Thursday, March 8th was International Women’s Day. It was the perfect time to shine a light on Birmingham’s finest women business owners such as Judy Smith, President of Smiths Machine, which became a certified Woman-Owned Business in 1996.
Today, Smiths Machine LLC employs over 100 highly skilled workers who provide state-of-the-art precision and quality typically demanded by customers in the defense, aerospace and medical industries.
The number of women and minorities in the Birmingham metro area who are leaving their corporate jobs to pursue their dream of entrepreneurship continues to grow according to an analysis performed by the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA).
An in-depth analysis of the economic census report data was conducted by Michael Shattack, the BBA’s director of research. The study found that the Birmingham-Hoover area surpassed the national and Alabama averages in the growth of black and women-owned businesses. The area lagged in the growth of Hispanic, Asian and Pacific-American Indian companies most likely because of smaller percentages of population compared to the 28 percent of African Americans who live in metro Birmingham.
The 2007 Survey of Business Owners (SBO) does not reflect the troubling times since 2008 when the worst recession since the Great Depression swept its way across the U.S. However, it does highlight the successes of an often-ignored segment of the Birmingham metro area economy- businesses run by women and minorities. Among Shattuck’s e findings:
• The number of businesses rose by 21.7% in Birmingham compared to 2002 as there were 93,718 total businesses in 2007. The increase significantly outpaced the U.S. average of 17.9%.
• Total women-owned companies increased from 37.5% of all businesses in metro Birmingham in 2007 compared to 30.5% in 2002 which was the highest increase among the three other metro areas surveyed.
• African American-owned businesses comprised 16.5 % of all companies in metro Birmingham and more than doubled between 2002 and 2007 which was the highest increase among peer metro areas.
Early signs indicate that the trend has continued, however one won’t know for certain until the next Survey of Business Owners (SBO). What is for certain is that there are many resources available for minorities and women with the passion to start their own businesses. For example:
The Women’s Funding Network promotes the development and growth of women’s funds that empower women and girls by fostering strategic alliances among women, donors, communities and institutions. As of 2011, the network’s members have invested $65 million annually in women and girls worldwide.
There is an Office of Women’s Business Ownership within the Small Business Administration. In an effort to level the playing field since many women still face unique obstacles in the world of business, the Office is available to counsel, teach, encourage and inspire female entrepreneurs.
Dale Carnegie once said, “Take a chance! All life is a chance. The man who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.” Bravo to Birmingham’s minority and female business owners for taking a chance and succeeding!
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