Friday, 28 April 2023 11:18

Entrepreneurship Pursuits Thriving Among Tri-County Women

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Gabriella Gauger Gabriella Gauger Sarah Heppell Photography / Brand Bash photo

More women in Jefferson, Onondaga, and Oswego counties are starting businesses, with 47% of new businesses nationally being started by women, per new survey data.

The findings released March 30 by Gusto, a payroll and human resource software company, show that the percentage of women pursuing entrepreneurship nationally has increased nearly 67% since 2019. Prior to the pandemic, 28% of new business owners were female.

The trend is down slightly from 2022 survey data, which showed 49% of new business owners as female. However, the tri-county area is still experiencing an increase.

Robert Griffin, regional director of the Small Business Development Center in Onondaga County, said that “the trend of women starting businesses versus men has gone increasingly in women’s favor and they are now doing over 51%” in Onondaga County.

Griffin believes that this year, potentially 53% of clients served by the Onondaga SBDC will be women.

Michael Kinnie, business adviser at the Jefferson SBDC in Watertown, also has observed the trend. He said that as a general rule, every two out of three clients of his is a woman right now. He recently took over the satellite office in Oswego County and said that most clients communicate with them remotely over Zoom.

Griffin said, “Oswego County is actually serviced by both our center as well as Watertown centers based in Jefferson Community College.” Since 2019, the Onondaga SBDC has worked with 84 businesses from Oswego County. “We tend to find that most of the people that come visit us are largely from the southern part of Oswego County, from Fulton on south, Griffin said.”

Both Griffin and Kinnie contribute the trend of women choosing entrepreneurship to the pandemic, an increase in education and awareness, and the resources available to small business owners.

“COVID was an accelerant of what I believe to be an existing phenomenon,” said Griffin. “It’s been brewing for the last 30 years or so. There’s been greater access to education and career opportunities, increased support and resources.”

“Overall, since COVID, there has been a huge uptick in people starting businesses. Not just women, everybody,” said Kinnie. Kinnie said that people found out from COVID they can be more efficient, effective, and happier working from home. “I think COVID gave people time to reflect,” Kinnie said. “There has been a lot of that. A lot of people start businesses because the traditional way does not work for them.”

This view is shared by Hannibal entrepreneur Gabriella Gauger, who is preparing for the imminent launch of two businesses as a solopreneur. She is starting an LLC within the year to “manage the hospitality and lodging side” of her joint ventures and is starting a party rental company “within the month.” Gauger has launched four businesses with her father, including the Gauger House bed-and-breakfast. She credits the pandemic for giving her the time and resources to invest in her dream of owning a B&B.

Prior to coronavirus, Gauger “lived in a van traveling around the country” for work. A month before the pandemic, she moved home because she was craving community and connections not found on the road. Since launching her businesses, she said she has found that community in other women business owners, “who are entrepreneurial, creative, and growth oriented.”

Entrepreneurship, according to Gauger, enables women to align their businesses and lifestyles with their goals and values. “I think that running your own business allows you the freedom to make money, provide for yourself and family, and be at home with your family.”

For advice, Gauger recommends using resources available when starting out. “I learned a lot from trial and error and failure,” said Gauger. “I think if I had a little more education on what I was doing I could have benefited. I could have saved myself time, money, frustration. I have a sociology degree which is helpful for understanding people and trends, but it did not teach me how to run a business.”

To this sentiment, Kinnie said, “There are options like the SBDC, government agencies, and taxpayer dollars at work designed to help you start and succeed in starting a business.” He encourages everyone considering entrepreneurship to use the free services available. “We can help you think about the things you might not have thought about. We will help you succeed,” he added.

Kinnie believes, “Entrepreneurship is for anyone who is not happy with their present life.” He said “The nice thing about starting your own business is that you get to control more of the situation, and you get to do the thing you want to do. And if you’re good at it, put a lot of time into it, and are passionate, then you can be successful.”

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