With women launching businesses at nearly twice the national average, it's clear there's plenty of reason to be impressed with the entrepreneurial drive of what was once dismissed as the weaker sex. Yet now that the novelty has worn off-what, we wonder, could be more natural than a woman at the helm of her own enterprise?-it's almost easy to gloss over the significance of some 8.5 million woman-owned companies in the United States.
We said almost. We're not prepared to shrug in the face of accomplishment, however. Women entrepreneurs are a force to be reckoned with, now more than ever. Don't let the apparent quiet on the affirmative-action front fool you: News flourishes in the community that is women's small business. This particular brand of news, though, is of the personal, day-to-day variety. You know-the kind of story that's your own.
"That first year [in business], I'd have nights where I'd [think], 'What have I done? I'm going to lose my house; I'm going to lose everything,' " says Laurie Kahn, 44, reflecting on her initial fears about the launch of Chicago-based Media Staffing Network in 1993. "But it's been a wonderful experience."
"I never thought I'd have anything to do with business," echoes Heather Howitt, 30, who founded Oregon Chai Inc., a Portland-based chai tea company, five years ago. "But I'm so glad I'm doing this now because I can make a difference."