LEDA/Opportunity Machine

Wildcatting Women Female-owned businesses in Acadiana increasingly contribute to our economic diversity, resilience and prosperity.

by Gregg Gothreaux, LEDA

Lafayette’s economy has been led by the traditionally male-dominated energy industry. However, as women entrepreneurs across America create jobs, optimism and opportunities, we see the women of Acadiana adopting our famous “wildcatter mentality” and joining their male counterparts to the benefit of our community.

Female entrepreneurs and executives are impacting much more than how business gets done in America — they are shaping and redefining the workplace, the nation’s business networks, financial institutions and our culture. Womenowned companies along with other minority-owned businesses play a unique role in diversifying the business community’s outlook and have successfully changed the economic landscape. The growing number of women- and minority-owned businesses in Acadiana allows our residents more diverse and competitive services and goods by providing more locally owned options.

According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau Survey of Business Owners, there are 9.8 million womenowned firms, employing 8.4 million people and generating sales of nearly $1.4 trillion in the U.S. The growth of women entrepreneurs in the U.S. has been impressive — there are 2 million more women-owned businesses in this country now than when the survey was last conducted. And overall, women-owned and equally owned businesses account for 47 percent of all businesses in America.

At the state level, Louisiana has more than 151,000 women-owned businesses, with 131,084 employees and sales in excess of $19.7 billion. American Express Open ranks Louisiana 10th in the nation for growth of women-owned firms since 2007, with 48 percent growth or more than 50,000 new firms.

SBO results also show in the Lafayette MSA there are 17,337 women-owned firms, employing 17,204 individuals with sales of more than $3.3 billion. Specifically in Lafayette Parish, there are 9,648 firms employing 11,471 workers with sales of $2.4 billion. That’s quite an impact on the economy.

Here in Acadiana we can see those numbers translate into real individuals. Many community leaders have been honored with ABiz’s Women Who Mean Business awards, including LEDA’s current board Chairman Flo Meadows and Vice President Pamela LaFleur. Our staff has been fortunate to work with many past honorees who are making an impact in the community: Kathy Bobbs, Marianne Bourgeois, Buffy Domingue, Merline Herbert, Dr. Jeannie Kreamer and Betty Lowry, to name a few. This year’s list of honorees includes many more LEDA allies: Nanette Cook, Dr. Gwen Fontenot, Liz Webb Hebert and Courtney Reynolds. These honorees demonstrate that successful women from every background in every industry are making a positive impact on Acadiana’s economy.

Historically, women represent a larger percentage of the consumer base and often determine where household dollars are spent. Because of that, women-owned businesses are apt to provide a more consumer-centric experience and yield high returns for those efforts — strengthening our local GDP.

I’m proud of Lafayette’s wildcatter mentality. As a community, Lafayette has embraced the spirit of entrepreneurship — often with dynamic women at the lead — making Lafayette a better place for all of us.

Gregg Gothreaux is president and CEO of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.