Study: North Dakota No. 1 For Women Entrepreneurs

By Kevin Killough Grand Forks Herald

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) In a study conducted by "Fundera", North Dakota beat out the competition as the top spot for women entrepreneurs.

Grand Forks Herald

North Dakota is a good place for women to own and operate a business, according to a new study.

Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans, ranked states on a number of markers of success for women-owned businesses.

North Dakota ranks top in the nation for women entrepreneurs, and Minnesota came in at No. 4.

North Dakota beat out the competition in the Fundera study because it had the highest five-year growth in average revenue of women-owned businesses, highest average revenue of women-owned businesses and highest percentage of women-owned businesses with paid employees. Meredith Wood, vice president of content for Fundera, said the study was tied into Women's History Month.

Visibility Grand Forks is home to many women leaders in business who say owning a business is a challenge for anyone, but the rewards are worth the effort.

Sadie Gardner, owner of Sadie's Couture Floral and Event Styling, has operated businesses in both Minnesota and Grand Forks. She started out in Minneapolis when her husband was completing his medical residency requirements.

In November 2006, she was pregnant with her second child and was having to stay in bed a lot, which hindered her ability to work. She started thinking about having her own business, which would give her a more flexible schedule to raise her children.

She calculated that if she could do 15 weddings per year, she could make as much money as she was at her job. By January she was in business for herself.

"It just exploded from there," she said.

She provided floral services for 120 weddings the first year, 200 the next and 250 in the third year.

She and her husband moved to Grand Forks when he started working for Altru Health System.

She sold the Minneapolis business and started another in Grand Forks.

She now does about 40 events a year, but it's a broader range of services than her Minneapolis business.

She said it's hard to compare experiences across the two states. In Minnesota, she was in a much larger market and the business was focused more on floral services.

But she said women leadership in North Dakota tends to be a lot more visible than in other places.

"You see women in business and as leaders, so it doesn't seem so unreachable," Gardner said. Challenges

Katie Stauss, owner of Simply Maid, was a manager at Merry Maids for many years when she decided she wanted to call the shots. "After that many years, I can do it myself," she said she thought at the time.

Ask her the date she went into business for herself, and she'll tell you it was Feb. 10, 2014.

With all her experience, she said it was all pretty easy to get set up and going.

"There weren't many challenges," she said.

She started with herself and another woman. Today, she has 22 employees. She said the biggest challenge is that she now spends most of her time in the office and actually misses doing the cleaning.

Rachel Gornowicz, owner of Countrywide Sanitation, said there were challenges to starting and operating her business, but they weren't that different than anyone else faces.

Countrywide provides rural curbside collection and recycling, cardboard recycling and roll-off container services. The company also rents moving and storage containers.

She started working in her father's street-sweeping business when she was a teenager. That sparked an early interest in business, and she eventually took over her father's business before establishing Countrywide.

She said regulations do give women-owned businesses a preference for public-sector contracts, which has helped, but otherwise owning a business is a challenge she personally enjoys.

"I like working outside. I like meeting people. I like negotiating contracts," she said.

The marks for North Dakota in Fundera's study weren't all good.

The state had only one Small Business Administration Women's Business Center and a very low percentage of total businesses owned by women, with North Dakota coming in second to last.

Minnesota was ranked high in percentage of women with higher education degrees, five-year growth in average revenue of women-owned businesses and overall unemployment rate.

Like North Dakota, Minnesota also ranked low in percentage of total businesses owned by women.

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