Published: April 28, 1999
Maggie Jackson | Stamford Advocate
Women-owned businesses thrive
To get ahead in the fuel procurement market, entrepreneur Kristen Schaffner-Irvin computerized her clients’ tanks so she could check inventory from her laptop. But unfortunately, her rivals were still using wooden dipsticks.
That kind of creative edge drives women-owned businesses toward spectacular growth these days. As a result, not only are they burgeoning in number, but their sales and workforce are booming.
Although the latest sign of their economic weight, the collective revenues of Working Woman’s Top 500 women-owned businesses grew 12 percent to $80.7 billion in 1998. Including, the second annual list released by the Associated Press yesterday. Awaiting publication for the June issue.
“They’re thriving,” said Sharon Hadary, executive director of the National Foundation for Women Business Owners. “These businesses are becoming more significant players in the economy.”
Essential Data Corp Rapid Growth
Antoinette Allocca’s Stamford-based technical writing and consultant firm grew rapidly after she creatively solved a critical problem at her firm. However, she couldn’t afford to hire top salespeople. So after she began hiring older people, that downsized. She offered low salaries and high commissions to increase revenue growth from $1 million in 1996 to $20 million last year at Essential Data.
“I give the overlooked people a chance,” said Allocca. Essential Data Corporation is No. 461 on the Working Woman list. “I’ve attracted a very experienced workforce but still very motivated.”
Majority Small Businesses are Owned by Women
According to the Foundation, the number of women-owned businesses leaped nearly 90 percent in the decade ending in 1997. Today, the number 8.5 million – more than a third of all U.S. businesses.
The businesses are still small when compared to the country’s largest companies. General Motors, for example, had $161.3 billion in revenues in 1998.
Yet the growing clout of women-owned businesses is increasingly evident. Between 1987 and 1997, their total sales grew 161 percent. Also, their workforces increased by 262 percent, according to the Foundation.
Moreover, women are displaying the talents that put them on the cutting edge of the business world, with technological savvy first among them.
Women Owned Business and Internet Access
Consider this: 23 percent of women-owned firms have Websites, compared with 16 percent of firms owned by men. In addition, nearly half of women business owners have Internet access, compared with 41 percent of men.
Four years ago, Irvin became one of the first fuel procurers to equip customer fuel tanks with computers.
Her Huntington Beach, Calif., company, Team Petroleum, now monitors fuel consumption, pricing, and leaks by computer, then arranges with suppliers to refuel customers. As a result, the company ranks No. 315 on the Working Woman list.
“I’m sure all the male-dominated petroleum companies will figure it out eventually, but by then, we’ll be on to the next thing,” she laughed, adding that women, “think out of the box a little bit.”
One of her customers says that seeing such expertise in a woman still surprises many men. Larry Kuyper, who handles purchasing for Disney operations, said when Irvin “starts talking about passive and impassive tank monitors, these guys figure out pretty quickly she knows more than they ever knew.”
Working Woman ranks the companies on its list by revenue. Companies qualify if women are the largest individual shareholders, holding at least 5 percent of the stock in a public company and 10 percent in private firms.
Many, including Allocca and Irvin, were inspired to go into business for themselves because they sought greater flexibility in their lives. Others hit glass ceilings in Corporate America.
“This is a chance for her to dream her dreams, fulfill them and keep control of her destiny,” said Judy George, chief executive officer and founder of Domain. This Norwood, Mass., furniture company ranked No.220 on the Working Woman list.
“I know. As former president of a company. I was making a fortune…But I had my own dream,” she said.
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