Women In Business Leading The Way

By Keith Lawrence Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A shopping center in Kentucky is breaking barriers with a lineup of female owned businesses.

Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.

The National Association of Women Business Owners says there are 10.1 million businesses in the country today that are owned by women.

They employ about 8 million and see sales of more than $1.5 trillion a year, the organization says.

But there aren't many shopping centers -- like Avenue 54, 3830 Kentucky 54 -- where all the businesses are owned by women.

"It is such a great and scary leap of faith to start a small business," Steve Lambert, who developed the small shopping center last year, said recently. "But they made it."

Cara Culbertson, C Leigh C Salon; Tracey Culyer, Southern Charm; Karen Hobelmann, SIP Owensboro; and Kimberly Montgomery, Balance Health + Body are already there.

Papa Grande's Mexican restaurant, of which Rosalina Saldivar de Lugo is president, is slated to open soon. She was out of town and couldn't be reached for comment for this story.

There are still three vacant store fronts in the center and the women there now are hoping Lambert will be able to find other women-owned businesses to fill them.

"It would be great if we had more women were out here," Culbertson said. "A little coffee shop would be great out here."

Montgomery said, "We had a block party out here in August. It was a lot of fun and it drew a lot of customers who had never been here before."

So, Culbertson said, "We're having our own Holiday Stroll from 5 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 8. We're hoping a lot of people will come."

All the businesses will be offering specials that night.

"Most of my clients live on Kentucky 54," Montgomery said. "But I'd like to see people from other parts of the county."

She said, "We got quite a bit of notice from the block party. I'm hoping the Holiday Stroll will also help people find us. We could be much more successful if we could get more people to notice us."

Traffic will likely pick up once Papa Grande opens, Montgomery said.

Hobelmann said, "Business is still hit and miss. A lot of people still don't know we're here."

SIP, Owensboro's first wine bar, features 200 wines, plus bourbon and craft beer.

"I've been open five months," Hobelmann said. "We live out here and we love wine. We got tired of driving downtown and decided to start SIP."

Culyer said she had always wanted to be in retail.

"My parents owned an import business in Owensboro," she said. "I was always going to trade shows when I was a kid." So, three years ago, she started Southern Charm Y'all, a store that features accessories, jewelry, clothing, candles, shoes, handbags and more.

Culbertson said she opened her salon four years ago.

"I moved to Ohio for awhile and then I came back to Owensboro," she said. "I moved to this location in February." Montgomery bought her fitness studio in February from the previous owners, who had it in a different location off Kentucky 54.

"It took me about five minutes to make the decision," she said. "I was already a fitness instructor. I was going to buy my sister's business, but that didn't happen. So, I bought this one."

Student loan debt, Montgomery said, "drives a lot of people into business today. Families can't make it on one income anymore."

Women in business face some challenges that men don't, the women said.

One of the biggest is men who want to give them advice, they said.

"We're so busy we don't have time to get together much," Culbertson said. "But we support each other and keep in touch through social media."

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