Women are starting up businesses in strong numbers across the country. The tally of women-led companies in 2016 was up 2.8 percent, to 1.12 million, from 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs. The places where they're succeeding most are worth examining--particularly in light of the historical difficulties women entrepreneurs have faced relative to their male counterparts. Besides struggling to gain credibility, finding capital has been a consistent obstacle for female founders.
Using data from this year's list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private U.S. companies, Inc. ranked metro areas according to the number of women-led businesses that call them home. These top 10 cities may well be the most hospitable places in the U.S. for female founders.
Cities across Texas are gaining recognition for their startup-friendly ecosystems (you'll see more on this list below). The Houston metropolitan area is home to 15 women-owned Inc. 5000 companies, including online marketing startup Decode Digital Marketing (No. 973) and health care staffing firm Restore Rehab Services (No. 2,645). Together the 15 firms grew their collective revenue 142 percent between 2015 and 2018.
Seventeen fast-growing women-owned businesses have set up shop in the City of Brotherly Love. Among them are Susan Jacobson's public relations firm Jacobson Strategic Communications (No. 3,971) and Mikal Harden's and Vicki Sack's human relations company Juno Search Partners (No. 4,472).
Nineteen women-owned Inc. 5000 companies are based in the Atlanta area--four more than last year--in industries ranging from food and beverage to health. For example, corporate catering company Sifted (No. 188) grew 2,099 percent between 2015 and 2018, while home health care startup Advanced Care Partners (No. 1,377) grew 300 percent in the same three-year span.
There are plenty of reasons to consider Chicago a prominent startup hub. One big reason: Twenty-one Chicago area companies on this year's list are helmed by women. That list includes Leah Caplanis's beverages business, Social Sparkling Wine (No. 513), and Stephanie Klein's credit solution startup, Braviant Holdings (No. 1,002).
Austin upholds its reputation as a southern startup haven with 22 women-led Inc. 5000 companies, which grew their collective revenue 169 percent between 2015 and 2018. Their firms represent wide-ranging industries from renewable energy equipment seller Kinect Solar (No. 162), to organic personal care manufacturer Texas Beauty Labs (No. 288) and wedding dress e-commerce shop Revelry (No. 326).
5. San Francisco
Among this year's fastest-growing companies in San Francisco are women-owned startups like meal-planning app Real Plans (No. 200) and dating app Coffee Meets Bagel (No. 952). The former grew 2,018 percent between 2015 and 2018, while the latter, founded by sisters Arum and Dawoon Kang, saw its revenue soar 446 percent over the same period.
Houston and Austin aren't the only Texas cities friendly to female founders. Dallas is home to 29 women-owned Inc. 5000 companies this year, including women's fashion apparel distributor Katydid (No. 744), apartment locator Smart City Locating (No. 670), and IT software producer Sigma Software (No. 1,426).
3. Los Angeles
The L.A. metro area hosts 36 of this year's women-led Inc. 5000 companies, which tend to overindex in the advertising and marketing industries. Loren Rochelle runs the ad tech agency NOM (No. 10), which grew 11,996 percent between 2015 and 2018, while Ali Grant helms the influencer marketing firm Be Social (No. 677), which saw a 644 percent increase in revenue during the same period.
2. New York City
The Big Apple has a rich history of attracting female founders. This year, NYC took second place with 43 women-led Inc. 5000 companies. Prominent businesses include hiring software firm Pymetrics (No. 338), menstrual underwear maker Thinx (No. 641), and bi-coastal yoga studio startup Y7 (No. 725).
1. Washington, D.C.
While the D.C. area is home to a plethora of government contractors--many of which are on Inc.'s 2019 list--it's a popular spot for all types of women-run companies. There are 72 Inc. 5000 companies led by women on this year's list. Among them are grant-writing service Elevate (No. 1,882) and event content marketing agency Hubb (No. 826).