If you're a woman who is driven to own her own business, you know that we live in exciting times. For the first time, women entrepreneurs are beginning to see opportunities in business ownership that are equivalent to those that men enjoy. The key word, however, is "begin." While women currently own 9.4 million businesses in the US, bring in $1.5 trillion in revenues and employ some 8 million workers, many women find that their access to the crucial support necessary for operating a successful business varies wildly, depending on where they're located. According to WalletHub, which recently studied which metro areas were most friendly to female entrepreneurship, some areas of the country are just better at recognizing the value of women business owners and encouraging their success.
What are the best areas of the country to start a business, if you're a woman? To determine this, WalletHub looked at three specific factors at the major metropolitan areas of the United States. First, overall friendliness to business. How well did the local and state government in the area facilitate starting up a business and running a business overall. Next, female entrepreneurship. Are women-owned businesses already operating in the area? How has their revenue and growth been over recent years. Third, business climate for women. How are conditions for working mothers, what is the gender-based wage gap, and how much does child care cost?
Nashville scored well across the board, with a solid business community, plenty of women entrepreneurs, and reasonable business climate to support women.
Coming in a close second, the nearby community of Chattanooga has an even larger community of women entrepreneurs already in place, although its overall friendliness to small businesses was rated lower than Nashville's.
Although Columbus ranked poorly on its friendliness to business overall, with plenty of women entrepreneurs and a supportive business climate for women, WalletHub ranked this city #3.
Memphis has a very large community of women entrepreneurs and a friendly business climate for women, but also ranked poorly in its overall friendliness to businesses.
Coming in 5th in the rankings, Milwaukee has many women-owned businesses and a supportive climate for new businesses, but a very poor ranking for its women-specific business climate.
Are these the only numbers?
No, in fact! One thing that was intriguing about WalletHub's information report was that its findings were vastly different from those released last October by NerdWallet. Rather than focusing on the overall business climate, NerdWallet looked at a variety of different factors, including how many women-owned businesses existed per 100 people, what the median income of the average woman was, expressed as a percentage of an average man's, and how many SBA guaranteed loans had been given per 100,000 residents. Based on their study, they found that the best cities for women to start their own businesses were almost all out west. Their rankings were:
• Boulder, Colorado
• Bridgeport, Connecticut
• Denver, Colorado
• Santa Cruz, California
• Santa Rosa, California
What does this mean for a woman who wants to start a business today?
If you're looking around and wondering how to start your own business, moving to another city probably isn't on the top of your to-do list, although if you're planning to invest in real estate, these might be things to consider. What is great about rankings like these, however, is that you can start to tease out what you need to do to support your own business ambitions. Look for:
Support and mentorship
Many successful women entrepreneurs list mentorship as one of the key factors leading towards their own success. Not just mentorship from other entrepreneurs, either, but specifically advice, support, and mentoring from other women, who have faced the same challenges that newer women entrepreneurs have. If you don't have successful business owners in your community who are women, you might place a higher priority on reaching out to international women's business organizations. You could also place a priority on organizing fundraisers and women-supporting events as you create your own success.
Because so many more men are in business, many more funding opportunities for businesses go to men. As a woman entrepreneur, make sure to investigate the grant and loan programs that are available specifically to women. Talk to your local SBA and Chamber of Congress to find out how women in your area tend to fare with getting business funds organized.
Don't give up
If your dream is to own a business, don't let being a woman stop you. Yes, statistics say it's harder currently to succeed as a woman in business than as a male entrepreneur, but that's far from saying it's impossible. While moving to another city might not be an option, choosing to operate your business in the next town over might be advantageous.
What advice would you give to a woman entrepreneur who is looking for the right place to start her new business?