It’s not just politics where women are increasingly making their mark. According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, based in Washington, between 1997 and 2006 the estimated growth rate in the number of female-owned firms was 42 percent, compared with 23 percent for all firms. And the trend is nationwide, as evidenced by the list below. The center, together with Open from American Express, has released its top metro areas for privately held firms in which women own 51 percent or more, which are ranked on a scoring system that incorporates projected number of firms, employees and sales in each city, with 1 being the highest score on this scale.
Score (overall city average of projected majority women-owned firms, employees and sales rankings): 1.3
“L.A. has earned that right to be number one,” said Sharon Hadary, executive director of the Center for Women’s Business Research. “Entrepreneurship is valued and encouraged there. You can have a critical mass in population, but you have to have community support for women business owners.” Examples of entrepreneurs in the region include Jaye Hersh, owner of specialty store Intuition and Jeannine Braden, owner of specialty shop Fred Segal Flair in Santa Monica, Calif. And located in West Hollywood is Tracey Ross’ boutique, which carries the likes of Anna Sui, Derek Lam, Chloé and Stella McCartney.
Donna Karan, Diane von Furstenberg, Carolina Herrera, Vera Wang, Tracy Reese, Catherine Malandrino, Nanette Lepore — these are just a few of the long list of women-owned fashion companies in New York. Others include Betsey Johnson, who runs her line with partner Chantal Bacon; Rebecca Taylor, who operates her company with business partner Beth Bugdaycay, and Nicole Miller. Other entrepreneurs based in New York include Stephanie Greenfield of the retailer Scoop; Kyle Crafton, founder and owner of Mediabistro.com, a job-search Web site dedicated to the publishing industry, and Liz Neumark, founder and owner of Great Performances, a high-end catering company based in the TriBeCa neighborhood.
Several women in Chicago have watched their boutiques flourish over the years. Take Maggie Barrett, who purchased Frances Heffernan, one of the finest women’s apparel shops in Chicago, which originally opened in 1932. She has transformed the boutique into a fashion destination with more than 4,500 square feet of selling space featuring designers such as Rena Lange, Bogner and Douglas Hannant. Ikram Goldman owns a women’s clothing boutique in the area and houses apparel from Comme des Garçons, Jean Paul Gaultier, Proenza Schouler and Zac Posen. And, in 2005, Elizabeth Floersheimer opened eliana lily Chicago, an urban upscale women’s store that specializes in contemporary clothing and accessories.
With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the news, women are clearly flying higher than ever in the nation’s capital. High school friends Dina Katsev Igoe and Elleni Vorvis opened a maternity and children’s clothing store, Apple Seed Boutique, after realizing that few stores in their area catered to the niche. “It’s a one-stop shop for mom and baby,” Katsev said. Peggy Love runs Full Circle International Relocations Inc., which assists in moving corporate employees and their families to the U.S. One of the most successful woman-owned firms in the country is Gloria Bohan’s Omega World Travel. The travel agency boasts annual sales revenues in excess of $1 billion.
Calling this city home is Sara Blakely, who founded the popular Spanx hosiery line in 2000. In the U.S., the brand is sold primarily in specialty chains including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. And, in 1988, realtor Jenny Pruitt founded her own real estate company, Jenny Pruitt & Associates. The firm has witnessed more than $7.4 billion in closed sales since its inception, with five sales offices plus a corporate office, 450 sales associates and 100 staff employees. Shirley Blaine founded Age of Travel in 1973. The company had a staff of four; it now employs over 50 and is still growing.
Along Newbury Street in Boston, trendy boutiques are plentiful. So are their female owners. At Stil, owner Betty Riaz wanted to open a store that featured northern European styles. Her collections focus on moderate prices with the look of high fashion. And located at 85 Newbury Street is Queen Bee, a women’s clothing boutique owned by Farah Salie. The store, which opened in 2005, features a variety of designers such as Shoshanna, Ella Moss, Juicy Couture and Diane von Furstenberg.
“Project Runway” Season 2 winner Chloe Dao calls Houston her home. Dao opened her boutique — named Lot 8 (for the eight Dao sisters) — in 2000. Its Web site states, “Even with the win of ‘PR2,’ Dao continues to develop and grow her boutique’s business in Houston.” And, in December, WWD featured Evelyn Gorman’s boutique Mix’s newly expanded digs. “I never realized until we opened and got our first ‘Ahhh’ what an important component the architecture turned out to be,” Gorman told WWD. Her shop offers fashionable apparel from designers such as Roland Mouret, Alexander McQueen and Viktor & Rolf, among others.
Molletta boutique, located in the Old City neighborhood, features up-and-coming local designers including Susan Rifkin and Gwen Sofer — both of whom own businesses — along with accessories from brands such as Elliot Lucca and Helen Welsh. Owned by Janine DiLauro and Christa Bevilacqua, the store opened its doors in 2002. Another owner in the Philadelphia region is jewelry designer Deepa Mischler. In 2004, the Wharton MBA graduate and former management consultant opened Coseli, a boutique that features Nepalese- and Tibetan-inspired jewelry.
SANTA ANA-ANAHEIM, Calif.
Bridal gowns are a big business in this region of Southern California. Mindy Chung is owner of Jaclyn’s Bridal, a full-service salon located near South Coast Plaza that boasts styles from designers such as Nicole Miller and Jim Hjelm. And in Anaheim, Kacey Elkins operates a full-service salon, called Mariposa Boutique. The boutique’s selection includes gowns by designers such as Maggie Sottero, Jessica McClintock and Christina Wu. Brides-to-be are assigned their own stylists who will assist them with choices that fit styles and budgets.
As of last year, there were 115,229 privately held, majority women-owned firms in this area. Last year, the center stated that African-American women in Detroit are starting businesses at a faster rate than anywhere in the country. Brenda Moore is an ideal example. Her coffee business, Perk & Brew Inc., was formed with a loan from the Center for Empowerment and Economic Development. And located in Lathrup Village is the Belle Esprit Salon and Day Spa, the first African-American salon and day spa in the area. General manager Stephanie Rutledge co-owns the business with her sister and daughter.
One of Dallas’ most well-known visionaries was Mary Kay Ash, who founded her cosmetics business in 1963 after having asked herself, “Why are you theorizing about a dream company? Why don’t you just start one?” Dallas is known for its strength in fashion and designer jewelry businesses, and the majority of them are female-owned. Elizabeth Showers began her jewelry business 10 years ago, and it’s paid off: Sharon Stone and Gwyneth Paltrow have worn her designs. June Pillay-Graham launched June Bijou Jewelry in 2002 — her contemporary and classic line is carried in more than 50 boutiques across the country.
The Southwestern city has become a hot destination for those seeking a little R&R. Yoga businesses have been popping up under owners such as Alyce Neal, who runs Evolve Lifestyle Studios. Neal opened her own business when she was unable to find a location that suited her busy schedule. Designers can be found here, too: Angela Johnson handcrafts cutting-edge apparel under her name. She was also partly responsible for the creation of the first Phoenix Fashion Week and remains one of the key leaders in its organization. And in baby clothing, The Dapper Child in nearby Scottsdale is owned by Alicia Butt.
with contributions from Holly Haber, Dallas; Beth Wilson, Chicago; Georgia Lee, Atlanta, and Khanh T.L. Tran, Los Angeles