Women Entrepreneurs Seeing Most Success in Mid-Sized Cities Across the South, Midwest

Oct 20, 2016 | Uncategorized

GoodCall Education News


Women-owned businesses in the U.S. are growing – and fast. According to the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses report, commissioned by American Express OPEN, there are more than 11.3 million businesses owned by women entrepreneurs.

The number of firms owned by women has increased by 45 percent since 2007 — five times faster than the national average. They’re generating $1.6 trillion in revenue and have seen 35 percent revenue growth.

Analysts at GoodCall delved deep into national data about 381 metropolitan statistical areas, including economic growth, unemployment and education rates, to rank the Top Places for Women Entrepreneurs in 2016.

Most of the top 15 metropolitan statistical areas on the list were smaller areas with fewer than 500,000 people and higher-than-average population growth. Ten of the top 15 areas had greater than 6 percent population growth from 2010 to 2015.

Teresa Meares, chair of the National Board of Directors for the National Association of Women Business Owners, says cities with a collaborative spirit tend to be areas where female owners thrive. Before starting a business, women should research what kind of organizations and resources are available in an area.

“If a person does not have access to the consulting that allows for questions to be asked and answered then you could make a costly mistake in starting a business and failing, because you did not know what you did not know,” she says.

Of the areas at the top of the GoodCall list, 14 of the top 15 all had more businesses per capita than the national average, indicating a presence of like-minded residents and a support system of other business owners. Meares says to use that as an advantage.

“Seek information, put your idea in front of as many people as you can and have them challenge you. Make you justify your thought process and reasoning for wanting to go into business,” she says.

Ann Sullivan, chief advocate for Women Impacting Public Policy, says women can thrive as owners in any city, but those with Women’s Business Centerstend to be better.

“By far, the best resource for women looking to start a business are Women’s Business Centers (WBCs). There are over 100 WBCs throughout the country. This network of nonprofit organizations provides tremendous business counseling and training services to women. They offer courses and direct counseling in topics such as developing a business plan, branding, accessing loans and exporting products,” Sullivan says.

Several of the areas in the top 15 list have Women’s Business Centers in town or in nearby cities. The top places are spread across the country, though many are in the South and Southeast.



  1. Victoria, Texas

The relatively small city of Victoria sits about an hour inland from the Gulf Coast of Texas, southeast of San Antonio. More than one-third of the 9,300 businesses are owned by women. The area is growing relatively fast, with 6.3 percent population growth since the 2010 census and now nearing 100,000 people in the greater metro area. GDP in Victoria grew by 6.73 percent from 2013 to 2014, eighth highest in the nation. The area also boasts a fairly highly educated female population — Victoria has 14 percent more women age 25 and older with a college degree compared with men.

  1. Bismarck, N.D.

At No. 2, Bismarck ranks high among several metrics, including having an unemployment rate of just 3.3 percent. The state capital, which has a metro area population of about 130,000, sits almost in the middle of the state along Interstate 94. About 33 percent of businesses in the area are owned by women, and Bismarck’s GDP grew about 7.6 percent from 2013 to 2014 — well above average. More than a third of women have college degrees, which is 17 percent higher than the rate for men. The city is growing rapidly, with 16 percent population growth from about 61,000 people in 2010 to an estimated 71,000 in 2015. With such impressive growth, it’s no surprise it’s a great place for women with an entrepreneurial spirit.

  1. Monroe, La.

Nestled in northern Louisiana, Monroe scores high on the GoodCall list because of its high density of women-owned businesses and education level. Of the roughly 16,000 businesses in Monroe, 37 percent of them are owned by women. The city is home to the University of Louisiana-Monroe, and about 23 percent of women in the area have at least a bachelor’s degree, a rate that’s almost 17 percent higher than men. The greater metropolitan area along the Ouachita River has seen modest growth of about 1.6 percent since 2010, with a population of just under 180,000 in 2015.

  1. Laredo, Texas

Laredo came in at No. 4 on the list. The city, which sits right on the border with Mexico along the Rio Grande River, was in the top 20 in the country in both networking potential and economic health. Laredo has about 105 businesses per 1,000 residents and was one of just two cities in the top 15 list that had more than 100. The metro area’s population grew about 7.8 percent from 2010 to almost 270,000 in 2015. The city is the No. 1 inland port along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the Laredo Development Foundation, and the economy grew at 3.7 percent between 2013 and 2014. And women have been in a great position to benefit from that growth: nearly 39 percent of businesses in Laredo are owned by women.

  1. Greeley, Colo.

The metropolitan area of about 285,000 people sits about 60 miles north of Denver in northeast Colorado. The area has seen some of the strongest GDP growth in the country — 9.9 percent from 2013 to 2014 — and the metropolitan area population grew 12.7 percent from 2010 to 285,000 in 2015, making it a great area to plant a seed and watch it flourish. Of the 22,374 businesses in the area, women own about 37 percent. Greeley is home to The University of Northern Colorado, a school with a student population of 63 percent women. About 13 percent more women in Greeley have at least a bachelor’s degree compared with men.

  1. Baton Rouge, La.

As one of the largest areas in the top 15, the Baton Rouge metro area has seen 3.5 percent population growth since 2010. The state capital and surrounding area is home to more than 830,000 people. It’s a hub of trade; the Port of Greater Baton Rouge on the busy Mississippi River was the eighth largest port in the U.S. based on tonnage shipped in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That kind of commerce is reflected in the area’s 3.36 percent GDP growth from 2013 to 2014. It has also fostered an environment for female entrepreneurs to thrive. About 38 percent of the businesses in the metro area are owned by women, perhaps owing in part to the presence of the Good Work Network women’s business center in town.

  1. Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas

Beaumont and Port Arthur came in at No. 7 largely because of the metro area’s high density of businesses owned by women: More than 40 percent of the 26,766 businesses in the area are run by women. Situated not far from the Louisiana border just north of the Gulf of Mexico, the area saw average population growth up 1.29 percent from 2010 to 408,419. Women in the area are significantly more educated than men — about 16.5 percent more women have bachelor’s degrees compared with men. But with Lamar University (which has a 60 percent female student population), Lamar Institute of Technology and Lamar State College-Port Arthur, perhaps the educational attainment of the area’s women isn’t surprising. And with GDP growth from 2013 to 2014 at 5.7 percent, Beaumont-Port Arthur is looking strong for women looking to start a business.

  1. Fargo, N.D. and Minn.

Fargo ranks eighth largely because of its healthy economy. The metropolitan area along the border between North Dakota and Minnesota had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country at 3.9 percent. Its GDP grew at a higher than average rate between 2013 and 2014, at just under 4 percent. Women run nearly one-third of the 20,486 businesses in the metro area. The population has grown to about 234,000, up about 12 percent from 2010. The area is booming in response: Prairie Business Magazine reported last month that companies and developers are investing millions of dollars in new facilities, including a hospital, new banks, strip malls, and an 18-story high-rise building going in downtown. With that kind of activity, it’s a great place for a woman to make a start in business.

  1. Savannah, Ga.

Of the 29,717 businesses in Savannah, women own 39.7 percent. That high density, coupled with a 3.75 percent growth in GDP shows Savannah is a place where female entrepreneurs can expect to grow their startups. The historic, artistic metro area on the coast and bordering South Carolina grew 9 percent to almost 380,000 people from 2010 to 2015. Women in the area are fairly highly educated; 31 percent of women have at least a bachelor’s degree, a rate that’s 6.9 percent higher than men. Savannah’s economy his highly diverse, with a strong manufacturing sector, bustling tourism, and strong education, government and health services. It’s a stable area that’s growing faster than anywhere else in Georgia — a good fit for a new woman-owned business.

  1. Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.

Dominated by two major colleges — The University of North Carolina and Duke University — the Durham-Chapel Hill metropolitan area has more than 45 percent of women with at least a bachelor’s degree, about 6.8 percent more than men in the area. It’s an area that grew 9.5 percent from 2010 to 2015 to more than 550,000 people. And of the of 47,553 businesses in the area, 39 percent are owned by women. The metro area’s GDP has seen positive growth, at about 2.1 percent. Women would find plenty of local resources and like-minded business owners, with about 86 businesses per 1,000 residents.

  1. Casper, Wyo. 

Though the Casper metropolitan area has the lowest density of women-owned businesses in the top 15 cities (29.5 percent), strong growth, education and employment rates boost Casper to No. 11 on the GoodCall list. Women with a bachelor’s degree outnumber men by about 15.7 percent. GDP grew more than 6 percent from 2013 to 2014. Economic health ranked fifth on the GoodCall list, largely because of low unemployment and strong economic growth. The metro area also has the 15th highest networking potential, with 98 small businesses per 1,000 residents. Population grew 8.9 percent compared with 2010, to 82,000 in 2015 — the smallest city in the top 15. It’s a fast-growing area along the North Platte River where women in business could see rapid success.

  1. Shreveport-Bossier City, La.

Shreveport and Bossier City sit separated by the Red River in northwest Louisiana. At No. 12, the region is also home to Barksdale Air Force Base, and dozens of movies have been filmed there, including “Olympus Has Fallen” (starring Gerard Butler) and the 2007 adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Mist.” Though population has remained relatively steady in the Shreveport metropolitan area, GDP grew more than 3 percent from 2013 to 2014. Female business leaders would find ample networking potential and like-minded colleagues, since the area has about 88 businesses per 1,000 residents. And of those 38,892 businesses, almost 38 percent are owned by women.

  1. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas

In the southernmost tip of Texas, along the Mexican border, the metro area containing McAllen, Edinburg and Mission has been growing fast — 8.7 percent from 2010 — to 842,000 people. That surge has helped make the area a prosperous one for women in business. Women run almost 44 percent of the 82,291 businesses in the area; that’s the fifth highest density in the country. There’s also decent support available from other small business owners, with about 98 businesses per 1,000 residents, and the Women’s Business Center in Edinburg is dedicated to providing education and development services. The nearby McAllen Foreign-Trade Zone makes the area a hub for international trade, and the local economy is looking strong. From 2013 to 2014, GDP grew 2.5 percent.

  1. Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, Hawaii

Thousands of miles from the mainland, the metropolitan area on the northwest side of the island of Maui in Hawaii might be a bit harder place to plant business roots. But the area, driven by tourism and retail, has 17,147 businesses, and 39.6 percent of them are owned by women. That’s about 104 businesses per 1,000 residents, which should provide budding female entrepreneurs good support from local resources. The area is growing around the West Maui Forest Reserve; population is up 6.3 percent, to 165,000, since the 2010 census. Plus, it’s hard to argue with the suggestion that the best place to start a business is in an island paradise.

  1. Macon, Ga.

With its higher unemployment rate and a decline in population, it might be surprising to find Macon, Ga., among the top 15. But Macon, about 85 miles southwest of Atlanta, had the third highest rate of women-owned businesses in the country. An impressive 44.5 percent of the metro area’s 21,571 businesses have female owners. Women are also more educated than men, by about 11 percent. Plus, the relatively high number of businesses per capita (93 businesses per 1,00 residents) means plenty of local resources for burgeoning entrepreneurs. The area has deep Southern roots, including some well-known musicians (Little Richard, The Allman Brothers, and Jason Aldean) from a variety of genres, and is home to Robins Air Force Base.



Many factors went into GoodCall’s ranking of best cities for women business owners. Two, however, that stand out the most include the educational attainment rates for women and the density of women business owners in each city.

One of the most important factors indicating women’s success in business is the presence of like-minded women in the community who can offer support, advice and other resources to new female entrepreneurs. Areas with higher rates of educated women and women-owned businesses are likely better equipped to help entrepreneurs in their new endeavors.

Best and Worst Areas of Educational Attainment for Women

Data Source: Best Places for Women Entrepreneurs, GoodCall DataCenter

Cities with more educated women tended to rank higher on the GoodCall list, while those with low education rates fell toward the bottom. Three of the top five cities with the highest rate of educational attainment versus men also had more than one-third of businesses owned by women. At the bottom of educational attainment, Idaho Falls, Id., only had 26 percent of businesses owned by women.


Best and Worst Cities for Density of Women Owned Businesses

Data Source: Best Places for Women Entrepreneurs, GoodCall DataCenter

Those cities with high rates of women-owned businesses rank much higher on the GoodCall list — in fact, four of the top five in density were among the top 100 overall ranking. Women seem to own a larger percentage of businesses in the South and Midwest. At the other end of the spectrum, cities with fewer women-owned businesses tended to have a weaker economy, particularly negative GDP.

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