Women in small business are a force to be reckoned with: according to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) more than 9.4 million firms are owned by women. These organizations employ nearly 7.9 million people and generated $1.5 annual trillion in revenue as of 2015. Additionally, women-owned firms represent the nation’s diversity in more than just gender: 2.9 million firms are majority-owned by women of color, and they employ 1.4 million people while generating $226 billion annually in revenues. More impressively, one in five firms with revenues of $1 million or more are woman-owned.
The National Women’s Business Council’s Annual Report in 2013 cited an increase in access to capital as one of their key policy recommendations – something that programs like ICIC’s Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) are readily doing in the small business environment. The report showed that women-owned businesses that were able to access capital from a large lending institution, rather than personal savings, had a 29.1% expansion rate, which was higher than similar male-owned businesses. Sandra Walls, CEO of the logistics solutions firm AVPOL International, is just one example of a small business leader who has led her firm to impressive growth. Sandra already had impressive credentials when the company was started; she had 22 years of experience with the Air Force when she decided to enter the market. An alumna of the ICCC program, Sandra went on to earn a spot on the Inner City 100 list, which ranks America’s fastest-growing inner city businesses, in 2012 with 2010 revenues of $13 million and a 5-year annual growth rate of 55%.
Fast-forward to today, and the Inner City 100 list continues to showcase women leading businesses to enormous growth. Britnie Turner, founder of Aerial Development Group, wanted to help fund orphanages in impoverished parts of Africa through real estate investment. After three years of failing and living in her car for several months post-high school graduation, Britnie began rehabilitating homes in the inner city Nashville neighborhoods. She saw the immediate economic impact of those redevelopments and has since worked to scale the positive transformation. Aerial Development Group now focuses on urban revitalization throughout the Southeast. The company’s triple-bottom line approach—judging their success on their positive impact on people and the planet, while also making a profit—attracts both employees and customers. Ranking third on the 2016 Inner City 100 list, she saw a five-year growth rate of 2148% and 2015 revenues of $22.74 million.
TLN Worldwide Enterprises, doing business as The Leading Niche, was started by CEO Tamara Nall and provides consulting services to customers in the commercial and government sectors, in both domestic and international markets. Operating in spheres like big data and cybersecurity, Tamara has led the company to be #8 on the list with a five-year growth rate of 1322% and 2015 revenues of $3.9 million. #10 on the list, LEEP Forward, was established by Lorell Marin after working in education and early intervention, when she realized there was a gap in care for special needs children between three and five. They now provide speech, occupational, developmental, and mental health services from birth through teenage years for their clients, and Lorell travels across the country to visit clinics like hers to provide trainings on relationship-based treatment models. Her compassion and savvy has propelled the company; LEEP Forward’s five-year growth rate of 1025% and 2015 revenues of $3.6 million speak for themselves.
While the Inner City 100 list may only contain a small fraction of the whole of women-owned businesses in the United States, their success stories represent the strides all women are making in business. As more women-owned companies see high growth rates and expansion, the economy and well-being of those employed by them will continue to rise. Women have shown their impact in the small-business world is immense, and that their leadership can take companies to new heights.