New book finds that more single, divorced and widowed women (but not married women) start businesses than men.
Being in law school and heading to Beijing this summer on a 13-hour flight, I had an opportunity to catch up on my reading. I packed a very large stack from my reading pile and a couple of hours into the plane ride, stumbled upon a very interesting report from The Kauffman Foundation on gender and entrepreneurship.
As a single woman business owner myself, I was fascinated by this report ― in particular, the small table that examined marital status among genders and their propensity to become entrepreneurs. As I read on, I learned that more single, divorced and widowed women (but not married women) start businesses, compared to men, in their respective categories.
My next question, why?
Here are a handful of interesting trends I discovered in my research while writing Single. Women. Entrepreneurs:
1. First passion, second money: Kristin Kuhlke, founder of Cupcake, took a one-year sabbatical to New York City so she could figure out what type of business she wanted to open back in her native South Carolina.
She knew from her previous jobs that whatever she did, she wanted to create a happy, exciting experience for her customers ― not just solve problems or manage already unhappy customers (as she did when she was working as a sales rep for a cell phone company).
After finding her passion with cupcakes, she returned home, started her business, selling over one million dollars in product last year to satisfied patrons. She also found a creative way to give back to the community by teaching kids how to eat healthy by baking and using fresh ingredients.
2. Designing a life, not just a living: Michaela Conley divorced when she realized that she was not honoring her authentic self. She decided to change her surroundings, moving from Indiana to Washington, D.C. to start a business (despite only knowing two people there). Not only did she want to create a new career, she wanted to create a whole new life for herself and started HPCareer.net, an enterprise that helps health industry companies promote their businesses. She subsequently remarried and her husband now works with her in her business.
3. Family life + entrepreneurship = asset: Harvard MBA graduate and single mom Andrea Bloom, founder and CEO of ConnectWell views having children as an asset to her company because it focuses on wellness. Although some women have felt that having children while working in corporate America was perceived as disloyal by their employers, many women entrepreneurs with kids think that being a parent is an asset. Their children, in many cases, grow up with a better understanding of hard work, bootstrapping, and a desire to start their own business.
4. The hybrid career professional: Niquelle Allen is the owner of Butterfly Consignment in Indianapolis. She also works as a lawyer, a mediator and a notary. Dava Guthmiller, CEO and Creative Director of Noise 13 in San Francisco, also started a Bay Area women’s networking group called pow.wow. She’s also a leader of Slow Foods, SF. See the trend? These women are running multiple careers simultaneously. This is a new economic trend as well. The mode is to have not just one, but multiple careers moving forward in tandem. Enter the hybrid career professional!
5. Entrepreneurs attract other entrepreneurs: Another surprise was that women who were in successful romantic partnerships had those relationships with another entrepreneur. Several of the women I interviewed said it was vital for the significant other in their life to fully understand and appreciate the passion they had for their business. Without that understanding, they said that men just didn’t get them.
Some women subsequently married after opening their businesses, some became engaged (Becky Ruby of lilly lane flowers, as an example) and some even married during the course of writing my book. Others didn’t view finding a significant other as a priority for them right now. The good news? The sky is the limit and the options are endless.
Throughout this book, in various ways, time and time again, women said they wanted to create a business in order to design their own lives empirically ― not just have a “work life” and a “personal life” ― but to blend them harmoniously. Men take a much more compartmentalized approach to their work lives vs. their home lives, where women seek to blend them together.
Of all the projects I’ve done, this group of women has to be the most fearless, fierce and amazing group I’ve yet to encounter. I can’t wait for the world to read and learn, as I did, why the woman “solopreneur” is a force to be reckoned with, both now and in the future.