NM Women Lagging In ‘Economic Clout’

By Ellen Marks
Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) According to “Pitch Book”, a financial data and software company, only 11 percent of all venture capital in New Mexico goes to female-owned businesses.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.

April Molina, who calls herself “an entrepreneur by nature,” has started three companies.

She sold her last one, a clothing line, to launch her latest venture, Kids Luv Yoga, which offers techniques she and her husband developed for her son, who has autism.

The business has 30 certified instructors serving three dozen Albuquerque-area public and private schools and offers training to schoolteachers.

Still, Molina says, she’s often dismissed as a “hobbyist.”

“I believe it’s hard as a woman to be seen as a CEO, as a confident leader,” Molina says. “People say, ‘It’s a cute idea, it’s just mom doing a thing.'”

Molina is among a growing number of female entrepreneurs in New Mexico, although the growth is much more muted than in other states.

New Mexico is ranked No. 45 in women’s “economic clout,” which includes growth in the number of female-owned firms, as well as growth in the number of people they employ and revenue generated, according to the annual “State of Women-Owned Businesses Report,” released last month with projections for 2018.

The report, commissioned by American Express, shows a 21 percent rise in female-owned businesses in New Mexico since 2007, compared to 58 percent nationwide.

As with the rest of the country, much of New Mexico’s growth has been fueled by Hispanic women, who had a 51 percent increase, and Native Americans, at 27 percent growth. (No state figures were available for African-American women.)

Despite the lag in growth, female-owned businesses still account for 39 percent of all companies in New Mexico — similar to the nation’s 40 percent. But their revenues are limited to just over 5 percent of the state’s total business revenues, according to the Small Business Administration’s New Mexico office.

And while employment by female-owned firms in New Mexico went up 12 percent since 2007, the national figure was 21 percent.

Those revenue and employment figures could reflect the number of female firms in the state that are solopreneur ventures or one-employee shops, said Agnes Noonan, executive director of WESST, a business development organization. Because New Mexico’s wages are relatively low, some women find it more profitable to go into business for themselves rather than seek another kind of job, she said.

Preparing for success
Monica Jojola started Montech Inc., which provides government contract support services, in 2011, but she had been thinking about launching her own company for years.

Jojola, who was working as business development director at Cherokee Nation Industries, become acquainted with the nitty-gritty of government contracting and made a broad network of contacts before making her move.

“I could see men spinning off companies left and right, but not many women were willing to play in that lane,” she said. “I wanted to be a part of it.”

Montech, with an office at the edge of the Albuquerque airport, has 30 full-time and about 15 part-time employees.
Jojola said her secret to success was her long preparation of learning the business while at Cherokee Nation.

Although she faced few stumbling blocks, she could see “only a handful” of women who were doing what she was doing and who could serve as role models.

“If you asked a young man starting a business, who do you see, they could name company after company (headed) by men,” Jojola said. “Can a young gal see that? Not as much.”

Lacking a “richness of entrepreneurial tradition,” women often struggle with a fear of failure and a fear of assuming debt, and that’s a disadvantage if you want to start a small business, Noonan said.

“There simply has not been a long tradition and experience of women, people of color, creating wealth,” Noonan said. “Wealth, for the most part, has been created by white men.”

She said that although women have made strides in business ownership, they still are often the primary caretaker at home and might feel they have more to lose if their business goes into debt or bankruptcy — risks that men seem more comfortable assuming.

“One of the things we’ve seen (at WESST) in 30 years, over and over again, is that women can be frequently very averse to debt,” Noonan said.

WESST works to teach women about business financing, as well as budgeting and marketing, because “smaller business continues to be a big option for women in New Mexico, and that’s as it should be,” Noonan said.

Molina said she sold her previous company to raise money for Kids Luv Yoga because she had trouble finding investors. She said she felt “burned” after one investor stopped taking her calls, even though the deal was “pretty far into the process.”

Noonan said access to capital “is an issue for everyone, but it’s the biggest issue for women and people of color.”

When it comes to venture funding, meant for companies that have a high-growth potential, any New Mexico startup faces difficulty because there’s such a limited pot in the state, said Lisa Abeyta, founder of APPCityLife and co-founder of Hautepreneurs, a mentoring organization for women in business.

But “I would say it’s harder to raise money as a female, based on my own experience,” she said.

Venture funding tends to go toward businesses in certain “focused areas,” like bioscience or tech transfer, and not necessarily the types of businesses women own, Abeyta said.

About 11 percent of all venture capital in New Mexico goes to female-owned businesses, according to database Pitch Book, a financial data and software company.
Friendly community
Terri Giron-Gordon, president of GenQuest Inc., has been around for a while.
She started her company, offering human resource and government contracting services, “from the ground up” in 1997.
Giron-Gordon said she has found New Mexico’s small-business community to be very friendly to female owners, saying, “many of my competitors became my friends.”
“This is a great place for me, as a woman and a minority, but I also see limited growth,” said Giron-Gordon, who is a WESST board member. “There should be many more women-owned businesses.”
The way forward, she said, is through mentorship so young women have role models who can teach them that while the first few years of running a business are hard, “you can manage it and get through it.”
“I think that we can’t just accept the numbers as they are and throw in the towel,” she said. “But it’s going to take women like me to step up and really make that happen. We need to take the time to help young women who are doing what I did 25 years ago.”
RESOURCES
–NM Small Business Development Center, www.nmsbdc.org/
–WESST, www.wesst.org–SCORE, www.score.org–Hautepreneurs, www.hautepreneurs.com
–New Mexico Veterans Business Outreach Center, nmvboc.org/
–New Mexico Procurement Technical Assistance Center, www.nmptac.org
–Women who want to tap into City Hall-generated contracts may get a boost when an advocacy office opens in January.
The office will be charged with “making women entrepreneurs aware of opportunities,” Economic Development Director Synthia Jaramillo said.
It will help both women- and minority-owned firms “navigate through the city system,” and will refer owners to other resources in Albuquerque.
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(c)2018 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)
Visit the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.) at www.abqjournal.com
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