SHERIDAN — A report recently released by American Express said Wyoming ranks 48th in overall growth of women-owned businesses in the past five years.
The ninth annual State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, which uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau Survey of Business Owners, said Wyoming has about 20,000 women-owned businesses and placed above Oklahoma, Alaska and North Dakota in a ranking of all 50 states and Washington D.C.
The report analyzes industry, revenue and employment size at varying levels to show the impact women-owned businesses have on the U.S. economy, according to the report.
Nationally, the number of women-owned businesses increased 21% over the past five years to about 13 million firms, while all business increased by 9%.
Employment for women-owned businesses increased 8% and revenue rose 21% to $1.9 trillion. Women-owned businesses are classified in this report as those that more than half owned, operated and controlled by one or more women.
Wyoming experienced a 2.4% increase in the number of women-owned firms placing it 48th for growth, a 2.3% increase in employment placing the state at 35th, and a 5.7% increase in growth of firm revenue, ranking 39th.
Stengel said she expects to see an increase of necessity entrepreneurship when the economy is down, which did not appear in Wyoming’s results. While the report didn’t investigate Wyoming’s industry and trends thoroughly, Stengel said increasing the number of women-owned businesses in Wyoming could build economic resiliency in the state.
Necessity entrepreneurs start a business to supplement income, because they cannot find quality employment or are unemployed, the report said. Flexibility entrepreneurs start their own business to have more control over their work or because other workplaces don’t accommodate care-giving responsibilities. Necessity and flexibility entrepreneurs often return to the workforce when possible.
Opportunity entrepreneurs usually start a business during good economic times to fulfill market possibilities and often have a higher rate of survival and growth. Wyoming has a high rate of opportunity entrepreneurship with mostly small businesses, Stengel said.
Women-owned business tend to be smaller nationally, with a higher rate of growth than men-owned businesses but with fewer total firms.
The report said about a quarter of women-owned businesses are in the “other services” category — hair and nail salons and pet care businesses — health care and social assistance firms accounted for 15% and professional/scientific/technical services accounted for 13%.
The goal of the study is to offer a framework from which to develop training programs, policy, awareness, to encourage women to grow larger businesses and shine a light on successful women entrepreneurs, Stengel said.
“If you measure it, you can improve it,” she said.
Part-time entrepreneurs or “sidepreneurs” grew twice as much as other women-owned firms and the rate of sidepreneurship is higher among women than men, the report said.
Scot Rendall, executive director of the Wyoming Technology Business Council, said sidepreneurs account for almost all of his clients. Many people have a job and start a business on the side to “test the waters.” If the business takes off, many people then leave their previous jobs, he said.
“That sidepreneur thing is a really big phenomenon that I see here in Sheridan,” Rendall said. While part-time entrepreneurship can provide temporary financial security if the person is able to support themselves while developing a business idea, it can hinder the speed at which one develops their business, Rendall said. An extended timeline can also offer competition the chance to exploit the same market opportunity, he said.
Rendall’s current clients at WTBC are 30% women, 47% men and 23% married or mother-son couples. He said the WTBC is open to everyone and encourages women entrepreneurs to develop their ideas like anyone else. Three of the 2019 Start-Up Challenge finalists are women, one is a man and there is one couple.
Rendall said Sheridan’s job base is more diverse than the rest of Wyoming — Wyoming’s energy industries, which are more prevalent elsewhere in the state, are heavily male-dominated, he said.
Programs like the Start-Up Challenge encourage new businesses from a variety of industries, which helps people from different backgrounds and interests get involved, he said. Stengel said it’s exciting to hear about accelerated start-up programs in Wyoming.
Kathy Bede, owner of Verdello, said she started a business partly because she comes from an entrepreneurial family and because she needed to care for a child with special needs.
Bede and her daughter, Lindsey Vredenburg, said they occasionally encounter problems with people taking them seriously as business-owners but overall they are satisfied with the atmosphere and their success in Sheridan.
Bede opened Cottonwood Kitchen and Home in 1996, operated it for many years, retired temporarily and then started Verdello in 2017 with her daughter.
Bede said worrying about barriers to becoming a woman business-owner shouldn’t stop anyone from pursuing their dream.
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” she said. “If it’s a dream and a desire, I would do it. It was my dream and my desire…I didn’t sit back and say ‘oh my gosh, are they not going to take me seriously?’ This is what I want to do, this is who I am.”
Rendall said it’s important to give people the opportunity to pursue their passions whether it’s working in a job or starting a business and to remove barriers to their success along the way.
Access to capital is the biggest impediment to starting a business for all entrepreneurs, he said, which is the purpose of providing seed money through the Challenge.
Sometimes, the women who walk into the WTBC are more “go-getting” than the men, he said. Last year’s Challenge winner, Chelsea Paulus, is Rendall’s biggest success, as someone who developed an idea in Sheridan that has grown into a successful business with a regional client base.
“I don’t really see a hostile environment [for women],” Rendall said. “I see that people of all kinds, all ages, all genders are welcome here and are encouraged to start businesses.”
Starting a business in Gillette or Casper might be different because of a different job base, but Sheridan has a variety of options for entrepreneurs, he said.