small Business Federal Contract Program rule that SBA is implementing, beginning this month.

The program will be fully implemented over the next several months, with the first contracts expected to be awarded by the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2011.

"As we continue to look to small businesses to grow, create jobs and lead America into the future, women-owned businesses will play a key role," said program Administrator Karen Mills. "That's why providing them with all the tools necessary to compete for and win federal contracts is so important. Federal contracts can provide women-owned small businesses with the oxygen they need to take their business to the next level." The program will provide greater access to federal contracting opportunities and allow contracting officers, for the first time, to set aside specific contracts for certified women-owned small businesses and will help federal agencies achieve the existing statutory goal of 5 percent of federal contracting dollars being awarded to such businesses.

Eighty-three four-digit North American Industry Classification Systems codes have been identified as underrepresented or substantially underrepresented by such businesses.

To qualify as a women-owned small business, a firm must be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more women, and primarily managed by one or more women. The women must be U.S. citizens and the firm must be considered small according to SBA standards.

For more information on the program, visit

SBA already offers help via the Office of Women's Business Ownership, which exists to "establish and oversee a network of Women's Business Centers ... throughout the United States and its territories." Through the management and technical assistance provided by these centers, entrepreneurs -- especially women who are economically or socially disadvantaged -- are offered comprehensive training and counseling on a wide range of topics in many languages to help them start and grow their own businesses.

Marie S. Pucak, executive director of the Mentor Area Chamber of Commerce, offers a practical approach to competing well: Take up golf or some other such pasttime often enjoyed by businessmen.

"Make sure you think about the environment outside of 9 to 5 of where transactions might take place and networking happens," she said. "Think about how you need to be involved and engage yourself in those types of activities." BY THE NUMBERS: As of 2005, there are an estimated 10.1 million majority-owned, privately held, women-owned firms in the U.S., employing 18.2 million people and generating $2.32 trillion in sales. Women-owned businesses account for 28 percent of all businesses in the United States and represent about 775,000 new startups per year and account for 55 percent of new startups.

Between 1997 and 2002, women-owned firms grew by 19.8 percent while all U.S. firms grew by 7 percent. Employment increased by 30 percent -- 1 1/2 times the U.S. rate -- and sales grew by 40 percent--the same rate as all firms in the U.S.

Between 1997 and 2004, the number of privately held firms owned by women of color grew by 54.6 percent.

Meanwhile, the overall number of firms in the United States grew by only 9 percent over this period. Women's business ownership is up among all groups, but the number of Hispanic- (up 63.9 percent) and Asian-owned firms (69.3 percent) has grown especially fast.

Source: Center for Women's Business Research To see more of The News-Herald or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2011, The News-Herald, Willoughby, Ohio Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit

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