Do You Know a Woman Entrepreneur?

Women, in business? Women entrepreneurs? YES and I bet you know at least six!

What is an entrepreneur?
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines an entrepreneur as one who organizes, manages and assumes the risk of a business or enterprise.

It is as simple as that. I used to think that to be an entrepreneur you had to open some huge brick and mortar store or manufacture and sell volumes of some product. True, people who do those things are entrepreneurs. But putting together and running your own business – with your livelihood on the line is the same thing – and very, very common among women.

So if you don’t think you can be an entrepreneur – you are wrong. If you don’t think you know a woman entrepreneur – you are most likely wrong. In 5 minutes, I listed 11 woman owned and operated businesses that I have first hand knowledge of and experience with. I bet you can too.

Eleven woman owned and operated businesses

Independent Beauty Consultant
I have known several women learning the ropes in the sales area by being a Mary Kay, Avon or other beauty consultant – learning and delivering marketing, sales, accounting, recruiting and more. A few make it to the top of the chain. Many use it as a learning tool prior to launching another business. Some use it for supplemental income.

Jessica became a Mary Kay consultant to earn money, be involved and learn the ropes while still being able to be a stay at home Mom. She built up a clientele, set up a web site, marketed her products, made and delivered her sales and enjoyed the experience while earning extra bucks.

House cleaner
Cleaning your own home is sometimes a labor of love (that a lot would like to avoid!). Many people would rather spend their time on more productive or fun activities, resulting in a big demand for house cleaning services. Many franchises have been developed to supply the services, but there are many more independent business owners with clients.

Cindy is one of those independent business owners. Her husband lost his job. Her job as a waitress in a bar didn’t pay all the bills. She lined up houses to clean, charged $300 per house for an initial full scale cleaning and then went each week, every two weeks or once a month to the client houses for the periodic cleaning. If she lined up a house each day and cleaned it herself, she would earn at least $3000 a month (30 days times $100 per house – one house per day). If you started this kind of business, you could expand out to local businesses, hire students to help speed up the cleaning or subcontract some of the houses out for a fee to others to clean.

Resort Owner/manager
If you enjoy people and don’t mind working hard for part of the year and coasting the rest of the time, you could own a business that runs a resort or bed and breakfast.

Colleen was a co-owner and the manger and operator of a lakefront resort in Branson. She took out a loan to purchase the motel style resort with boat slip and took over the clientele from the prior owner. At first she did all the cleaning, laundry, advertising, reserving and services for the resort. As it started making more money, she started hiring out some of those functions to others. The resort is seasonal, so she works very, very hard for 4 months of the year and catches up with non-guest related activities in the remaining months.

Real Estate Agent
You may not think of a realtor as an entrepreneur, but in reality, each real estate sales person working for a real estate broker is running an office within an office. The realtor is responsible for finding their own houses to list, getting their own network of buyers and sellers in place, writing the contracts, accounting for their sales and etc. The broker is responsible for running the office but not the agents.

Janie has been selling real estate for 25 years in the same area. She has built up a list of many, many repeat and referral customers.

Hair salon owner/stylist
Another business that women start frequently, without the need for a college degree, is that of beauty salon owner. Often they will start out as a stylist trainee, move to a franchised salon as an employee, then strike out on their own by renting a booth in a salon. Later they decide that they want to own the salon so they take out a loan, find a suitable location and set up shop – becoming landladies as well as stylists in the process.

Terri has been my hairdresser for the past 22 years. We have been through births, illnesses, deaths, weddings, graduations and more in those years. She is currently in the independent stylist phase – renting a booth in a salon owned by another woman. Although Terri may never decide to move on to that next phase, with its incumbent property and rental problems, her salon landlady seems to be doing quite well with the salon.

Gem show organizer/saleswoman
Dealers at gem shows can specialize in loose stones, jewelry, African art, beads, polished stones, minerals, fossils and gifts. They buy the items at a discounted price, rent space in shows across the country and sell their wares at the shows. Some of the dealers also organize their own shows, arranging for the space, marketing the show, inviting dealers and managing the show – taking a profit on the show itself as well as the wares they sell in it.

Sharon has been a gem show dealer for at least 15 years. She travels to shows multiple times a year to show her wares. Recently she decided to organize her own show in hopes of working that end of the business she now knows well. To get started in this business, she found and utilized a mentor dealer.

An eye for composition, a bit of money for a good digital camera and some training and experience in photo editing can position you for starting your own photography business.

Brittney, a twenty something currently attending college, jump started her business with the help of her Mom’s big Facebook network and her step father’s web site development skills. She has successfully obtained and shot multiple gigs – weddings, parties, portraits and landed a choice New York photography internship.

Day Care Home Provider
With most families now needing two breadwinners to raise a family, childcare is essential. Many families prefer the more intimate, casual and personal care provided in someone else’s home. A low cost entry into the child care business is obtained via a licensed day care home. Watch other people’s kids in your home. Day care providers now charge between $100- $400 a week per child. State law regulates child care – determining how many children you can watch and what the adult to child ratio must be.

Marie ran a licensed day care home full time for 4 years to earn money to go back to school to learn to be a programmer. To obtain the license, she had to get the consent of each neighbor with property touching hers and pass a state inspection. She could only watch 3 children under 2 years of age – or 6 total children. She combined child care with pre-school learning activities – making sure to let the parent’s know as much as possible about what their child did and learned each day.

Web site owner/operator
The information revolution – with the birth of the internet – has opened up uncharted territories for many new types of businesses. Web stores, informational sites with ad revenue, social networking sites, subscription services sites, crowd funding, crowd referral and many other types of online businesses have started. The revolution is still in progress, many new undiscovered types of online endeavors wait in the wings for you to start.

Dede, an event coordinator whose job was moved out from under her, started an online pet supply store. She hired someone to build a web site, used her old employer as her wholesale supplier of pet foods, treats and etc and leased a warehouse from which to pack and ship. She markets using her extensive network of the Susan G. Komen organization (Dede is a 10 year survivor), booths at local festivals and events, a web site newsletter and word of mouth.

Antique mall owner/saleswoman/landlady
If you love finding old treasures at garage sales, tag sales and thrift stores you can try to make a business from your interest. I personally have tried buying and re-selling antiques and collectibles in a booth rented from an antique mall owner. I came to the conclusion that the mall owner must be the one making the money!

You will likely need a loan to purchase (or possibly lease) an appropriate space to house the antique mall. A location close to a highway, in a historic district with a lot of traffic or in a touristy area would be needed to insure enough traffic to attract buyers. You will market to attract booth renters as well as antique buyers. Renters will pay a monthly fee to rent a booth and also probably pay a commission on each sale as well as work at the mall a day or so a month. You will need to be able, or have someone else who is able, to move heavy and large furniture and other objects around in the store as well as to help load them into customer’s vehicles. You will need an inventory and sales system as well as accounting software as well as enough parking for your customers.

Inga brought many treasures from Germany to the US after WWII and has added to those collectibles and antiques over the years. She obtained a historic building at the junction of two highways close to a historic town and divided it into many booth spaces. She owned and operated the mall (with help from one or two full time attendants) for several years.

Medial Transcriptionist
A medical transcription job involves listening to verbal records made by medical personal and transcribing them to written (usually electronic) records. It involves a need for good listening and typing skills, a knowledge of medical terms, a high degree of accuracy and a degree of speed.

Jeanette happened into a medical transcription business. She was at her doctor’s office one day and overheard the staff talking about the need for someone to convert the verbal report to a written one. Jeanette asked for the work and got it. She eventually set up a business with multiple medical clients, working from home at night after the family went to bed. She transcribes to this day.

This may be one of those jobs that gets replaced by software in the not too distant future, when the voice to word programs get sophisticated enough to handle medical terminology.

What businesses do the women in your life run? Are you a woman entrepreneur?

This post is a part of Women’s Money Week 2012. For more posts about women as entrepreneurs, see

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