Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=215368
Story Retrieval Date: 1/27/2015 3:00:00 PM CST
Rena Frasure, founder of Vixen Vice Cosmetics, speaks at a networking event.
Women entrepreneurs are taking charge like a boss. Literally.
As women embrace the social freedom that comes with 2013, women entrepreneurs are growing at a rapid rate. Some women choose to run a business from their house so they can stay home with their children, while others desire the freedom that they don’t get in the corporate world. Regardless of why they’re doing it, women entrepreneurs are large and in charge.
“As of 2012, it is estimated that there are more than 8.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating nearly $1.3 trillion in revenues and employing nearly 7.7 million people,” according to the second annual State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, commissioned by American Express OPEN.
“Between 1997 and 2012, when the number of businesses in the United States increased by 37 percent, the number of women-owned firms increased by 54 percent, a rate 1.5 times the national average,” the report said.
“Women are just taking more control of their careers,” said Melissa Lagowski, executive director of the National Association of Women Business Owners Chicago.
255,664 businesses in Chicago alone are registered with NAWBO Chicago.
“They want to make decisions that affect them and take their ideas to the marketplace,” Lagowski said. “I feel like the general business climate is more receptive to women in the workplace.”
Kiela Smith-Upton is one of those women who love the freedom running a business gives her. She started Songhay Studios, an arts consulting company, over 20 years ago. She’s worked as Chicago Public Schools vendor and on many other independent projects.
"When I was in art school, my art history teacher said, ‘I want you to look around this room. Do you know that only 5 percent of you will make a living in the arts?’”
“And I thought to myself 'are you kidding? All this money we're spending on art school?’ I said, ‘Well I'm gonna be part of that 5 percent.’”
Through her business she’s been able to be an artist, while being a mom for her children.
“It empowers us to be able to be available while still making money,” Smith-Upton said.
She said women are natural business owners.
“I think as women we're amazing. We manage whole households. A lot of us manage the husband too. They look to us to keep things running, keep the machine oiled. We know how to multitask and we have to.”
Though her business has expanded from strictly mural design to more of a legal and consulting role, she said she still loves it so much that she helps run weekly networking events for business professionals. Many of people who come are women business owners.
Lagowski said it’s important for women to network together so they can make sure women are getting equal chances.
“Women have a giving nature and I think that we have a general spirit to support one another and succeed,” Lagowski said. “It's our responsibility to ensure that women stay in business and succeed and are more successful in the future.”
She might have had Chicago resident Rena Frasure in mind. Frasure founded Vixen Vice Cosmetics just seven months ago. She decided to start a company because she couldn’t find the right shade for her complexion and because of her affinity for lip gloss.
Frasure says running a business is important because she was never taught as a child that she could be an entrepreneur – and she is teaching her children that.
“I see my children asking questions about my business,” Frasure said. “And now my daughter asks me, 'Mom, can you create me a website? I want do this, I want to do that' because my daughter loves sewing. For me it teaches them that they always have something to fall back on because they have a skill, and they develop that skill and they learn the art of business young.”
She started the business from her savings.
"It feels good because at the end of the day when I have an order I don't have to worry about, ‘Oh, I have to pay this person or I owe that person.’"
Frasure’s business is strictly e-commerce now, but the goal is to eventually hit major department stores.
“I'm excited about the possibilities and looking forward to the growth,” Frasure said.
The Women’s Business Development Center in Chicago is a sister agency to NAWBO Chicago, Lagowski said. The WBDC offers many resources for women who are starting businesses including a 12-week business development, business plan writing clinics, individual business counseling and a micro finance program.