In the midst of Sheryl Sandberg's popular initiative to empower women in business, it appears more of them are indeed leaning in to grow their businesses. In the U.S., an estimated 8.6 million women-owned businesses contribute $1.3 trillion to the economy and employ 7.7 million Americans, according to an April report commissioned by American Express OPEN, the credit card giant's small business division. What's more, the number of women-owned firms with $10 million or more in annual sales has increased 57 percent over the past decade.
To spotlight some of the major companies owned by women, nonprofit membership group Women Presidents' Organization (WPO) today released its sixth annual list of the 50 fastest-growing women-owned or led businesses in North America. The companies that made the list generated a combined $3.2 billion in 2012 revenues and employ an average of 641 employees each.
"Women are growing very substantial businesses, and not in the traditional areas that you'd expect women to be in," says Marsha Firestone, president and founder of WPO, citing a concentration of manufacturing, staffing and consulting businesses on the list. "Women don't just bake cookies and make crafts. They're starting businesses that can be scaled."
To be considered, the privately held businesses had to have either a female founder with a majority stake or a female leader with some ownership, who runs the company on a day-to-day basis. The companies supplied their revenue figures for the years 2008, 2010 and 2012, and were ranked by revenue growth over that period.
Here's a snapshot of the top 10 fastest-growing businesses and their leaders from the list:
No. 1: Shazi Visram, Happy Family in New York, N.Y.
Launched in 2006, Happy Family makes packaged organic meals and snacks for all age groups. It reported gross revenues of $63 million last year.
No. 2: Kathy Mills, Strategic Communications in Louisville, Ky.
Strategic Communications provides communication and IT services to business and government clients. Between 2010 and 2012, its gross revenues grew 80 percent to $42 million.
No. 3: Shelly Sun, BrightStar Franchising LLC in Gurnee, Ill.
The health-care staffing franchisor was founded in 2002 and now counts over 250 locations across the U.S. and $212 million in gross revenues.
No. 4: Tiffany Crenshaw, Intellect Resources in Greensboro, N.C.
Intellect Resources provides consulting, recruiting and hiring solutions for businesses in the health-care IT market. Its gross revenues climbed from $1.5 million in 2010 to $30 million last year.
No. 5: June Ressler, Cenergy International Services LLC in Houston, Texas
Founded by Ressler in 1996, Cenergy provides workforce solutions such as consulting and logistics management to clients in the oil and gas industry. It reported nearly $250 million in gross revenues in 2012.
No. 6: Sue Bhatia, Rose International Inc. in Chesterfield, Mo.
Rose International, an IT professional services and consulting firm, was founded in 1993. Between 2010 and 2012, its gross revenues grew more than 50 percent to $360 million.
No. 7: Anita Emoff, Boost Technologies in Dayton, Ohio
Specializing in employee wellness, recognition and awards, Boost Technologies reported $17 million in gross revenues last year, up from less than $1 million in 2008.
No. 8: Kathleen Croddick, Suite K of South Brunswick, N.J.
Founded and run by Croddick, Suite K Value Added Services LLC manufactures beauty products such as fragrances, creams and lotions. Its gross revenues grew more than 150 percent between 2010 and 2012 to $13 million.
No. 9: Lani Hay, Lanmark Technology in Vienna, Va.
Lanmark Technology provides professional services such as IT and administrative support to clients in the government and commercial sectors. It reported gross revenues of $35 million in 2012.
No. 10: Ranjini Poddar, Artech Information Systems LLC in Cedar Knolls, N.J.
With gross revenues of nearly $350 million, Artech is the largest women-owned IT staffing company in the U.S., according to WPO.