By Rob Langrell Las Vegas Sun.
When Sharon Lipscomb moved to Las Vegas in 1996 to run a McDonald's, the city was booming.
"When a town is growing that quickly, as it was then, the competition for good people is fierce," she said. "It has been a wonderful place to grow and learn."
Grow and learn she has.
As the owner and operator of five McDonald's franchises in Southern Nevada, Lipscomb said she has loved watching the valley develop and change.
"My store locations are all across the city," she said. "We serve all different types of clientele. It's a great opportunity to see neighborhoods grow. Each has its own personality. There aren't many places in the country that can match what Las Vegas has to offer."
Nationally, 8.6 million businesses are owned by women. Last year, they employed almost 7.8 million people and generated $1.3 trillion in sales, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners.
Women-owned businesses also stayed ahead of the curve during the recession. Over the past six years, the only businesses with net increases in employment were large, publicly traded corporations and privately held women-owned firms, NAWBO found.
That's despite the fact that 99 percent of women-owned businesses employ fewer than 100 people, according to the Small Business Association.
Who are some of the women on the front lines?
Sharon Lipscomb Owner/operator, McDonald's
Lipscomb got her start with McDonald's more than 22 years ago when she was accepted into the company's Registered Applicant Training Program, the first step to becoming a franchisee.
She trained mostly in New York and New Jersey, with some instruction in California. She jumped at a franchise opportunity in 1992 and opened her first store in Lake Havasu, Ariz.
"It was definitely a climate change for me," Lipscomb said. "It's a resort town, so you get to serve all different types of people. It was an interesting change for me coming from New York."
She spent 3 1/2 years there, then moved to Las Vegas to run a McDonald's here.
"The most important thing that I've learned is that it's all about the people you hire," Lipscomb said. "You need people as passionate as you are. You depend on your team to treat the customers the right way."
Lipscomb grew up in North Carolina and graduated with a journalism and mass media arts degree from Hampton University in Virginia. She worked for several newspapers and spent time in other fields before pursuing a career with McDonald's.
"We're not a static company," she said. "Things are constantly changing. We listen to our customers and adapt. That's the great thing about being a part of McDonald's."
Lipscomb hopes someday to work with and help other women who want to follow the path she has taken.
"I am truly interested in helping other woman entrepreneurs," she said. "Women deserve the same benefits and the same entry into the business as everyone else. I'm really interested in helping women develop their choices."
Megan Thompson Owner, Mina Olive
Thompson, 26, opened Mina Olive, a bridal boutique for custom-designed wedding gowns, almost two years ago.
"Mina was a nickname of mine growing up," she said. "Oliver was my maiden name. So it's basically just a fun spin on my name."
Thompson, who graduated from UNLV in 2010 with a business marketing degree, began designing boutique clothing after college and selling it online.
"Then I got engaged," she said. "I started looking for a wedding dress, but I wanted something well done. It had to fit my needs. I found parts of a lot of different dresses that I liked, but none was perfect."
While shopping for material for a headband, she struck up a conversation about her wedding dress dilemma with a woman who steered her toward a pattern maker who ultimately made her gown.
That experience spurred the idea for Thompson's business. And the woman who made the dress, Yuki Moyers, was Thompson's first hire. Moyers went to fashion school in Japan and has been making dresses for 25 years.
"She can see my vision, and she just knows what I'm thinking," Thompson said. "I just trust her. Plus, she's great with the brides.
"The first thing we do is look at tons of pictures and look for similarities in what the bride likes," she continued. "For some, it's lace. For others, it's the style or the cut. We also have to figure out the best type of dress for their body type, and the location of the wedding is also a factor.
Then we sit down and look at a lot of sketches and materials. Sometimes they see a design they like, and other times we combine a couple of elements from two or three to get their dream dress."
Thompson said the process can take up to eight months and sometimes include four or five fittings. Dresses typically cost from $4,000 to $8,000.
"In New York and Los Angeles, this kind of business is more common," Thompson said. "In Las Vegas, it's very different. It's still a leap of faith for brides, but they put their faith in me."
Bree Goldwater Owner, BOX Human Landscapers
Goldwater, 41, has been in the waxing business for 14-plus years. That's body waxing, not car waxing. "I just absolutely love what I do," Goldwater said. "Our clients love the instant gratification of waxing. They come in 'dirty' and walk out 'clean.'?"
Goldwater began contemplating opening a waxing salon while a cosmetology student working toward her aesthetics license. Her husband, Jason, suggested the idea.
"He said, 'How fun would it be to start up a business like that?'?" Goldwater recalled.
In 1999, Goldwater opened a waxing salon in the commercial center behind what is now the LVH. After four years, she moved to a storefront at Sahara Boulevard and Decatur Avenue.
Last year, she relocated to Tivoli Village and opened a second location in Manhattan Beach, Calif.
"We wanted to diversify and not just rely on one location," she said. "We did some research and found a place where people really care about how they look and are in bathing suits all the time. It has been amazing already. The shop in Manhattan Beach is really picking up, and we've already turned a profit there."
Some of Goldwater's success involves the wax she uses.
"It's gentle, yet strong and effective," she said. "What's different from other waxes is that it dries very quickly." Goldwater now hopes to expand the wholesale side of her business and expand product development on her website.
She is marketing wax to spas and has forged a deal with Oleksandra Spa and Salon at Treasure Island.
"We are in the business of taking care of people," Goldwater said. "Our clients are our top priority."