The financial website WalletHub wanted to know what places offered the best environment for women entrepreneurs. So it looked at the 100 largest metropolitan regions in the country. It compared them across 10 key metrics, indicating friendliness toward female entrepreneurs, and included measures such as average revenue growth of women-owned businesses, presence of women's business centers and industry variety for women-owned firms. It weighted three of these factors most heavily:
Read on to see which cities made the top 10.
This tropical city ranked well in female entrepreneurship on WalletHub's list of the best cities for women business owners. It's home to a handful of women-focused business centers, including the Hawaii Women's Business Center — part of the U.S. Small Business Administration. This group provides local women entrepreneurs with business training, counseling and networking opportunities to help them start and grow their own companies.
A growing number of technology accelerators are being created in Honolulu and are giving women a chance to find the talent and financing they need. One such accelerator is Blue Startups, co-founded by two women — Chenoa Farnsworth and Maya Rogers. This accelerator focuses on scalable tech companies concentrating on web, software and mobile breakthroughs, and a good number of the applicants accepted into the program are women.
This city is making it easy for women entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses. In fact, it ranked No. 6 out of the 100 cities WalletHub examined for overall friendliness toward new businesses. One example: the Triad Startup Lab, which is part of the Greensboro Partnership Entrepreneur Connection. It offers programs to help women start and grow small businesses.
The Startup Lab is designed for two audiences: those looking to launch a business (the 101 Series) and those who want to take their company to the next level. The Startup group receives counseling on how to start a company, including everything from how to define your customer base to how to file taxes. For those with established businesses, the Lab offers a growth series that gives advice on how to increase sales, expand your market and reach more customers. All the programs are funded by the city of Greensboro, along with community partners.
The Partnership Entrepreneur Connection also holds a monthly "Idea Slam," where budding entrepreneurs have four minutes to present their idea for a new business or product and receive questions and feedback from an audience of peers and small-business experts.
Seattle may make the headlines with its youthful workforce and thriving tech-related start-ups, but women business owners are finding friendly conditions in Spokane as well.
A Women's Business Center, part of a national start-up network headed by the U.S. Small Business Administration, is helping women in the city — located in the eastern part of the state — get access to the tools and support they need to start and grow their companies. Greater Spokane Inc. (GSI) is an organization that promotes and supports entrepreneurs with a number of different initiatives, including Startup Spokane, which offers one-on-one assistance and mentor opportunities.
Part of GSI as well is Startup Spokane Central, a co-working space located on the ground floor of the Spokane Entrepreneurial Center. For a membership fee of $100 per month, it gives women business owners and other entrepreneurs the chance to meet, network and learn from each other, as well as participate in business events that can help grow their companies.
This midwestern city is becoming a hotbed for start-ups, especially women-owned companies. Among the reasons: the enormous number of resources dedicated to helping female entrepreneurs start and grow their companies.
For instance, the Kansas City Women's Business Center has been providing counseling and business workshops for women-owned firms since 2000. It's partnered with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to teach women-only FastTrac classes in finance and cash management and recently launched the Women's Capital Connection. This angel-investor network is focusing on supporting women-led companies and last year invested $745,000 in nine start-ups and early stage companies in the city.
In addition, KCSourceLink was created to help small businesses succeed by coordinating networking events such as Global Entrepreneurship Week and by connecting companies with resources for capital and grant money.
This city — long known as the image capital of the world because of Kodak's headquarters being located there — ranks high on a number of surveys looking at the best places for female entrepreneurs. Of the 100 metro areas surveyed by WalletHub, Rochester ranked No. 5 for the best business climate for women.
Part of the appeal can actually be traced to Kodak's decline. As the photography giant shed jobs over the decades, it enabled its highly skilled and educated workforce to take their talents and start new companies of their own. Late last year the ROC Power Group was formed to encourage entrepreneurship and business ownership among women. The group offers women in the city a variety of networking, educational programs and seminars to help increase their knowledge and expand their companies.
The second-best business climate for women entrepreneurs, according to WalletHub, is in this midwestern city. With a population of nearly 1 million residents and a low unemployment rate of 4.2 percent, Milwaukee has put in place a number of programs and training offerings to help women business owners grow their companies.
For example, the Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative Corporation's Milwaukee office is a leading-edge economic development outfit that provides business education, one-on-one assistance, direct loans and access to other capital and asset-building programs. It's part of a nationwide network of Women's Business Centers that are funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Women's Business Ownership.
The WWBIC offers classes (in both English and Spanish) on everything from how to write a business plan and apply for a loan to making projections and understanding cash flow. Volunteers meet with women business owners to review every aspect of running a company and help with networking events and introductions to potential vendors, buyers and new customers.
One of the criteria used in WalletHub's survey of the best cities for women business owners was the overall friendliness toward new ventures, including access to financing, office space availability and labor costs. And like its neighbor Chattanooga, Memphis ranked high (No. 4) on this measure.
The city, located in the southwestern part of Tennessee, has a number of services to help women start and grow their own companies. The Women's Network for Entrepreneurial Training links seasoned entrepreneurs with women whose businesses are ready to grow. Experienced female business owners offer technical advice and training to women with fewer skills and less experience.
Likewise, the Women's Resource Center is a one-stop shop for training, counseling and technical assistance for start-ups and existing women business owners. The WRC provides interactive learning experiences and offers opportunities for women business owners to grow and promote their companies. And the Grow Memphis Fund gives women-owned companies access to capital that is beyond what they could get from conventional lending sources to use for things like inventory, equipment and working capital.
Its central location, industry diversity and young, educated workforce make Columbus a great place to start a small business. And with help from the state, the city is seeing more of those businesses started by women. For instance, the Women's Business Center of Ohio in Columbus is funded by the Small Business Administration and works with women at all stages of business formation to help them grow. One-on-one counseling sessions connect female-owned businesses with resources and networking opportunities and give them access to technical training and workshop programs.
The Women's Small Business Accelerator of Central Ohio is located in a suburb of Columbus and offers female entrepreneurs affordable, shared office space as well as access to coaching, mentoring and peer support.
Women business owners that locate in Columbus will also find an attractive cost of living (lower than the state and national average), affordable housing, good schools and a low (4.2 percent) unemployment rate. And with the city's recent $20 million investment in bike and fitness trails that connect the suburbs to downtown's riverfront park system, life outside of work is pretty attractive, too.
When it comes to providing resources for women entrepreneurs, Chattanooga is giving other cities a run for their money. The Small Business Administration named the city one of the top places for female-owned companies, and it trails only Nashville as the best place for a woman to start her own firm, according to WalletHub.
The city — and its women business owners — have benefited greatly from efforts at both the state and local levels. Business accelerator programs throughout the state, including the Lab Accelerator, have helped women get the funding and guidance they need to start and grow their companies. The Chattanooga Women's Leadership Institute and the Business Development Center in North Chattanooga also provide resources, especially when it comes to businesses in the tech space. And in 2013, The Jump Fund was created to invest in more female-owned businesses in Chattanooga. More than 50 female investors contributed a total of $2.5 million to the fund, which has invested in a dozen female-owned or female-headed firms so far.
Like Nashville, Chattanooga has a low unemployment rate (4.6 percent), no state income taxes and a business-friendly regulatory environment. The city, nicknamed the Gig City because it claims it has the fastest internet service in the Western Hemisphere, also offers a robust downtown filled with local shops, restaurants and art galleries, as well as plentiful outdoor activities, including cycling and rock climbing.
Tennessee is becoming a hot spot for women entrepreneurs. In fact, three of the top 10 best cities for women business owners are located within the so-called Volunteer State. Nashville, its capital, is especially supportive of women entrepreneurs. The U.S. Small Business Administration opened a Women's Business Center in the city last year, charged with offering in-depth business consulting, classroom training, and peer-to-peer learning for women in all stages of operating a business.
The city also benefits from Launch Tennessee, a public-private partnership that focuses on supporting high-growth companies in the state. Thirty percent of the graduates from a recent masterclass — which draws from accelerator programs across Tennessee — are women business owners.
Nashville's unemployment rate of 3.5 percent is well below the national average and the city's affordability and low taxes (it has no state income tax) makes it an attractive place to start a business. Hiking, cycling and other outdoor activities contribute to a nice quality of life and, as the heart of the country music scene (and home to the Grand Ole Opry) it's a city that continually ranks high among best places to visit.