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Grrrrl Power, inc5000 Article - These audacious females lead the fastest growing, women-owned businesses in America.
When Teresa Vidger, President and CEO of Temporary Housing Directory, started her business in 2001, it was out of personal necessity, rather than personal passion. Previously, she had worked at Destination Connection, Coldwell Banker's leasing division for six years. She spent six days per week finding housing for corporate clients preparing to relocate, driving up to 100 miles per day—all while independently fielding referral calls from insurance companies looking to temporarily house displaced victims.
That ended when she realized that she couldn't keep up her hectic pace and be a mother to a child that needed special attention. "My son was born premature and only weighed two pounds," says Vidger, who continued working part-time for her employer for another year before she realized she could strike out on her own and still be successful by carving out a niche that focused solely on finding temporary homes for people displaced by disasters. "I realized that I was able to continue the temporary housing work because it was mainly done over the phone."
Who knew that her company, Temporary Housing Directory, No. 72 on this year's Inc. 500, would become a $20 million enterprise and give Vidger the flexibility to work from home? "Nowadays," says Vidger, "I work from my home office full-time just like all of my employees. If you have the right people who are self-starters, they can be much more productive in their own work environment with fewer distractions."
Although it's challenging to balance a family and a growing business, Vidger says that "quality time is the most important" and she's happy to be home before and after school to greet her three kids, including her son, an avid soccer player, who is now 11 years old.
Vidger is just one example of millions of women entrepreneurs who are making an enormous impact on the American economic landscape. To highlight their achievements, Inc. has identified the top 10 fastest growing, women-owned (and women-run) businesses in America. What you'll find is a rare glimpse into the world of companies that have grown on average from 1,000 percent to 10,000 percent. And for those of you who are wondering…no…the economy has not slowed them down one bit.
According to the Center for Women's Business Research, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, nearly 10.4 million firms are owned by women, employing more than 12.8 million people, and generating $1.9 trillion in sales in 2004.
With growth a primary goal, it makes sense that "the number of women-owned businesses continues to grow at twice the rate of all U.S. firms," reports the National Women's Business Council in Washington, D.C. As technology improves and women leveraging their workplace skills, the playing field is leveling for women who are growing their companies at warp speed. The experts cite the following trends:
The recent push toward entrepreneurship is twofold: "Women really want more control over their lives and their careers," explains Margaret Barton, Executive Director of the NWBC. "They've come up with a great business idea, they're confident in their skills, and they realize that they don't have to deal with the overhead costs of office space." A study conducted by the SBA Office of the Advocacy show that women are hanging out a shingle at home in record numbers. The 2004 Population Survey results reveal that women have a 61.3 percent participation rate in home-based businesses.
As more women hang out a shingle, the demographic makeup of these leaders is changing as well. Women of color now own one in five of all women-owned firms, for example. These firms employ nearly 1.1 million people and generate more than $161 billion in revenues.
Increasingly, these CEOs are expanding into nontraditional areas of commerce including construction, manufacturing, and transportation, which has seen the biggest spike in participation, although the Women's Business Center indicates that retail (16%) and services (53%) still make up the largest share of women-owned firms.
Take Nicole Loftus, president and CEO of Chicago-based Zorch International, for example. Her company, which ranks 8th on this year's Inc. 500 list, has grown a whopping 10,822 percent in the past few years thanks to an innovative supply chain model that cuts out middle man distributors. "It allows the manufacturer to work directly with the end user buyer," says Loftus.
Her bread and butter are cups, mugs, shirts, hats, pens, and banners with corporate logos on them. After working in the apparel industry since age 14 at a wholesale factory and later Levi Strauss & Co., "I started working at a large distributor in the promotional product industry, which is where I discovered the need for a new supply chain and started Zorch at 32," says Loftus. Revenues have grown $23 million in the past year alone. Similarly, CEOs like Kelly Petersen of the Labor Law Center provides products, too. Their posters, forms, and employment kits keep other businesses in compliance with labor laws.
Delving into the sciences, engineering, and tech fields suits Jingli Yang, Ph.D., CEO of Earth Resources Technology Inc., No. 127 on the Inc. 500 list, just fine. A provider of IT support services to clients like NASA and NOAA, she expects 2008 revenues to double to $50 million, from the previous year.
At a time when the economy is hurting from a mortgage meltdown, Michele Shoda's company, Solid Source Realty is thriving. The company sits at No. 95 on the Inc. 500 list this year.
Sure Shoda was smart enough to take advantage of the real estate boom by opening her brokerage in January 2003. But what made her genius was creating a system "to allow agents to keep more commission instead of paying up to 50 percent to the broker holding his or her license," says Shoda, whose company earned $32 million in revenues.
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District of Columbia
Provides custom software development, system integration and professional services to commercial as well as federal, state and local governments.
Revenue Growth: 109.6%2006 Revenue: $8.1 million
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