Women-Owned Businesses in Region Growing Across Many Fields

They are some of Connecticut’s most successful companies that you've never heard of.  And perhaps a few that you have. What they have in common is ownership. They're owned by women -  in some cases 100 percent owned.

Who are they?

Among the leaders are Farmington-based Companions & Homemakers, which topped a newly published list with 1,600 local employees and 4 local offices, West Hartford’s Companions for Living, with 114 employees, iTech Solutions, also in Farmington, Caring Solutions, Phoenix Manufacturing Inc. and Andrew Associates, all headquartered in Enfield.  The Walker Group (Farmington), Infoshred (East Windsor) The Human Resource Consulting Group (Seymour)Merry Employment Group (West Hartford) and Sandair Systems Inc (Windsor) are also 100 percent owned by women.

The Hartford Business Journal listed the firms as part of their ranking of the largest women-owned businesses (ownership exceeding 50 percent) in the Hartford region.   The 25 firms were led by a top 10 in fields including home health care, aerospace, advertising, information technology staffing, janitorial services, and family maintenance services.  Of the 25 businesses, only 3 were launched since 2000.  The remainder date back to the last century, including two, Post Road Stages (1912) and Beacon Light and Supply Company (1932), to the first half of the century.

The number of women-owned businesses in Connecticutboard table increased 35 percent since 1997 and sales at those firms increased 67 percent, according to a census analysis by American Express Open, released earlier this month.

Women starting their own business have opportunities to learn from others who’ve blazed the trail.  The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women’s Business Center Program is a national network providing business training, counseling and other resources to help women start and grow successful businesses. In Connecticut, network participants are The Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Hartford, the Stamford/Southwest Women’s Business Center of the Women's Business Development Council in Stamford, and the Naugatuck Valley Women’s Business Center at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury.

Last week, Connecticut Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman visited some women-owned small businesses that have received financial assistance from the state’s Small Business Express. The stops included Dottie’s Diner in Waterbury, The Dutch Bulb Lady in Waterbury, Richards Machine Tool Co. Inc. in Berlin, LSC Distribution in Hartford and American Masons & Building Supply Co. in Hartford.

Earlier this year, a national survey of women business owners (WBOs) conducted by Web.com Group, Inc. and the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) found a pervasive sense of economic optimism, including a prediction by most WBOs (85 percent) that more women will become entrepreneurs in 2013 than in past years.  WBOs also plan to invest more (38 percent) or the same (54 percent) in hiring this year than they did in 2012 – a positive sign for the economy.

With regard to public policy matters, the top four issues on the minds of WBOs are: the state of the economy (57 percent), health insurance cost and affordability (40 percent), business tax issues (36 percent), and access to a quality workforce (36 percent). Though two in five WBOs said that health insurance costs and affordability are important issues to them, many (71 percent) feel that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) will have no impact upon the way they do business.