Off the Charts

Off the Charts - August 2008

The Venus Factor

Women entrepreneurs are creating jobs, optimism and opportunities in communities across America, and the same can be said of local women entrepreneurs. Women 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.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recently released Survey of Business Owners, in 2002 there were 6.5 million women-owned firms (51 percent or more ownership) employing 7.1 million people and generating sales of nearly $1 trillion in the U.S. Louisiana had 86,876 women-owned businesses in 2002, employing 114,635 people and generating sales of $12.2 billion. The growth of women entrepreneurs in the country has been impressive. Estimates for 2006 put national numbers at 7.7 million firms, employing more than 7.1 million people, and generating $1.1 trillion in sales. Louisiana firms are estimated to have gown by 22 percent with 2006 estimates counting 106,540 firms, with sales of more than $13 billion. In fact, Louisiana ranks 6th in the growth of the privately-held, women-owned firms between 1997 and 2006.

Lafayette’s “wildcatter mentality” isn’t a frame of mind reserved just for men; women in Acadiana are just as, if not more, entrepreneurial than their male counterparts. No matter where you look across Acadiana, you’ll find successful women from every background in every industry making a positive impact on their local economy.

In the Lafayette MSA, there were 5,647 women-owned firms, employing 8,472 individuals with sales of more than $814.1 million. Specifically in Lafayette Parish there were 4,876 firms, employing 6,839 individuals with a payroll of $133.5 million. These businesses generated sales of $700.2 million — 19.3 percent of the total retails sales in 2002. That’s quite an impact on the economy.

The distribution among industries of women-owned businesses is fairly uniform from the national level to the state and local levels. The largest percentage of women-owned businesses is in retail and wholesale trade, health care, professional and educational services and other services. In recent years, women-owned firms are becoming increasingly diverse in terms of industry, with more women expanding into predominately male industries, such as construction, manufacturing, agriculture and transportation.

This industry distribution is reflected in overall female employment. The largest group of employed women, 39 percent, work in management, professional, and related occupations; 34 percent work in sales and office occupations; 20 percent in service occupations; 6 percent in production, transportation, and material moving occupations; and 1 percent in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations. Women comprised 46 percent of the total U.S. labor force in 2007 and are projected to account for 47 percent of the labor force in 2016.

Lafayette’s economy has historically been led by traditionally male-dominated industries, like oil and gas. Women-owned businesses, along with other minority-owned businesses, play a unique role in diversifying the business community’s outlook and have successfully changed the economic landscape. As Lafayette becomes more attractive to the creative class — physicians, teachers, artists, architects — it is important that we focus on being well-rounded, welcoming, tolerant and innovative. The growing number of women- and minority-owned businesses in Acadiana contributes to Lafayette’s ability to reach out to the creative class. The combination of innovative products and services and this new wave of thinkers will no doubt help Lafayette grow in the best possible manner.

If you or someone you know is interested in starting or growing a business, LEDA has an array of services that may be of help. You can contact LEDA at (337) 593-1400 or

Additional resources for women- and minority-owned businesses:

Louisiana Small Business Development Center

Women’s Business Center

Enterprise Center of Louisiana

Louisiana Procurement Technical Assistance Center

Small Business Administration

Women’s Business Enterprise National Council

Center for Women’s Business Research

U.S. Census Bureau

Gregg Gothreaux is president and chief executive officer of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.