Women Entrepreneurs Thrive In Jacksonville

By Drew Dixon
The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The annual “One Spark” festival in Jacksonville celebrates startups in the community. The event which began in 2013 is just one example of the commitment to entrepreneurship in Jacksonville. Now it looks like business owners in the region have something to show for their commitment. Recently Small Business Trends magazine ranked Jacksonville as the 21st best metropolitan market for women ownership of entrepreneurial businesses.

The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville

Jacksonville has cultivated a reputation in recent years as a growing entrepreneurial culture for startup businesses and now a top small business publication named Jacksonville among the top cities in the country for female commercial success.

Small Business Trends website and magazine put Jacksonville as the 21st best metropolitan market for women ownership of entrepreneurial businesses in the list of top 30 cities. noted Jacksonville had 28,749 female entrepreneurs, the second most in the state of Florida. Jacksonville was only outdone in the Sunshine State by Miami which had 39,762 female business owners, according to the report published in May. Miami came in at No. 11 on the list.

The report was based on 2012 U.S. Census Bureau data and was compiled by Small Business Trends. Attempts to reach the publication for further explanation of the study were unsuccessful.

But the results of the report were based on sheer volume of women business owners, which may explain why New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago filled out the top three respectively. Jacksonville’s ranking was just behind Denver, Colo. and ranked one spot ahead of Atlanta, Ga.

Still, with the onset of Jacksonville’s One Spark festival every April since 2013 celebrating the startup and entrepreneurial culture and additional efforts such as the Jacksonville Community of Entrepreneurs and other recently-founded organizations for startups, the national ranking is an affirmation of not only the startup community, but the thriving diversity in that culture, said Audrey Moran, Chairwoman of JAX Chamber.

“We want to be seen as a place where all entrepreneurs can succeed, and that certainly includes women — and minority — owned businesses. We’re seeing real momentum with entrepreneurs here in Jacksonville. It is critical that everyone is experiencing the growth, so it is encouraging to see that women-owned businesses are strong here,” Moran said in an email Thursday.

The ranking by Small Business Trends is not just another internet list with the whimsical musing of a computer jockey. It is based on actual data.

Kate Stewart, executive director of the Jacksonville Community of Entrepreneurs said it was “amazing” to appear on the list.

“Women entrepreneurs in our region are very active — period,” Stewart said, who served on a panel for the Eve Awards Summit sponsored by the Times-Union Thursday acknowledging female entrepreneurs.

“Women are finding their voice and their power. Jacksonville is a Southern city and has a Southern culture of politeness. Our women, however, are learning how much talent and drive they possess and that they are fully capable of successfully launching businesses of all types,” Stewart said.

That, Moran said, plays an important role in developing Jacksonville’s future in terms of small business, especially for women seeking commercial success.

“Just as we want a diverse economy in term of industries, we want a diverse group of business leaders in our community. We are at our best when everyone is at the table, and for many female entrepreneurs, creating and running a successful business is how they earn a seat at the table,” Moran said.

Marshall Reddy said he’s been witnessing firsthand the increase in female entrepreneurship in Jacksonville. He is the president of FranNet Florida which is based in Jacksonville Beach. His business seeks to link entrepreneurs to franchise agreements with various companies and he has about two dozen clients in North and Central Florida.

“Am I surprised that Jacksonville is on that top 30 list? No,” Reddy said. “We don’t have a lot of corporate headquarters here.

“So, if you are a mid-senior level woman, which is typically my client, and they lose a job there’s not a lot of opportunity here to go find another senior level job,” Reddy said. “It forces them in some instances to really look at the entrepreneurial route. We’re right on the list where we should be.”

Beyond the immediate commercial and startup opportunities for entrepreneurial women in Jacksonville, the ranking on the list of cities friendly to small business women is more of a statement about the direction Jacksonville is heading, Reddy said.

“I think it says Jacksonville is a progressive city and that there are opportunities here for women that maybe are not available in other areas,” Reddy said.

Reddy pointed to the Chamber’s Jacksonville Women’s Business Center which helps women get a start in the commercial community. The center, which partners with the U.S. Small Business Administration, specifically designs startup assistance programs for female entrepreneurs in Jacksonville and surrounding areas.

While the program’s design is not exclusive to Jacksonville, it has developed a prominent presence in local business development.

“We’ve got a strong Women’s Business Center here in Jacksonville, probably one of the stronger ones [in the country]. You’ve got a vibrant female community and that stimulates would-be female business owners,” Reddy said.

Moran acknowledged the high ranking for Jacksonville women entrepreneurs is a reflection of the Chamber’s commitment to the Women’s Business Center.

“We’ve been very strategic on creating a cooperative, collaborative spirit for women with the Jacksonville Women’s Business Center. Through the center, we connect women to mentors who can share their path to succeed — and share their lessons learned along the way,” Moran said.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular

To Top