By Angelee Wiley
Times West Virginian, Fairmont.
Women around the country are stepping up and taking charge.
A recent report conducted by American Express OPEN revealed that more women are becoming business owners.
“There’s an increasing interest in women’s entrepreneurship,” said Julie Weeks, American Express OPEN research advisor. “When you’re looking for information on business you find it is out-of-date. There is a desire for more timely information on women-owned business.”
That is why American Express OPEN published the 2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. This is the 5th annual report that encompasses information from all around the United States.
The goal of American Express OPEN is to help small businesses become larger.
Weeks said the outlook of women-owned business looks positive on a national level.
“The number of women going into business exceeds the rate of all businesses,” Weeks said. “Women are going into business 1 1/2 times the national average.”
Weeks mentioned that not only are women going into business at a faster rate, but they are entering all industries.
The 2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report takes a look at growth with women-owned firms and analyzes data from 1997, 2002 and 2007 census bureau’s quinquennial business census.
The report also gives specific information about each state.
“There are some positive trends in West Virginia,” Weeks said.
The report estimates that there are 38,000 women-owned firms in West Virginia, employing 38,900 people. The overall revenue those businesses bring to the state stands at $6.5 billion.
West Virginia is the 12th best state in the recovery of growth after the recession. The report shows that there has been a 12 1/2 half percent growth in women-owned businesses from 2007 to today.
However, there are some areas where the state could improve.
The state ranks 50th in growth of number of firms over the past 18 years.
West Virginia ranks 25th in employment and 18th in the amount of revenue that women-owned business bring in.
In terms of growth in combined economic clout, West Virginia ranks 35th.
Economic clout adds together the number of owned firms, revenue and employment of women-owned firms. When those numbers are added up West Virginia comes out at 35th.
“While there aren’t as many women going into business, the businesses that are already developed are succeeding,” Weeks said. “Existing owned firms are doing well. The attention needs to be in getting more women into business.”
The report doesn’t break down the amount of women-owned businesses in Marion County, but Tina Shaw, the president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, said this area is currently thriving.
“I think in North Central West Virginia alone, you can just look across all of our counties and see all the women leaders and what they’re doing in their jobs and the work place and even with their families,” Shaw said. “They’re in power roles, and I think we’re fortunate in the area we are in because of Fairmont State University and West Virginia University.”
Shaw said it’s a great thing for a community to have strong woman leaders. Just through the chamber she has seen a significant increase in the amount of women taking ownership roles in recent years.
“Just in our chamber membership alone, we probably have 40 to 50 women-owned businesses,” Shaw said. “Ten years ago that would have been unheard of, so we try to develop that.”
The chamber of commerce tries to get students in the county involved and empower young women in the area to follow in the footsteps of some of the successful women business leaders in Marion County.
The goal is to continue to see the amount of women-owned businesses rise.
“There is a lot to be done and a lot of ways to approach that,” Weeks said. “Having places like a women’s business center for women to go to who are thinking about going to business (would be great).”
For those who have considered going into business but may be to nervous about the journey, Shaw has some words of advice.
“I would tell them that you can do it. You just need to step outside of your comfort zone, and when you do that you will find that there is so many people around that will help you,” Shaw said. “Make that first call, take that first step, find somebody that has done it. Find a mentor, find somebody who was just like you because they’re out there.”
For any woman looking to become a business owner, there are people out there waiting to help and encourage that dream.