FEMALE FIRMS: Group Helps Businesses Grow

A group in Iowa is helping female business owners grow their firms.

A survey by American Express open ranked Iowa last when it comes to growing women owned businesses. The survey found the number of female headed firms grew by twenty percent in the fifteen years it looked at data. But, the number of employees and revenue were both down.

Mary Anne Kennedy didn’t plan to be the boss. She says, “I started in sales and the previous owner wanted to retire.”

She bought Primary Source in 1997, just five years after she started selling the promotional products with a purpose. ¬†She says, “We essentially switched roles. She taught me how to run the business as she gradually retired.”

Kennedy is now one of 70,000 women business owners in the state. She says, “It’s a challenge that it’s sometimes not perceived as a legitimate business because it is women owned.”

She joined NAWBO-CI, The Central Iowa chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, to change that. It’s a networking and mentoring group of more than fifty women. ¬†Kennedy says, “Help other women business owners have more success in their business.”

NAWBO Central Iowa is hosting a conference coming up later this month called Women Mean Business to help women business owners advance their companies in the state.

Co-President Lori Day says, “In the state of Iowa, when women business owners are doing well, then Iowa is doing well.”

Day says the group is focused on helping female business owners hire more employees and increase revenue, which is good for the economy. She says, “Women business owners do business a little differently the way they structure the business, the amount of flexibility and latitude. I think they bring a discipline and collaboration to business that is valuable.”

This is the sixth year for the Women Mean Business summit. It’s Thursday, February 27th at the Sheraton in West Des Moines. You can find more information here.

The conference includes speakers and a networking session with lawmakers so business owners can talk about public policy and how it affects business.

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