Iowa's female entrepreneurs lag


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While women all over the United States are opening the doors to their small shops and managing their own businesses, their counterparts in Iowa have not followed the national trend.

Women in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids decided to take matters into their own hands and address the problem head on. The Iowa City-Cedar Rapids Corridor hosted an event March 29 to encourage partnership and networking among female entrepreneurs. 

“I can feel lots of challenges, but they are all very passionate about growing their businesses,” said Yu Yu, the organizer of the event. “It’s a very supportive community, so we just wanted to pull some resources together.”

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American Express OPEN’s most recent report on women-owned businesses revealed that between 1997 and 2013, the number of women-owned businesses increased by 59 percent in the United States.

In Iowa, however, the growth rate was ranked at the 49th spot and showed only a 23 percent increase, according to the report.

“Iowa businesses reflect the national trend, [but] Iowa women-owned businesses do not fare as well,” said Diane Ramsey, the executive director of the Iowa Women’s Leadership Conference.
Ramsey said these rankings “absolutely” need to change in the future.

“Women-owned businesses across the nation are growing faster than any other sector, so we have an opportunity here in Iowa to do what other states are doing, and in order to do that, we need to, as a state, have a focus on women-owned business,” she said.

Yu said the event’s goal was to help these women expose their businesses, network, and give back to the community. The proceeds of the event went to Ascent, a nonprofit organization that supports women entrepreneurs.

“By hosting this [event], it is a great opportunity for women to first of all, let people know what their businesses are and to also network with other business owners so they can share their successes and help one another,” Ramsey said. “They can become an economic force in our state.”

In Iowa, this specific sector saw a decrease of 22.5 percent in employment for 2013.

“We need to identify what the barriers [are] to growth that these women experience, what tools do women business owners need to stay in business [and to] grow their businesses,” Ramsey said. “That will then create opportunities for them to hire other people.”

Despite these setbacks, more than two dozen women business owners sat behind booths at the event.
Virginia Dreier, the owner of and sole therapist at Renew Massage, 325 E. Washington St., was one such business owner.

“The exposure is the most important aspect,” she said. “It gives me a sense of pride and camaraderie, and I’m excited to see how many people are in business.”

Dreier said the rankings showing Iowa so low on the list does not affect her or the way she runs her business.

“I don’t really pay too much attention to that,” she said. “People are very supportive of women businesses in Iowa.”

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