By Richard Newman The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)
An estimated 230,800 New Jersey businesses that employ a total of 259,200 people are majority-owned by women, according to a new report by American Express OPEN, the credit card issuer's division that provides revolving lines of credit for small businesses.
The number of women-owned enterprises in New Jersey has grown nearly 50 percent since 1997, and, increasingly, the owners are the only employees, the data show.
The average headcount at these companies is 1.1 employees per business, down from 1.2 in 2007 and 1.6 in 1997.
Caryn Starr-Gates of Fair Lawn calls the women who run their own companies by themselves "solo-preneurs," and she counts herself among them.
The owner of StarrGates Business Communications, a home-based marketing company, relies on independent contractors, including copywriters and graphics designers, to help her serve her clients, which are mainly larger marketing and advertising firms.
She also is regional president of the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners.
The prevalence of one-woman enterprises reflects in part a tight New
Jersey labor market, as many women opt to strike out on their own after getting laid off, said Starr-Gates. "We are still seeing corporations shedding jobs," she said.
Women-owned businesses tend to be service-oriented companies that do not have big staffing requirements, she said. They range from professional services such as accounting and law firms and real-estate agencies to home-cleaning services and closet organizers.
Often women are "seeking ways to create something for themselves that truly reflects who they are," said Starr-Gates, whose past occupations included advertising copywriter, professional cook and gift-basket maker. "There is a big thrust for that kind of independence."
The need for time flexibility while raising children also can lead to a decision to leave a nine-to-five job and start a business, she said.
"Gloria Steinem, who told us to burn our bras, just turned 80, but things really haven't changed much," Starr-Gates said.
"Women tend to reinvent themselves much faster than men do," said accountant Maria Rollins, a partner in Kreinces Rollins and Shanker LLC in Paramus. "If a woman loses her job, she jumps back into the workforce. I see a lot of women starting up a business, selling promotional products, opening stores."
In some cases they are not the primary breadwinners, have time on their hands and the "luxury to pursue their own interests," Rollins said.
There are exceptions to the solo-preneur model.
Business owner Patricia Preztunic employs 100 people at her 5-year-old home health-care company, BrightStar Care, in Emerson. She started the business after a 30-year career at IBM, where she was vice president of consumer products.
"I didn't want to be a sole proprietor," she said. "I like collaborating with people. It was a personal choice."
Nationally, the number of women-owned businesses has increased 68 percent since 1997 to 9.1 million, according to American Express OPEN's fourth annual State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, which is based on the U.S. Census Bureau's Survey of Business Owners.
A women-owned business is one where a woman, or women, own at least 51 percent.