The fastest-growing type of business around? That would be women-owned businesses. According to a survey commissioned by American Express, since 1997 an average of 608 net new women-owned firms have launched in the U.S. every day; this year alone, the average rate is 887 per day. That's a rate 1.5 times the national average of all startups.
As of 2015, the study reports, there are some 9.4 million women-owned businesses, employing 7.9 million people and generating $1.5 trillion in annual revenues. SCORE says that since 1997, the number of women-owned businesses has grown 67.8 percent; in comparison, the number of male-owned firms has risen 34.4 percent.
Not only is the number of women-owned companies growing faster, but those companies are also hiring more people than other types of businesses. Between 1997 and 2014, SCORE reports, the employment rate of women-owned firms increased 11 percent, compared to 6.5 percent for male-owned businesses. Revenues at women-owned firms grew 72.3 percent during the same time period, compared to 45.1 percent for businesses owned by men.
In Every Industry
Women business owners are making their mark in every industry. According to American Express, the fastest-growing industry sector is educational services. However, there is also a high concentration of women-owned businesses in health care, social assistance, professional services, and administration and waste management. Overall, women represent about 30 percent of the ownership in most industries, showing that they are making inroads into every type of business.
Let's meet some of the women entrepreneurs currently making their mark.
After many years working in the garment industry, Chinese entrepreneur Li Su Ling started her own clothing company, Golden Sunshinetex, in 2003. The company, which makes outdoor apparel, got its first order through Alibaba. "It was a great start for our business," Ling remembers.
Since then, Ling has achieved more than she ever imagined, and now supplies garments to world-class brands throughout Northern Europe. She is working to establish more partnerships with world-class buyers and create Golden Sunshinetex's own national brand to compete in the global market. Ling is proud of her accomplishments: "My achievement has nothing to do with luck, but with hard work."
Inspiring the Next Generation
Kate Castle got the idea for her product, Boginabag, when she and her young children were on a camping trip far from a restroom. She invented a portable toilet for camping that uses biodegradable bags. "I knew nothing about how to take an idea to market," says Castle, "so I started looking through Alibaba's lists of factories and products."
Finding manufacturers for the various parts of her innovative idea, then putting it all together, was a daunting task, but Alibaba made it easier. Castle admits she was nervous when she placed her first order - "it was a huge outlay of money, and I hadn't made a single sale!" - but everything worked out.
Castle is full of plans for new products and new markets through her company, Gear to Go. She's also inspiring the next generation - her two children, 8 and 6, have grown up with a "mumpreneur" and love to talk about their own product ideas.
When Abingdon Chelsea Welch started taking flying lessons in 2006, she admired her instructors' sturdy, functional watches - but quickly discovered no one made that type of watch for women.
That didn't stop Welch, who launched her own business, The Abingdon Co., to design and sell high-quality aviation watches for women. The 23-year-old started out by searching for a supplier on Alibaba. Seven years later, she's still working with the same company, and is thrilled with the partnership. "I wouldn't want to work with anyone else," she says. "Had it not been for Alibaba, I would never have met my supplier."
Welch's watches have struck a chord with women from all walks of life, and she encourages other women to follow their dreams, too. "If you have an idea, go for it - why not?" says this high-flying entrepreneur.
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