A new study underscores the old adage that the most important thing in business is location, location, location.
In the top 50 U.S. metropolitan areas, the number of women-owned firms has increased 33 to 59 percent in the past seven years, according to a 1999 report by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO).
Bruce Rosenthal of NFWBO attributes the overall growth to several factors: the strong economy; an exodus of women from corporate America; more women entrepreneurs who serve as role models to their friends, sisters and mothers; and the increasing amount of data available on women entrepreneurs. "Information empowers women and makes them realize business ownership is a viable career option," says Rosenthal.
The booming high-tech industry on the West Coast, in particular, has drawn large numbers of women entrepreneurs to the area. Michael Evans, director of real estate services for Ernst & Young LLP, points out that many West Coast women, especially in areas like Silicon Valley and the Microsoft-centric Washington state, opt to leave high-tech companies to create firms of their own.
New In Town
SBA help is around the corner for women entrepreneurs.
Recognizing the importance--and distinct needs--of women in the entrepreneurial world, the SBA recently gave a total of $8 million in grants for the development of 25 new women's business centers (WBCs). This brings the total number of WBCs to 80 nationwide, with locations in 47 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC.
Most of the new centers expand programs that are already in place, except for a handful that begin operating from ground zero. (A brief roundup of five of these centers follows.) For a complete list of all the new centers, visit http://www.entrepreneurmag.com/entrepreneur.hts; for more information on all 80 centers, visit http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/womeninbusiness/wbcs.html.
Women's Business Center of Colorado Springs
Provides entrepreneurial training, technical assistance, a computer lab and a microloan program to women in both Pueblo and Colorado Springs, Colorado; target population is economically disadvantaged Hispanic women, but services are not limited to this group.
Women's Business Center of Northwest Florida
Offers general counseling and business training courses, outreach services to military spouses and women leaving the armed forces, a mentoring program, and Internet training and access.
Center for Women & Enterprise
Provides entrepreneurial training focused primarily on helping women in Providence, Rhode Island, access debt capital to start and grow businesses; also an intermediary for the women's prequalification program.
Texas Center for Women's Business Enterprise
Serves women in the cities of Killeen, Belton and Temple; offers a core how-to business curriculum and technical assistance to start-up and existing businesses; provides information on agribusiness.
Women and Technology Partnership
Located in Bismarck, North Dakota, this center has formed partnerships with eight colleges and universities to provide women in remote areas with online entrepreneurial training to start homebased businesses; a laptop lending program is also in the works.
National Foundation for Women Business Owners, (301) 495-4975, http://www.nfwbo.org