Not a boy's club: Women-owned businesses grow in U.S., North Dakota
GRAND FORKS -- Kathy Klath had spent 18 years in the insurance and investments industry before she decided to open her own business. Now more than a year into owning Mainstream Boutique near the Columbia Mall in Grand Forks, Klath cited her fathe...
GRAND FORKS - Kathy Klath had spent 18 years in the insurance and investments industry before she decided to open her own business.
Now more than a year into owning Mainstream Boutique near the Columbia Mall in Grand Forks, Klath cited her father's entrepreneurial spirit as one of her inspirations.
"I feel like it was kind of in my blood," she said.
Klath is among a growing number of women who own their own businesses in North Dakota and across the country.
A new report from American Express Open found the number of women-owned firms in North Dakota grew by 41.8 percent between 2007 and 2016, from 15,237 to an estimated 21,600. Employment at those businesses grew by almost 62 percent, and sales jumped by 145.1 percent, reaching an estimated $4.6 billion this year, the report said.
Nationwide, the number of women-owned firms has grown by 45.2 percent since 2007, compared with 9 percent growth among all businesses, the report said.
For her part, Klath never felt that her gender was a factor in her decision to open her store.
"I just know myself," she said. "If I want to do something, I'm going to work my very hardest to achieve that goal."
While the growth rate of women-owned firms in North Dakota is roughly on par with the rest of the country, it is tops in another category. The American Express report said the Dakotas and Texas tied for first in growth of economic clout-a combination of the growth in the number, employment and revenues of women-owned businesses-since the recession.
The industry with the highest number of women-owned firms in North Dakota in 2012 was health care and social assistance, according to the National Women's Business Council.
The number of firms owned by women in Minnesota grew by 26.8 percent between 2007 and 2016, the American Express report said.
Getting the message
Margaret Williams, dean of the College of Business and Public Administration at UND, said cities and states across the country have focused on entrepreneurship over the past 10 to 20 years, but that startup culture has been a largely male group. Outreach programs encouraging women to start their own businesses may be starting to show results, she said.
Women also might be starting their own businesses because of issues they face at the workplace, Williams said. That could take the form of a pay gap between men and women, challenges moving up the ladder and a "lack of support for child-rearing and child care."
"There's a positive interpretation, which would be women are getting the message, they're recognizing that these are great opportunities for them," Williams said. "The challenging interpretation would be they're choosing this option because other options haven't worked as well for them."
Alissa Larson's decision to open Grand Forks' Slate Interior Design in 2014 was driven by a "void in the market." She provides interior design services for mainly residential projects.
Larson said women may have more confidence today to start a business.
"Ten years ago, it was kind of a boy's club," she said. "Now, it's definitely more accepted."