No wonder “Nashville” entrepreneur Rayna James started her Highway 65 label in her hometown city. Even though the singer played by actress Connie Britton on the ABC-TV drama is fictional (as is her blockbuster country music record label), it is very real news that Nashville just snagged the title of No. 1 city in the country for women entrepreneurs, according to the latest research from Wallethub.
The 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. were ranked on a number of factors from friendliest to women, revenue growth and the number of women-owned business centers. The list crisscrosses the country in all directions and includes perhaps unrecognized nirvanas for women business owners such as Indianapolis or Oklahoma City, as well as predictable urban hubs plus Honolulu.
While Nashville is No. 1 overall in points earned for women business owners and women leaders, Tulsa ranks first in the friendliest environment for women biz owners. San Antonio ranks tops in what the study refers to as female entrepreneurship ranking.
The top three out of five cities for women business owners are in Tennessee– with Chattanooga and Memphis also up there with Nashville. If you’re not fixing to move to the city that is home to Elvis’ rock and roll residence, you may also consider Milwaukee and Columbus. Those Midwestern sites are rated as prime locales for female business leaders. Minneapolis is ranked No. 1 for business climate for women.
Of course, it is unfair to tease with the winners without also revealing the cities ranked as the worst for female business owners. At the bottom of the 100 are Greenville, S.C. and Ventura, Calif. Rated the worst is San Jose, according to the study.
Location helps, yes, but success as a woman business leader is not all about the zip code. Author Sara Laschever, founding faculty member of the Carnegie Mellon Leadership and Negotiation Academy for Women and an expert resource on this study, said that in every part of the country, “Women make the mistake of not asking for enough money to ensure that their organizations are fully capitalized which can put their companies at risk.”
Laschever who wrote the bible on negotiating for women, Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiating—And Positive Strategies for Change, acknowledges that women own close to 30 percent of all privately owned companies in this country, yet often do not aggressively seek financial backing. But that practice can change, regardless of where you live and work.
Logging in at No. 60 on the list of cities friendly to female businesses is the metro area encompassing New York City; Newark, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Hoping perhaps to change that ranking, the City of New York’s Department of Small Business Services announced last week it is launching an impressive and ambitious free mentorship program for 5,000 women entrepreneurs.
Partnering with Women Entrepreneurs NYC (WE NYC), the goal is to mentor and assist women who want to launch companies in the metro area with networking events, courses and guidance. Heather Senison writing for AM New York, quoted Rachel Von Tosh, acting commissioner for business development at the NYC department of Small Business Services: “Women entrepreneurs are key economic actors in the city. They have a real impact here. They also contribute to their communities and to their families in a really meaningful way.”
In a separate, earlier study also weighing in on location, results from Womenable and American Express showed that the greatest growth in women owned businesses over the last 18 years has been in Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, North Dakota and New York.
And to be balanced, it is prudent to show what states ranked lowest. According to the study, “The five states at the bottom of the combined economic clout ranking are: Iowa, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont and Ohio.”
Overall, this AmEx study shows good news for women business owners and entrepreneurs all across the country. The number of women-owned businesses increased 51 percent from 1997 to 2015, accounting for $1 trillion in sales and revenue, employing more than 7.9 million people.
The greatest growth was in African-American women-owned businesses, at an enormous rate of 322 percent rise from 1997 through last year, according to the report. Close to 1.4 million businesses in this country are owned by African American women, employing 297,500 people with revenues of $52.7 billion. Proving there is near parity in African American owned businesses, women-owned business account of 49 percent of all African American owned businesses.
“Their growth in number and economic clout is generally far outpacing that of all women owned firms,” according to the study.
Latinas who own businesses brought in even higher revenues at nearly $75 billion from more than 1 million companies employing more than 451,000 people. That is an increase in 224 percent since 1997.
Overall, news is good for female entrepreneurs coast to coast, North to South. But if you are plotting a move or a business launch, having a keen sense of female-friendly geography may help.