Who Run The World?
The entrepreneurial spirit of Utah extends as far back as the state itself. Traditionally, the charge was led by men, but over the last ten years, there’s been a notable increase in the amount of women-led businesses in Utah, and across the country. Here are just a few reasons why Utah women are uniquely qualified to lead.
Funding Is In Our Blood
The same do-whatever-it-takes attitude required to raise a large family helps Utah women find ways to do more with less, growing their businesses from kitchen table ideas into full-fledged enterprises.
However, the journey to success isn’t without obstacles. As more women take their business ideas from side-hustle to full-time, securing funding can be difficult. In fact, of the businesses seeking venture capitalist backing, women-founded companies still lag behind businesses started by men.
So, what are Utah women doing to achieve their goals in the face of ever-increasing odds? They’re getting resourceful. By turning to alternative channels for funding―such as social media and crowdfunding sites―women are finding the funding they need in smaller amounts from larger numbers of investors.
And in many cases, using social media or going the crowdfunding route connects business directly to their customers, removing the need to develop robust go-to-market strategies. Businesses who gain support early on from a social network may also find themselves well-positioned for direct-to-consumer sales, maximizing their funds while allowing for lower margins and a greater investment back into their business.
One of the reasons crowdfunding and social media platforms are better suited to raising funds for women-owned businesses is due to the connection women have with their networks. Kiva.com, for example, has an entire section of their site dedicated to women who are raising capital for their businesses. Business endeavors like a $500 loan for a chicken farmer in Uganda or a $100,000 loan for improved access to toilets in Kenya are putting their futures in the hands of angel investors around the world.
What’s unique about Kiva is that the funds are distributed as a loan. Borrowers pay that money back to their lenders and lenders can then use that repayment to fund other loans. The reciprocity of this lending cycle increases the number of female-led business initiatives that receive loans.
Carmi Soul Food, a restaurant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was forced to close it’s doors when the building that housed it was unexpectedly sold. The owner was able to secure a second location but unforeseen construction costs threatened to derail the business. She turned to Kiva, raising $10,000 so she could hire 20 additional staff members, complete building upgrades, and cover payroll costs.
The no-interest loan has a length of 36 months and is backed by 177 contributing lenders from all walks of life who decided to take a chance on one entrepreneur’s vision, a vision made possible by the power of funding through social networking.
Networking Is Our Power
In addition to getting creative with how they fundraise for their businesses, women in Utah rely on a network of friends and family to achieve their dreams. With formal organizations like the Women’s Business Center of Utah and mommy Facebook groups and playdates, Utah women are constantly networking and finding new ways to broaden their professional and social circles, a very important skill in business.
The impact of social networks and the reach they may have is never more apparent than in the world of influencers. From lifestyle Instagrammers to family bloggers, Utah is home to hundreds of women who share every aspect of their family’s life. In some cases, these women are making a decent living off their expertly curated Instagram profiles and sponsored-content stories.
Many of the internet’s most famous influencers stumbled into making money after finding a passion for sharing daily content. Their income potential is tied to things like what type of influencer they are, their following, hours worked, sponsorships, and so forth. Per an article in the Financial Times, influencers with 100,000 or more followers on Instagram have been known to charge over $2,500 for a single sponsored post.
And there must be something in the Utah air because a 2012 Mashable survey found that 35 percent of blog-writing or reading mothers are located in Salt Lake City. In fact, the “most popular mommy blogger in the world,” Heather B. Armstrong lives in Salt Lake City. She began her blog, dooce.com, 18 years ago writing about the people she worked with. After she was fired from her day job she doubled down on blogging and the rest is “her-story,” as they say.
Since she began sharing her personal life with readers in 2001, the landscape has shifted from mommy blogging to influencer marketing, and for Ms. Armstrong, that has translated into speaking engagements, a role as a media consultant, and book deals. In addition to her widely-popular blog, Ms. Armstrong has nearly 1.4 million followers between her Instagram and Twitter accounts and has recently published her first book, The Valedictorian of Being Dead.
Another networking powerhouse is Braid, a company for women looking to surround themselves with positivity and the support of other entrepreneurial minds. The Provo-based company was founded in 2015 by Allison Lew as a way to lift up female entrepreneurs and business leaders. Ms. Lew is also the founder of the Sego Awards, which celebrates Utah female founders and CEOs during an annual ceremony to recognize these barrier-breaking women.
Diversity Is Our Strength
Diversity may not be the first thing outsiders think when they think about Utah, but the numbers don’t lie: since 2010, Utah’s white population has grown by more than 9 percent, while the minority population has grown by 24 percent. With a changing landscape comes opportunities to engage with and learn from new groups of customers, not to mention the influx of available employee talent.
One way Four Foods Group is meeting the need for diverse cuisine is through their partnership with Kimo and Kalani Mack, founders of Mo’Bettah’s, to bring authentic Hawaiian food to the mainland. Not only does the Hawaiian BBQ chain expose the general population to new culinary offerings it also serves as a way for Utah’s growing Pacific Islander population to connect with their homeland. As of 2014, the Census Bureau estimated approximately 38,000 Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders live in Utah.
And the move to cater to Utah’s growing diverse populations also draws on the state’s philanthropic leanings. When New Jersey native, Alyssha Dairstow relocated to Salt Lake City six years ago she immediately noticed the need for black children in Utah to see themselves represented. To meet this need she founded Curly Me, a nonprofit organization supporting families with children of color.
These types of incentives promote growth in traditional, revenue, and job-creating ways but they also work to prove what study after study has shown: women in leadership is good for business. And the proof is in the pudding: just take a look at a sampling of 30 Utah women leading the business charge, which includes businesses in industries ranging from healthcare to entertainment to finance.
Perhaps inspired by the pioneers who conquered the wild west, Utah women have always been uniquely positioned to lead both inside and outside the workplace. From pulling out all the stops to pursue their dreams in business, to embracing new ideas and a diverse population, women in Utah should be recognized as a unique enclave of future business leaders and change makers in this country.