By Erica Friedmann
In conjunction with Nashville Startup Week, it would be remiss to not shed a light on women entrepreneurs and their presence in Nashville. There has been a steady increase in women-owned businesses over the years, and a sizable one at that: women-owned companies increased by 51% from 1997 to 2015. This progress isn’t showing any sign of slowing down, and it’s safe to assume that we will witness the launching of several new women-owned businesses this year, as well as the expansion of several existing businesses. So, what’s the cause for all this growth?
This progress can be attributed to several factors. A study from Bizwomen asked both men and women a series of questions relating to running a business. 45% of women reported that they are “very concerned” about business issues, such as staffing, costs, and customer retention, while only 39% of men reported being very concerned about such issues. Perhaps it is this higher level of concern that drives women to work harder, sharpening their attention to detail and their dedication to creating strong, lasting relationships with both customers and employees.
Another major factor contributing to women’s success in business is location, as well as the “local focus” that women-owned businesses are more likely to have. Women have a greater tendency to feel a responsibility toward both their community and the environment. This level of local engagement creates a strong tie with the surrounding community, and thus a reliable support system that enables the business to grow. Many women view their businesses beyond the scope of mere “work” and focus on the larger picture – how their business is tied to the community and the environment on a grander scale.
In terms of location, it is important to note that not all cities offer the same climate and resources for women-owned businesses. A Wallethub study listed Nashville, TN, as the number one city for women entrepreneurs, based on three metrics: Overall New-Business Friendliness, Female Entrepreneurship, and Business Climate for Women.
So, why Nashville? For one, Nashville harbors the invigorating, “can-do” spirit of a big city while still managing to feel accessible and not overly competitive at the same time. For further insight, I spoke with Judith Bright, a jewelry designer who operates three brick-and-mortar retail locations, one of them being in Nashville. Judith notes that Nashville offers plenty of support and resources that are readily available to women, including several active women’s groups and a wonderful Entrepreneur Center. For those with a physical retail location, Nashville’s position as a popular tourist destination is essential for reeling in foot traffic.
Of course, there are still obstacles for women in business, with gender stereotypes and lack of access to funding being among the most prevalent. Interestingly enough, Judith notes that sometimes it is precisely these obstacles that ultimately drive women to succeed.
“There is a perception that women who have been at home have been out-of-step for too long to be effective,” says Judith, commenting on women who enter the work force after years of raising children at home. “While some women can get frustrated by this, it’s definitely a motivational fuel for the fire as well. Women can do anything, I firmly believe this.”
As Judith mentioned, there are increasingly more opportunities sprouting up for women to build support networks and access resources. These opportunities include organizations such as Entrepreneurs Organization (EO), National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), and SheWorx, as well as mentoring programs and networking events such as Womancon. Moreover, alternative sources of funding, such as crowdfunding and angel funding, are proving to be wildly successful for women. The JumpFund is a funding organization comprised of “women investing in women,” and they are making a powerful contribution toward changing the traditional world of investment. Furthermore, this week’s kickoff of iFundWomen in Nashville is a powerful and promising testament to the rise of women entrepreneurs, especially right here in Nashville.
So, is the outlook on women in business looking positive overall? Judith sums it up simply: “All eyes are on women’s equality and funding women. I think our time has come.”
Be sure to check out our list of local Entrepreneur Resources.