Women Owned Business in the United States

  • 10.1 million firms are owned by women (50% or more), employing more than 13 million people, and generating $1.9 trillion in sales as of 2008. 
  • Three quarters of all women-owned businesses are majority owned by women (51% or more), for a total of 7.2 million firms, employing 7.3 million people, and generating $1.1 trillion in sales. 
  • Women-owned firms (50% or more) account for 40% of all privately held firms.

Businesses Owned by Women of Color

  • 1.9 million firms are majority-owned (51% or more) by women of color in the U.S. 
  • These firms employ 1.2 million people and generate $165 billion in revenues annually.

Million Dollar Businesses

  • One in five firms with revenue of $1 million or more is woman-owned.
  • 3% of all women-owned firms have revenues of $1 million or more compared with 6% of men-owned firms.
Statistics from the Center for Women’s Business Research, 2006. Census information from 2002.
Visit www.womensbusinessresearch.org for more information on women owned businesses in the United States.


What is the role of women, minority, and veteran entrepreneurs?

Of the 27.1 million non-farm businesses in 2007 . . .

  • women owned 7.8 million businesses,
    • which generated $1.2 trillion in revenues,
    • employed 7.6 million workers, and
    • paid $218 billion in payroll.
    • Another 4.6 million firms were 50 percent women owned.
  • Minorities owned 5.8 million firms,
    • which generated $1 trillion in revenues and
    • employed 5.9 million people.
  • Hispanic Americans owned 8.3 percent of all U.S. businesses;
    • African Americans, 7.1 percent;
    • Asian Americans, 5.7 percent;
    • American Indians and Alaska Natives, 0.9 percent;
    • and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders, 0.1 percent.
  • Veterans owned 2.4 million businesses in 2007,
    • generating $1.2 trillion in receipts;
    • another 1.2 million firms were 50 percent veteran owned.
    • About 7 percent of veteran business owners had service-connected disabilities in 2002.
  • In 2008, the overall rate of self-employment (unincorporated and incorporated) was 9.8 percent, and the rate was
    • 7.1 percent for women,
    • 7.2 percent for Hispanic Americans,
    • 4.7 percent for African Americans,
    • 9.7 percent for Asian Americans and Native Americans, and
    • 13.6 percent for veterans.
    • Service-disabled veterans had lower self-employment rates than non-service-disabled veterans.
Source: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Census Bureau, Survey of Business Owners; Advocacy-funded research by Open Blue Solutions, 2007 (www.sba.gov/advo/research/rs291tot.pdf), and Office of Advocacy: The Small Business Economy (www.sba.gov/advo/research/sbe.html).


Here’s some encouraging news for Women’s History Month: more women are starting businesses, and more woman-owned $1 million businesses are growing, according to a new report from American Express OPEN Forum.

The new State of Women-Owned Businesses  looked at the past 15 years of business activity to track trends in women’s business ownership. It found that American women are starting about 550 new businesses a day, opening more than 200,000 new enterprises in the past year. The rate of startup activity by women leaped 54 percent and far outstripped the overall business creation growth rate of 37 percent.

The study also found that women-owned firms are as likely as any other to be doing over $500,000 in annual revenue in industries including construction, transportation, and warehousing. Perhaps most encouraging, in the past five years, woman-owned firms with sales over $1 million have shown stronger growth than they did in earlier periods.

How have women been able to become more empowered to grow substantial businesses? Three things come to mind:

  • First is the growth of women’s networking activity, which has flourished in recent years. Groups such as Ladies Who Launch and Wild Women Entrepreneurs are attracting younger women, as well as women looking to grow big, national companies. Having a support group of other women peers who are serious about entrepreneurship can make a big difference, giving women more resources and simply the belief that they can grow a big company.
  • Second, there’s been progress for women in cracking the once male-dominated club of angel finance and venture capital. Now, many women have gained enough success that they have become angels, too. Some of those women investors are particularly motivated to help other women grow their companies.
  • Finally, there’s the internet. Many women start businesses at their kitchen table while they juggle childcare responsibilities. The ability to reach — and sell to — the whole world without ever leaving home is a boon for women entrepreneurs.

What do you think is helping women-owned businesses grow? Leave a comment and give us your take.


American Express Open recently published a State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, documenting important trends among women-owned businesses from 1997 to 2011. As women continue to launch companies at a rate exceeding the national average (though their firms remain smaller than those owned by men), a look into the growth trends of their enterprises may provide important insight into small-business development. Here’s to you, ladies.

  • As of 2011, it’s estimated that there are more than 8.1 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., accounting for 29 percent of all enterprises, generating nearly $1.3 trillion in revenue and employing close to 7.7 million people.
  • Between 1997 and 2011, the number of women-owned firms increased by 50 percent, a rate one and a half times the national average. The number of firms owned by men, which represent 51 percent of all U.S. firms, grew by only 25 percent during that time, and employment in such firms has declined by nearly 5 percent since 1997.
  • The employment and sales growth of women-owned businesses between 1997 and 2011 (8 percent and 53 percent, respectively) lags behind the national average (17 percent and 71 percent, respectively), and women-owned firms employ only 6 percent of the country’s work force and contribute slightly less than 4 percent of business revenue.
  • Over the past 14 years, in terms of revenue and employment, the share of women-owned firms at the highest levels of business accomplishment remains mostly unchanged: In 1997, 2.5 percent of women-owned businesses had 10 or more employees and 1.8 percent had $1 million or more in revenue; in 2011, 1.9 percent had 10 or more employees and 1.8 percent had $1 million or more in revenue.
  • Since 2002, the fastest growth in the number of women-owned firms has been in education services (up 54 percent), administrative and waste services (47 percent) and construction (41 percent).
  • The industries with the highest concentration of women-owned businesses are health care and social assistance (52 percent); educational services (46 percent); other services, including personal-care services such as beauty salons, pet-sitting, dry cleaners and automobile repair (41 percent); and administration and waste services (37 percent).
  • The industries with the lowest concentration are construction (a fast-growing industry for women as noted above, but where just 8 percent of firms are women-owned) and finance and insurance (20 percent).

This article was originally published in the March 2012 print edition of Entrepreneur’s StartUps with the headline: You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down.

Lisa Tse, 32, (right) runs three businesses including a design consultancy, and founded the Sorority, a private social network for businesswomen. She lives in London with her husband and one-year-old son.


When I was growing up, my parents steered me away from friends who behaved undesirably. They’d say that if you surround yourself with people of good reputation, you will be viewed positively. I believe that if you associate with accomplished professionals, you’ll pick up on what makes them successful. I set up my design consultancy when I was 26. One of my first clients, James Robson, who founded the bar and venue Mews of Mayfair in London, became a mentor.

I was brought up in an obedient way in the Chinese culture and was taught never to challenge or push, but James showed me that doing so doesn’t make you a bad person – as long as you know where the line is. A lot of women are afraid to go to the next level – to move to a bigger office, hire more staff, take on big projects that they’re not sure how to fulfil – whereas men say yes and worry later. James taught me to do that.

‘Surround yourself with good people’

I’ve also learnt that even having one person on staff who isn’t sociable can poison the rest of the team. It’s not enough to hire people solely based on talent. We’ve had great designers who just follow their own brief and get protective over their work, so they’re unable to work in a team. A lot of people aren’t brave enough to get rid of someone if their attitude isn’t right.

The lesson I learned from my parents is a simple one: you are the company you keep. As a result of surrounding myself with good people I have learnt from their successes and enriched my experience and knowledge. That’s what inspired me to launch the Sorority, a club that unites trusted, successful women, cultivating a supportive community.

It’s really enriching to meet women of different ages and from a variety of sectors. And when I became a mother, I had a hundred aunties giving me advice on juggling business and motherhood!


Louise Mensch


Louise Mensch, 40, (above) is the Conservative MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire and the author of 15 novels under her maiden name, Louise Bagshawe. She is married with three children, and lives in Northamptonshire, travelling regularly to New York where her husband is based.

Many jobs require a public face, but if you are yourself and show your human side people will respond to that, and that includes owning up to mistakes.

One of the things that gets politicians into trouble is presenting a false persona. But when you think of the moments that have humanised politicians, people have been sympathetic. When John Prescott punched the guy who threw an egg at him, he got a huge amount of support from the public. When Baroness Trumpington stuck two fingers up at Tom King in the House of Lords, she won nothing but praise.

I’d been passionate about politics for years, but because I’d written all these racy novels, and with my past in the record industry, I didn’t think I was suitable Tory MP material. But for years I’d been having debates with friends, so finally I decided it was time to get up and do something about it.

‘Show your human side’

At first I contented myself with campaigning for other candidates, stuffing leaflets through doors and so on, but when David Cameron was made leader of the party, there was a lot of modernisation — you could have a more rebellious background — so I put myself forward.

My first rule of politics is that if somebody accuses you of something and it’s true, don’t deny it — it’s always the denial that catches you out. When I got an email alleging that I’d taken drugs while working for a record company, frankly I’d forgotten all about it. My husband said, ‘Don’t sweat this. We’re going to defuse it with honesty and good humour.’ That’s what we did, and it worked. It was a serious issue, and I admitted to the wrongdoing, but it was 20 years ago. I trusted the public’s good sense. I don’t think people judge you on the sins of your youth; what they care about is whether you’re fiddling your expenses or attempting to use your position for personal gain.



Nelle Davy

Nelle Davy, 27, (right) has written two novels while working full-time for a literary agency. Her first book, The Legacy of Eden, is published by Harlequin.
When people say you can have it all, you can’t. You have to choose, and I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to get where I am. I always wanted to be a writer, and reading was my escape from a very difficult childhood.

My parents were not supportive of me at all, and my father always told me that I’d never amount to anything. They saw writing as a stupid hobby.
I met my husband at university, and when I moved to Ireland to do a master’s in creative writing it was difficult to keep our relationship going – we nearly broke up.

‘Put your dream first’

Later, writing my novel at the same time as holding down a very demanding job took a huge toll on our marriage. I wrote it in lunch breaks, after work and at weekends. I didn’t have time for myself, let alone anyone else. That’s what you expect when you become a mother – not when you’re 27 and just married. I had to explain as diplomatically as possible to everyone that, unfortunately, they didn’t come first at this point in time.

All my friends were going out and doing fun things and I had to stay at home. My husband was a tower of strength, though. He took it with good grace because he knew how important it was to me. Friends were all very understanding, but it did put my friendships under strain.

I led a secret double life and submitted my manuscript under my married name. I didn’t want people to think I’d been published because of who I know. When I got my deal I told my boss and she screamed. Everyone was so pleased for me. I now make more of an effort to be there for friends and to do things with my husband as a couple.


Heather Jackson, 43, (right) a strategic marketing consultant, launched An Inspirational Journey, a training and mentoring organisation helping women climb the corporate ladder to board level. She has two children and two stepchildren and lives in Yorkshire and London.

Heather Jackson

I’m an old-fashioned person when it comes to manners. I always make sure to reply to emails as quickly as possible, even if it’s just to say that I’m on the case – that’s something I’ve learnt from working with clients in strategic marketing.

Whenever I send a letter, I always write the envelope by hand. It makes it more personal, and you always open the handwritten one first when you have a pile of mail. At networking events and corporate parties, I’ll give someone a card and ask very politely if they mind me getting in touch the next day. And after every event, I block out at least an hour the next morning so that I have time to write to anyone I met or follow up on anything I’d planned to do.

‘Politeness opens many doors’

I’m always sure to send thank-you cards and emails, first to the person who invited me, and then I also mention her in a card to the most senior person who was there. When I was invited to a Santander event by one of their senior women, as well as sending her a card, I wrote to the chief operating officer of the company to say what a great host the woman had been and that she’d connected me to some fabulous people. It’s about giving back, because you wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for them. I believe that what goes around comes around, but when you’re starting out, you’ve got to be committed to giving.

About three years ago I met a regional manager from Barclays at a do. We had nothing to gain from each other, but we went for coffee and stayed in touch. He later got a big promotion, and then introduced me to the head of global human resources, who went on to sponsor my first Women’s Business Forum. You don’t know where that ball is going to roll.

Through politeness, I’ve built up a company based on recommendations. We’ve done no advertising or marketing, but within six months of launching, 22 global companies connected with us. Last November, I was invited to Downing Street for a celebration of women who are making a difference to the economy. It was a defining moment for me.



Louisa Barnett, 38, (right) former corporate PR and change management consultant, owns Butterfly, a chain of beauty boutiques aimed at busy City workers. She is married and lives in London.

When I started Butterfly in 2009, I had to do everything myself: balance the books, be an interior designer, source products, negotiate terms with suppliers and interview all my amazing team. I painted wardrobes, cut MDF and made window displays. I also did two of Mary Portas’s retail courses at the Skills Centre Bucks, which were so useful. It’s important to recognise your limitations and see where you need support, because it’s much more effective to tell yourself, ‘It’s not working – deal with it and move on.’

I’ve always been described as ‘can do’, and that’s been my attitude to setting up my business. It’s a lot about trusting your gut instincts. When you start a business, there are a million more doom-mongers than people being positive for you. Sometimes you have to not overthink things and just make it happen.

‘Be “can do” ’

I did focus groups and research, which showed there was a gap in the market, even though lots of friends told me it would never work. I wrote a business plan and got an offer of a loan from a bank, but the terms were outrageous so I decided to use my savings. It was very scary stuff and I definitely made mistakes – mainly when I didn’t trust my instincts. I was let down by suppliers that I shouldn’t have used.

It took me a while to settle into the business, but this year we have seen a 50 per cent growth in turnover and customer numbers. Last summer I opened a second store, and I want to open six more in the next few years. But I still muck in. I washed the windows yesterday and was up a ladder changing light bulbs last week, and I often do a stint on reception.

From the outset, I created mission values and a manual on our way of working, because I think consistency is so important, especially as we roll out more stores. I hope my outlook filters through the whole company.


Stephanie Phair


Stephanie Phair, 33, (above) is the director of discount fashion website the Outnet, sister company to Net-a-porter. She is married with a young baby and lives in London.

I like to keep my personal and social life quite separate from my work life. In my first job, it was coincidental – I was given a work email address and I already had a Hotmail address, so it wasn’t strategic, but then I realised the benefit of it and it became a conscious decision. It means that when I’m working, I don’t get distracted by emails popping up about a friend having a baby or a party on Saturday night.

I think it’s about being able to compartmentalise. You can be very friendly at work, but you don’t necessarily need to make friends with everyone, and that has tended to work for me. Having worked in New York for ten years, I’ve found that people in the UK make friends with colleagues a lot more than they do in the US. I tell my friends about what I do if they ask, but it doesn’t form the core of our conversation. And if colleagues ask about my baby, I’m not a closed book, but they don’t need to know all the details and I wouldn’t expect them to be interested.

‘Keep work and personal life separate’

My approach definitely makes [being a boss] a lot easier, because you’re seeing people for their work, judging them on their performance. You’re able to be a lot more objective. And I rarely bring work home, so I can really focus on my personal life. When I first started working on the Outnet, we were a real startup, and it was tough. It could have been all-consuming, but because I wasn’t taking my work home and it didn’t overtake my life, I was able to maintain my relationship. In that time,
we got engaged and married, and had a baby.

Jane Winkworth, 65, (right) is the founder of ballet-pump shoe company French Sole. She is married with three children, with her fifth grandchild due next month, and has homes in Surrey, London and Portugal.

Helene Sandberg

Talking to strangers has helped me in life and in
my career every step of the way. I was 19 and working at Biba when it first worked for me. It was 1968, and I went up to a man named Michael Gamba at a party; his father’s company, Gamba Shoes, made slippers for ballerinas. I’d been mad about ballet all my life and I wanted a pair of ballet-style shoes with a strap, so I sketched them for him and he made me six pairs. I sold five and kept one. That was my first foray into shoe design.

Years later it worked for me again. I was walking my dog past fashion designer Catherine Walker’s shop in Chelsea, London. I saw her inside and went in to apologise for my dog peeing outside, but I ended up telling her about my shoes and she told Princess Diana, who became a loyal customer. Now the Duchess of Cambridge wears them.

‘Talk to everyone you meet’

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t chat to a stranger about something. My husband refuses to sit next to me on aeroplanes because he says I’m so embarrassing. I don’t care who they are or where they come from, I’ll talk to anyone.

I once asked a well-endowed actress how she crammed her boobs into such tight dresses! But often I’ll start a conversation by telling someone that I love their shoes. Then I tell them about French Sole and we’ll get chatting. Often we end up swapping numbers. I’ve made a lot of contacts that way. I work with the Starlight Children’s Foundation and they’ve said that since I came on board things have changed for them, because I talk to everyone. I’ll say, ‘Can you do this to help?’ and people do it.
janewinkworth.com; frenchsole.com



I will be focusing on the following topic:

What contribute to being a successful female entrepreneur?

Some importance aspect of this topic I am going to cover:

  1. What’s the drive/motivations for start-up for female entrepreneurs
  2. What are the Personality Characteristics of Female Entrepreneurs
  3. What are the Nature of the Business Ventures
  4. How do above three-factors co-relate and make a successful female entrepreneur

 Case Study:

  • A Profile of Female Entrepreneurs and Enterprises in Polan

Allied Academies International Conference: Proceedings of the Academy of Entrepreneurship (AE); Apr2010, Vol. 16 Issue 1, p42-46, 5p








  • Zapalska, Alina (1997). “A Profile of Female Entrepreneurs and Enterprises in Poland,” Journal of Small Business Management, 35 (4), 76-82.


  • Female entrepreneurs : leading Australian businesswomen
  • International research handbook on successful women entrepreneurs / edited by Sandra L. Fielden, Marilyn J. Davidson
  • Women as entrepreneurs : a study of female business owners, their motivations, experiences and strategies for success / Sara Carter, Tom Cannon
  • Women entrepreneurs only : 12 women entrepreneurs tell the stories of their success / Gregory K. Ericksen (Ernst & Young LLP)