According to the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, commissioned by American Express OPEN, women are starting an average of 1,072 new businesses each day and since the recession, the number of women-owned firms has grown at a rate five times the national average (up 45%, vs. a 9% increase among all businesses).
“What prompts the study generally is that the Census Bureau counts how many businesses there are and where they are growing but only every 5 yrs. And as we all know, theres a growing interest in womens entrepreneurship, so this series of reports provides annual updated figures on the growth and the development of women owned businesses,” Julie Weeks, American Express OPEN Research Advisor, told TNJ.com.
Among the findings, which are a cross section of industry, revenue and employment size at the national, state and metropolitan levels, data reveals that:
There are now 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, employing nearly 9 million people and generating over $1.6 trillion in revenues;
As of 2016, there are nearly 5 million minority women-owned businesses, making up almost half (44%) of all women-owned firms in the U.S. with 2 million workers and $344 billion in revenues;
Nearly eight out of every 10 (79%) net new women-owned firms, since 2007, has been started by a woman of color. As of 2016, African American women take the lead with 1.9 million firms, closely followed by Latina women at just under 1.9 million businesses.
“Most surprising about the report is that it appears that there has been quite an uptick in businesses being launched and that is being fueled by women of color,” notes Weeks.
One African American woman who has bravely claimed her piece of the pie is Tracy Grace, president and CEO of IBEX IT Business Experts. Based in Sandy Springs, Georgia, IBEX is an IT Services firm whose two major niche markets are in business process improvement services and health IT. They service the federal and local governments as well as corporations. They also provide solutions like consulting services, training services and certification as it relates to training.
The firm works with agencies such as the Army National Guard, the Air Force and Dept. of Homeland security to generate 80% of its revenue. From 2014-2015, IBEX experienced an 83% jump in revenue.
The winner of the 2015 On the Rise Government Contractor of the Year
award from American Express OPEN for her success in government
contracting, Grace tells us how strategy and timing led to success for her 4-year old company that she says she started “from the ground up.”
TNJ.com: Why did you launch a business process improvements company?
Tracy Grace: I took all of the experience obtained from my corporate position. I started out in learning & development and worked at two very large training companies. At those companies, I learned how to create enterprise training solutions for large corporations and government agencies.
The last corporate position I had before starting my company was as vice president of business development at an international consulting firm based in the Netherlands. They specialized in process improvement and IT best practices. So, when it came time for me to launch IBEX, I took my core competency and all that I excelled at in my career and rolled it up into a new company.
TNJ.com: Were there any downsides to launching the company?
T.G.: I was the major wage earner for my family, so taking a leap of faith and quitting a very high-paying, corporate VP position was taking a risk, especially because I started my company with only one client as our starting point. But I knew it had to happen in order to really be in control of my future from that point on.
TNJ.com: Any regrets?
T.G.: No, it was the best decision I ever made. I did it at the right time. My philosophy was this: get all the knowledge you possibly can from corporate America and then spin it into your own company. And thats exactly what I did.
I really seized the moment when I started my company. I found the health IT company from when I worked at the consulting firm and I started an entirely new division for them. After making quite a bit of money for the company they, at the Board level, did a risk assessment and decided that the model was too risky to continue. They asked me to dissolve it, so thats what I used to launch my company.
I have no regrets and I counsel other women on how to be successful in the industry based on the fact that there are so many opportunities you can take advantage of. Often times, fear is your biggest obstacle.
TNJ.com: How did you fund the company?
T.G.: I started the company with $100, got incorporated, registered with the state, got a business license, and opened a bank account. I had one initial client and I used that to start the company. No funding, or loans of any sort; I started from the ground up.
So far, we are doing fantastic; we are flourishing and weve strategically added products to make sure we grow at the right pace, size and time. We did not start with the training piece; instead, we started off slowly with the health IT piece. Once we had a great base and had revenue coming in, we added the training piece; once that was stable, we added the process improvement and best practice pieces.
We methodically and very strategically added our different offerings to ensure success rather than growing too large too quickly.
As of 2014, we became certified as a women/minority owned small business.
Last year, we got our 8A certification and have been able to utilize that and benefit from that with the government contracts we’ve been able to secure.
TNJ.com: What advice do you have for aspiring women business owners?
T.G.: Partner and collaborate. One of the major reasons we have done so well is that we, from the very beginning, instituted a partner model. Before we were even two years old, the ATL Business Chronicle spotlighted us because of our partnership model and how it led to our success.
So, if there are areas where we are not as strong and areas where we may be able to find an opportunity where we might have some synergy, we will partner with another organization to help us deliver and provide us strength; an opportunity we can learn from.
Also, know that you cant own a business without networking; expect to work long hours; and dont be afraid to utilize a partnership strategy to help you learn and get over the initial challenges that you have.