Entrepreneurship was once an opportunity accessible only to men. Save for a handful of audacious women who defied such strict gender codes, most females historically failed to break through the barriers of the male-dominated business space. But we live in the 21st century now, an era in which women are a powerful force in society, especially in our economy.
Today, it is not only common for women to be entrepreneurs, but it also means being part of an influential group. According to an American Express OPEN-commissioned report, more than 9.4 million women-owned businesses currently operate in the U.S. Combined, those firms account for nearly a third of all privately held companies, pull in annual revenues to the tune of $1.5 trillion and provide jobs to roughly eight million workers. What’s more, they’re among the fastest-growing enterprises in the nation — increasing at a rate 1.5 times the U.S. average and topping “the growth rates of all but the largest, publicly-traded firms” in the past 18 years.
If you’re aiming to become the next Madam C.J. Walker or Jessica Alba, two women known for their epic entrepreneurial achievements, you might want to carefully consider where to plant the seeds of your future empire. Location plays a key role in the success of any business but an even bigger one for women-owned firms. That’s because some areas are better than others at encouraging female entrepreneurship and recognizing its value.
To help women find the most fertile ground for their enterprises, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas, or MSAs, across 10 key metrics indicating friendliness toward this group. Our data set ranges from average revenue growth of women-owned businesses to presence of women’s business centers to industry variety for women-owned firms. Scroll down for the results, expert commentary and a detailed description of our methodology.
‘Overall New-Business Friendliness’ Rank
‘Female Entrepreneurship’ Rank
‘Business Climate for Women’ Rank
|5||Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI||66.44||30||48||2|
|7||Kansas City, MO-KS||64.82||22||14||25|
|8||Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA||64.60||25||55||11|
|9||Greensboro-High Point, NC||64.57||6||56||40|
|11||Oklahoma City, OK||63.17||14||5||86|
|13||Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY||62.90||42||35||5|
|14||St. Louis, MO-IL||61.95||31||19||25|
|16||Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI||61.22||11||41||76|
|17||Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI||61.16||57||25||1|
|19||Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA||60.67||19||88||16|
|20||New Haven-Milford, CT||60.57||N/A||33||22|
|21||San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX||60.35||40||1||89|
|23||Salt Lake City, UT||60.18||27||11||69|
|25||Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC||59.82||37||10||38|
|26||Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC||59.67||5||73||72|
|27||Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN||59.47||17||28||88|
|35||New Orleans-Metairie, LA||57.72||8||37||96|
|36||Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX||57.30||26||12||89|
|37||Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT||56.26||N/A||57||22|
|38||Colorado Springs, CO||55.71||33||62||35|
|44||Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA||54.49||46||8||72|
|45||Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL||54.28||N/A||32||46|
|51||Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA||53.10||34||69||45|
|53||El Paso, TX||52.75||15||79||89|
|55||Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL||52.48||50||40||46|
|58||Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL||51.35||N/A||45||46|
|60||New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA||50.70||74||15||5|
|64||Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX||48.74||38||61||89|
|67||Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL||48.05||64||13||46|
|69||Baton Rouge, LA||47.70||20||84||96|
|71||Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV||47.48||55||29||85|
|72||Austin-Round Rock, TX||47.07||58||16||89|
|75||Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||46.23||68||17||59|
|78||Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||45.88||70||7||59|
|79||Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL||45.46||55||78||46|
|81||Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR||44.90||35||94||79|
|84||Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL||43.54||N/A||90||46|
|86||Charleston-North Charleston, SC||42.55||N/A||36||98|
|89||San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||41.01||77||18||59|
|92||San Diego-Carlsbad, CA||39.56||71||63||59|
|95||North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL||39.10||N/A||100||46|
|99||Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA||31.64||77||92||59|
|100||San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||31.26||79||89||59|
Ask the Experts
Most women who enjoy success in their business are likely to admit that starting out wasn’t easy. For insight into the current challenges of building a business as a woman as well as advice for local governments that have yet to harness the entrepreneurial power of the women in their communities, we asked a panel of experts to weigh in. Click on the experts’ profiles to read their bios and thoughts on the following key questions:
- Why are women less likely than men to become entrepreneurs?
- What are the most common mistakes made by young female entrepreneurs?
- In what fields are female entrepreneurs having the most success?
- What is the most effective way local authorities can encourage women to become entrepreneurs?
Ask the Experts
In order to identify the best metro areas for women-owned businesses, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 100 most populated metropolitan statistical areas, or MSAs, across three key dimensions: 1) Overall New-Business Friendliness, 2) Female Entrepreneurship and 3) Business Climate for Women.
First, we compiled 10 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was given a value between 0 and 100, wherein 100 is the best value for that metric and 0 is the worst.
We then calculated the overall score for each MSA using the weighted average across all metrics and ranked them accordingly.
Overall New Business Friendliness (WalletHub “Start a Business” Ranking) – Total Points: 30
Female Entrepreneurship – Total Points: 50
- Percentage of Women-Owned Businesses: Triple Weight (~16.67 Points)
Calculated as: “Number of Female-Owned Firms with Paid Employees” divided by “Total Number of Firms with Paid Employees”
- Average Percentage Growth of Women-Owned Businesses (2012 vs. 2007): Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
- Percentage of Employees in Women-Owned Businesses: Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
Calculated as: “Number of Employees in Women-Owned Businesses” divided by “Number of Employees in All Businesses”
- Average Revenue of Women-Owned Businesses: Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
Notes: (Sales, receipts, or value of shipments of firms with paid employees)*1,000/ (Number of Female–Owned Firms with Paid Employees)
- Average Revenue Growth of Women-Owned Businesses (2012 vs. 2007): Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
- Industry Variety for Women-Owned Firms: Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
- Presence of Small Business Administration’s Women’s Business Centers: Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
Business Climate for Women – Total Points: 20
- WalletHub “Working Moms” Ranking: Full Weight (~10 Points)
- WalletHub “Gender Inequality” Ranking: Full Weight (~10 Points)
Sources: Data used to create these rankings were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Small Business Administration and WalletHub research.