March is Women’s History Month, a time to commemorate and encourage the study, observance, and celebration of the achievements of women throughout history. These achievements span countless disciplines: social, cultural, political, and, of course, economic. According to a report by the National Association of Women Business Owners, today more than 11.6 million US firms are owned by women, including 5.4 million by women of color. Collectively, these women-owned businesses in the U.S. employ 9 million people and generate almost $1.7 trillion in revenue. We have come a long way and yet the road toward equality still stretches far into the future.
While it’s true that the number of women-owned businesses has skyrocketed in the last 20 years (114% growth compared to an overall national rate of 44%), employment and access to capital for women-owned firms remain stubbornly flat. In the case of revenue generation, there has even been a slight decline. Currently, less than 5% of women-owned businesses generate at least $1 million in revenue.
Closing this gap is critical for economic development, especially at the local level. A majority of the 600+ new, women-owned businesses (71%) launched daily are by women of color. As more of these firms attempt to scale, the women that lead them bring much-welcomed jobs to communities often desperately in need of them and create inclusive economic and social opportunity in the process. Yet, in spite of their demonstrated leadership skills and deep commitment to growth, women continue to struggle for access to the capital and connections needed to build their ventures. This is largely due to historic inequity.
Women’s history month is about acknowledging this historic inequity – the history of women’s struggle – and doing what we can to address and overcome it. At ICIC, we are committed to providing urban, women entrepreneurs the access to the capital and capacity-building opportunities needed to smash through the ever present glass ceiling. According to the 2018 programmatic impact report, 45% of participants in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program have been women. The program has partnered with organizations supporting women entrepreneurship such as the National Association of Women Business Owners to provide a year of discounted membership to women-owned businesses graduating from the program. In addition to advancements towards gender equality in the 10,000 Small Businesses program, we are proud that 2018 was the first year that a majority (54%) of participants in ICIC’s Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) program were women. Since 2005, we’ve trained over 900 women-owned businesses, resulting in over $700m capital raised and boasting an average annual growth rate of 98%.
This month and every month, the best way we can all support the women in our lives and our cities is simple: Pay them. Invest in them. Hire a woman-owned business for your next project. Refer your colleagues. Spread the word.
“Celebrating” and “empowering” are nice words associated with the month, but for the economic sake of our cities, let’s do more. Together, let’s enrich the women-owned businesses in our communities. Only then will we will bridge the gender gap, and only then will our cities truly prosper.
Need some inspiration? ICIC alumni are building incredible enterprises and creating thousands of jobs in their communities and across the nation. Read on to learn more about their firms, and please consider giving them your business.
Martha De La Torre, El Clasificado: “El Clasificado has over 1.5 million readers with a weekly circulation of 510,000 distributed in over 300 cities throughout Southern California and the Central Valley. After initial hesitance from advertisers, Martha decided to change the paper’s distribution method from direct mail circulation to an award-winning bulk drop system in areas with high Hispanic traffic. The resulting growth transformed El Clasificado into EC Hispanic Media, a media company allowing advertisers to reach Spanish and bilingual English/Spanish communities through print, mobile, event, and online advertising, which, through elclasificado.com, is the company’s fastest growing platform.”
Vanessa Faggiolly, Amerisal Foods: “[…] the Latin food distribution company owned by the mother-daughter team, not only became a lucrative means of sustenance for their family, but it also made a deep impact on its employees and their families, its loyal customers yearning for a taste of Latin America, and the entire San Fernando Valley community.”
Karen Fleshman, CEO of Haskins Advisory Group: “Karen leveraged her background in barcode technology to launch her [tech advisory] company. ‘I realized pretty early on that had a future – a huge future because technology was changing and there was such a big need for information,’ Karen says.”
Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey, Revolution Foods: “What began as a personal mission to improve local school nutrition catapulted UC Berkeley classmates Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey from prepping a few hundred lunches in a small California kitchen to serving over 320 million meals across the entire nation (and working directly with national leaders like Michelle Obama) in about a decade.”
Stephanie Hickman, Trice Construction Company: “Stephanie worked for 25 years as a labor attorney, executive, and lobbyist before leaving the corporate world in 2006 to run Trice, a construction company started by her family in 1967. At the time she took charge it was a small residential construction company, but under her leadership Trice has grown into a highly-regarded commercial concrete supplier to Fortune 500 corporations, top 100 contractors, and major public entities.”
Cloud Morrison, Red Cloud, LLC: “Cloud found herself manufacturing small-batch promotional pieces for her friends’ bar and bat mitzvahs. She realized these one-off jobs just weren’t smart business. This epiphany led Cloud to ICCC in 2016. There, she absorbed a wide range of business guidance, including the chance to pitch to a panel of capital experts at the National Conference.”
Anne-Merelie Murrell and Natalie Lomedico, Giroux Glass: “Glass is our secondary business. Our first business is to continue to grow a 74-year-old company, to go on a long, long time, to provide for thousands of employees to come, and make communities better.”
Jennifer Pinck, Pinck & Co: “As the founder of Pinck & Co., a Boston-based firm providing planning, design, and construction management services, Pinck has overcome adversity to lead Pinck & Co. to a soaring 94.59% growth rate and 2016 revenues of $5.15 million.”