Entrepreneurship traditionally has been a male-dominated pursuit, as indicated by some of history’s most prominent business leaders – the Steves (Jobs and Wozniak), the Benjamins (Franklin and Siegel), and the Donald, to name a few. However, while men still own the majority of businesses, studies show that women-owned businesses are growing at twice the rate of those owned by men.
The gender gap can’t be traced to genetic, or to one gender being better at business pursuits than the other. Men and women are just different in the way they lead, analyze, and socialize.
When it comes down to it, the goals are the same for any entrepreneur, regardless of sex. However, each gender excels at different things, and women now have the opportunity to use their innate talents to shine in the realm of entrepreneurship.
New Orleans has cultivated a number of female entrepreneurs over the years. The strong ladies below have made a significant impact in 2011, promise new possibilities for the future, and have a lot to teach both male and female entrepreneurs in any industry. Take notes, boys, because as Beyoncé said it best, “Girls run the world.”
Abeille NOLA, Meg O’Reilly
Meg opened her women’s clothing boutique this past spring on Oak Street, and already has as strong a following as more veteran boutiques in Uptown New Orleans. She keeps her price points in a modest range, and caters to her customer by stocking inventory that’s the latest in fashion. However, her success doesn’t lie just in her trend forecasting and merchandising knowhow. Although she was questioned for opening her shop at the far end of Oak, Meg used her business and marketing skills to attract customers there. Using social media, she was able to create a buzz with her business, attract a following, retain a loyal customer base, and secure some PR with local media sources. The business owner also believes in supporting other local entrepreneurs and artists by incorporating local products, designers, and artwork into her seasonal buys.
Fleurty Girl, Lauren Thom
Since its inception in 2009, the Fleurty Girl brand has focused on creating and selling NOLA-centric t-shirts and locally made products in its four New Orleans area locations. While founder and owner Lauren Thom creates the majority of the New Orleans themed t-shirts and accessories, she continues to support local entrepreneurs and non-profits such as Feelgoodz flip flops, Evacuteer.org, and the Young Leadership Council by carrying products that support their organizations in her stores. Most recently, she participated in The Trust Your Crazy Ideas Challenge, an intensive after-school program created by The Idea Village and The Brees Dream Foundation that turns local high-school students into entrepreneurs. The teams were given the opportunity to work with Lauren to create a t-shirt design that would be sold under the Fleurty Girl brand. This January, the boutiques will be debuting its youth t-shirt line with the “#NOLALOVE” design, which was created by the winning team from Edna Karr.
Jolie and Elizabeth, Jolie Bensen and Sarah Elizabeth Dewey
Going into their third year of business, Jolie and Sarah have not only made an impact in New Orleans with seersucker dresses that are both Galatoires and F and M appropriate, but the two designers have succeeded in following through with their promise of keeping everything “Made in America.” Every piece of clothing is made in Louisiana, even though their goods are sold world-wide. The impact goes beyond Louisiana. For the second year in a row, U.S. manufacturing has stood out as a driving force in the economy by creating new jobs, especially during a time of economic recovery. The duo plans to start 2012 by introducing their spring collection, launching the Second Annual Junior Designer Competition, and continuing to encourage more U.S. manufacturing with their success.
The Occasional Wife, Kay Morrison
The Occasional Wife provides services from household organization and grocery shopping to travel arranging and event planning — whatever is needed to make their clients’ lives a little easier. Now with two storefronts in New Orleans and several employees, Kay hires mostly women and has said that she often continues to add new services depending on the skill sets that her employees excel at – giving each woman an opportunity to shine in her niche expertise. Kay has recently started offering services in Austin, Texas, and plans to take Occasional Wife national with franchising opportunities this year.
Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans, Andrea Chen
Andrea Chen, Executive Director and founding member of SENO, has quickly expanded her non-profit over the past few years with the creation of several competitions and programs that help social entrepreneurs grow their financially sustainable, innovative, results-focused ventures. This year, the program will continue to expand with the opening of HUB NOLA. The organization’s collaborative workspace located Uptown will allow Andrea to open SENO’s Accelerator program to accommodate 15 fellows, rather than the usual 10. The workspace will be the epicenter of social entrepreneurial activity in New Orleans and will provide its tenants with affordable office space and services for their businesses.