As Washington evolves into more than a political town, female entrepreneurs and business owners are playing an increasingly important role in shaping D.C.’s new economy.
Women in D.C. are ahead of the national average and run almost half of all small businesses in the District, explained Acting Director of the Department of Small and Local Business Development Ana Harvey. That’s compared to the national average of 30 percent of businesses in the United States, according to the 2015 American Express Open Forum.
Yael Krigman and Uyen Tang, who own the bakery, Baked by Yael, and fashion boutique Stylecable, respectively, are among a group of female entrepreneurs who have been supported by resources such as the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development, the Small Business Association, and peer groups like Her Corner, a membership group that offers workshops, networking opportunities and collaboration.
Her Corner’s community manager, Amanda Reynolds, said 60 percent of Her Corner members own product-based businesses, while the other 40 percent are service-based. “Women are natural-born leaders, so it makes sense that we would want our own businesses,” she said. “We’re great at it.”
But forget about traditional stereotypes associated with the role of women as housewives and homemakers. According to the Small Business Association’s 2015 Small Business Profile of D.C., 34.3 percent of female-owned businesses are in the professional, scientific and technical service industries, while 29.6 percent of the businesses in these industries are female-owned firms.
“Some women desire a good work-life balance, while others want to be successful with something more than just having a family,” said Harvey, describing the new generation of entrepreneurs.
Although D.C. has many resources aimed at helping women open their own businesses, many female entrepreneurs face the same challenges as any start-up.
“Without adequate startup capital, it is difficult to turn an idea or a business plan into a real life operation.” Harvey says her department is doing what it can to keep D.C. ahead of the country when it comes to women-run business. “The Department of Small and Local Business Development exists to encourage entrepreneurship in the District. Any woman who has an idea or the desire to start a business should have the support and encouragement to do so.”