PERSPECTIVE: CT’s Women-Owned Immigrant Businesses Contribute to Community

by Leah Doty

Women-owned business

Diversity in business helps fuel success. According to a Harvard Business Review article, if diversity is not present within the workplace leadership, women are 20% less likely than Caucasian men to be endorsed for their ideas (Sherbin, 2014). This is why the increase of women in leadership roles is so crucial to growth and development.

Since 1972, the number of women-owned businesses has increased 31 times. On a national scale, growth rates of women-owned businesses are at a record high. According to, Hartford women-owned businesses are growing at a higher rate than the rest of the state. Since 2007, Hartford has increased from 27,066 to 35,600 women-owned businesses (31.5 percent).

A study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research on immigrant entrepreneurship reveals that 45 percent of immigrant business owners were female in 2012. According to the National Women's Business Council (NWBC), women immigrants may have a natural connection with entrepreneurship skills because of the risk they had to take when migrating to the United States. This risk could fuel the need to succeed in America.

A George Mason study found that immigrant women entrepreneurs have made huge strides since 1980. In 1980, there were only 180,000 immigrant women-run businesses in the US; in 2015 that number rose to 1.3 million (NWBC, 2015).

New American Economy

Gleyann Fontanez is the owner of one of the 112,500 woman-owned businesses in Connecticut. She moved to Connecticut as a teenager from Puerto Rico and didn’t speak English. She has since opened a clothing business in Hartford called Latinas Fashion. “I always wanted to create something for myself and I like being my own boss. I’m independent and a fighter, an entrepreneur at heart. A lot of my customers have issues with self-image and I love to help them feel better about themselves.” The drive to be independent and fight is a key characteristic of many immigrant entrepreneurs.

Melody Do is another female immigrant entrepreneur and the founder and owner of Kara Enterprise LLC in Hartford. Melody's family came to the United States from Vietnam when she was nine years old. “Time is valuable and the freedom to control that is so important. Immigrant women come to this country in search of freedom. When you work for someone else, they control your time, which means you don’t really have freedom. Small business ownership offers a great opportunity for immigrant women.”

According to the most recent census, 14 percent of Connecticut residents are foreign born. They make up 16.8% of the state’s working population. Women-immigrant-owned businesses like Gleyann’s and Melody’s are paving a path for others to follow. The diversity in business owners is not only beneficial for the individual business, but also helps feed Connecticut's economy.


Leah Doty is a University of Hartford senior, majoring in Communications with an emphasis in Journalism and Media and a minor in Marketing.  She is the marketing intern for the university's Entrepreneurial Center and Women's Business Center.  This article first appeared  in the newsletter of the Women's Business Center, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.