It's Women's Small Business Month in York County
18 Oct 2018
York County is home to many small businesses owned and operated by women. Since October is National Women’s Small Business Month, this is an excellent time to celebrate their success.
We spoke with two of York’s women business owners to learn more about what inspires them, why they enjoy working for themselves, and what their journey was like along the way.
Nancy Dob, OD, owner of Mid America Vision Center, was inspired to work for herself after watching her father run his own construction company. She enjoys running her optometry business because, “I get to make my own decisions and chart the course of the business. I want to be able to provide the best personalized service to our patients. I am able to do that by being the owner.” Likewise, Ellyn Hansen, owner of the Triple Crown Boutique, enjoys having her own shop and the opportunity it provides for her to “let my creative side out. If there is something I want to do/try, then I do it. Where when you work for someone else you are always have to get your ideas approved. Also, I am in charge of my own success, I am only as successful as the effort I put into my business.”
Both women have a goal of expanding their business and creating something that is long-lasting for the benefit of the community. As Ellyn commented, “I feel like I have a responsibility to use my platform for good.” Nancy takes this a step further stating, “I would like to pass on a thriving and vibrant eye care practice to the next generation of optometrists.”
History of Women-Owned Businesses in the United States
During westward expansion it was common for women to own businesses and take leadership roles, even if they were less formalized. However, as cultural and economic dynamics began to shift away from small family-owned businesses, women began to focus more on domestic pursuits or filling support positions. That has drastically changed over the past fifty years.
Since 1972, the number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. has risen 3,000 percent. It’s an impressive statistic, especially considering the fact that women were required to have a male co-signer in order to get a loan up until 1988. That’s why October has been designated as National Women’s Small Business Month. It’s an opportune time to recognize and celebrate the impact female entrepreneurs have on our economy.
Today women own 39 percent of small businesses in the U.S. In the last two decades, the number of women-owned businesses increased by 114 percent — a growth rate of more
than two and a half times the national average.
It’s important to acknowledge this phenomenal progress while also understanding that challenges still exist for women in business. Research by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor indicates women in the U.S. are 18 percent less likely than men to have the confidence to start a business. Even for those who do, there are challenges. As Ellyn Hansen said, “Sometimes I feel like being a women and owning a women's clothing store I'm not taken seriously. I think a lot of people, both women and men, think that opening my store is just something I did for fun since I like to shop and I like fashion. When in reality, it's not always fun, it's a lot of hard work and long hours. My store is open 47 hours a week and I'm there most of those 47 hours, not to mention all of the things I do for my business outside of store hours.”
Gender stereotypes can present another challenge, as Nancy Dobs, OD, discovered. “When I first entered practice, I had to overcome the public's assumption that the doctor was male. That has changed so much over the years, to the point that over 50% of Optometry College classes are women. The culture for women business owners has improved over the years as well. Previous mind set for women was mom, teacher or nurse. Women now can be or do anything they want, as long as they are willing to make the commitment and work for it. Now, we as women have to be more careful not to over commit. In the current culture, I don't think whether you are male or female is a barrier to being a business owner.” Nancy has had a front row seat to this cultural shift but there is still evidence to indicate women have a harder time accessing business financing and may face biases when trying to raise capital, although this is easier in York thanks to the support of the community, YCDC and other organizations.
York County Development Corporation understands the importance of encouraging women in business and helping them to overcome any challenges they may face. We offer a range of entrepreneurial support and resources to help with business inception and development as well as finding avenues for financing. We offer support to all local entrepreneurs and business owners looking to start or expand a business in York County. We encourage anyone seeking information or resources to contact us today.