Since the beginning of time, entrepreneurship has been a male-dominated pursuit. Many of history’s most prominent business leaders have been men – the Steves (Jobs and Wozniak), the Benjamins (Franklin and Siegel), and the Donald, just 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 has never been a result of genetic reasons, nor is one gender better at being a business owner than the other. Men and women are just different in the way they lead, analyze, and socialize. When it comes down to it, though, the goals are all the same for an entrepreneur, regardless of sex. However, both genders excel at different things, and women now have the opportunity to use their advantages to shine in the realm of entrepreneurship.
New Orleans has cultivated several entrepreneurs – many of whom are men and in the technology field. However, the movement has also encouraged the growth of new industries and women 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 to both men and women entrepreneurs in all industries. Take notes, boys, because as Beyoncé said it best: “Girls run the world.”
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 by creating seersucker dresses that are both Galatoires and F and M’s appropriate, but the two designers have succeeded in following through with their promise of keeping everything “Made in America.” With every piece of clothing made in Louisiana, their promise has ensured that the money is continuously circulated in New Orleans, even though their pieces 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.
Abeille NOLA, Meg O’Reilly
Meg may have opened her women’s clothing boutique this past spring on Oak Street, but she has already established a strong following that compares to those of the veteran boutiques in uptown New Orleans. She keeps her price points at a modest range, and caters to her customer by stocking her inventory with the latest in fashion. However, her success cannot just be attributed to her trend forecasting and merchandising knowhow. Even though she received some scrutiny and criticism for opening her shop at the far end of Oak, Meg used her savvy business and marketing skills to attract customers to her shop. Using social media, she was able to create a buzz with her business, create a large following, retain a loyal customer base, and secure some PR with many 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.
The Occasional Wife, Kay Morrison
The Occasional Wife provides services from household organization, grocery shopping, travel arranging to event planning as needed in order to make their client’s 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 their niche expertise. Kay has recently started offering services in Austin, Texas, and plans to take Occasional Wife nationally with franchising opportunities this year.
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 their 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 organization 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 students from New Orleans area high schools 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 their youth t-shirt line with the “#NOLALOVE” design, which was created by winning team, Edna Karr.
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 allow 15 fellows rather than the usual 10. The workspace will be the epicenter of social entrepreneurial activity in New Orleans and will provide their tenants with affordable office space and services for their businesses.
Adriana Lopez writes about the entrepreneurial community for NolaVie and Silicon Bayou News. She also showcases local start-ups such as the one profiled here through her non-profit organization GenNOLA. For more information on NolaVie, visit NolaVie.com.