Sunday, September 25, 2022

Women-owned businesses strong right arm of floundering economy

Kirstin Pawl was a fast-track Atlanta-based advertising executive with ten years invested in consumer and retail marketing when the economy tanked and her long-term position with high profile clients like Mack Trucks and John Deere was dissolved.  After having spent years effectively integrating branding strategies for her clients, she was forced to take a step back and reevaluate her own skill set while considering going into business on her own.

“After doing some research, I knew that Dallas would be fertile ground to launch a new business.  I consulted my brother Dave who owned and managed a concrete company at the time and was also considering a move.  I decided to launch 411 Energy Experts, a home inspection service that offers energy efficiency inspections.  Though it was a non-traditional service to be managed by a woman, I packed my bags and left behind Atlanta and my identity as “The John Deere Girl”, meeting my brother in Coppell where my business began to grow.  My life is truly great here, partly because of being a business owner.  I have been able to help my clients as they make one of the largest investments they may ever make when they are purchasing a home.  I have a real sense of ownership in that and it is very rewarding.  It was worth the risk.” said Pawl.

In today’s economy, Kirstin’s story has become commonplace, as the current financial climate is leaving corporate women like herself with no alternatives but to tap into their own resourcefulness.  As a result, women-owned businesses continue to play an integral part in our nation’s economic development.  According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, there are more than 8 million women-owned businesses in the United States that translate to about $3 trillion in revenue and 23 million jobs annually and comprise about 16% of the U.S. workforce.  If U.S.-based women-owned businesses were their own country, they would have the 5th largest GDP in the world, trailing closely behind Germany, and ahead of countries including France, Italy and the United Kingdom.

The data indicate a continuing social and cultural shift for work and for women. Full or part-time entrepreneurship is a well-established trend.  From 1997 to 2002, the Census data report that nearly all growth in small businesses came in the non-employer segment and women had the largest growth compared to other groups. The overarching shift at the turn of the century reflects the education, experience, and characteristics of women at different stages of their lives.  It also reflects the lack of opportunities and flexibility in major corporations and large businesses for women.

In 1942, when J. Howard Miller unintentionally created the American cultural icon “Rosie The Riveter” with his infamous WWII image of factory worker Geraldine Doyle, women lived in an era that caused them to use their ingenuity to provide for their families and contribute to the war efforts while Dad was away fighting the war, all the while maintaining their femininity.  Many had no choice but to succumb to the glamorous appeal of the U.S. Government, a strategy intended to meet the resulting labor shortage by mobilizing women into the manufacturing workforce and beyond.  An unprecedented upheaval of the American household as it had formerly been identified led to an unintentional point of no return after the war ended, as many military men falsely assumed their wives would return to a state of unemployment and household duties.  Thus began the Feminist Movement, born more out of the social and cultural shift that resulted from WWII, and festered into a political movement in the following decades that created controversy as to whether attitudes of resourcefulness had been exchanged for attitudes of rebellion.

For today’s modern women, the trend of the working wonder woman is one that is ever-progressing and not necessarily unbalanced with traditional domestic duties due to modern technology.  The most recent data from The Sloan Center on Aging and Work shows that of the entire work force, 40.7% report that they are able to work from a remote location.  Women like Kirstin Pawl and another local female entrepreneur, Samantha Murchek of Highland Village, are showing that they can find a healthy balance of work and home life as they leave behind corporate careers to launch businesses while doing what they love. 

“I was with Mary Kay, Inc. for fourteen years and was mainly responsible for planning and facilitating special events, sales education, and sales development for the Latin America region,” said Murchek.

“After leaving my corporate job behind, I decided to write a book that would inspire others to reach their goals while living life to the fullest.  I am loving life right now as I spend quality time with my family while having the opportunity to travel and speak everywhere about the content of my book entitled “Ginormous, Outrageous, Audacious Living.  What’s Your Goal?” 

Samantha takes pride in her ability to have her foot in both worlds, and as a Christian author and speaker, she is not unlike some of the working women of the Bible, to name a few:  Hagar, Jochebed, Deborah, Esther, Huldah, Lydia, Priscilla, not to mention the virtuous Proverbs 31 woman.  More and more modern women are choosing a non-traditional approach to employment coupled with technology.  While some enter the workforce by choice, others enter by necessity, but both are impacting their respective worlds through the marketplace and, like Samantha, would testify that a call to double duty is not for the faint of heart, but one that extends far beyond an economic benefit.  

With all the benefits for the woman herself, women are effective contributors to the economy by successfully owning and operating businesses better than any other time in history.  “Women-owned businesses are more often self-funded than male owned firms and are therefore less reliant on bank financing at a time when many say small business lending practices are more restricted,” said Mark Wolf, Director of Market Research at Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute.  Studies by the Academic and Business Research Institute show that their economic activities and total annual spending in the community generate a tremendous level of support for all other business sectors in the region. While concentrated in the service and retail sectors, women-owned businesses span all industries, and clearly affect all industries in terms of spending power (Pordeli, McClung, Martin).”

Both Pawl and Murchek’s journeys toward success are reminiscent of, perhaps, one of the most renowned woman business owners who started as a company of one and landed behind the wheel of a custom pink Cadillac with about 500,000 employees and over $1.2 billion in sales – one who even posthumously inspires women business owners to achieve their personal goals, stimulate their household earnings, and subsequently impact the economy by turning a we can do it attitude into you can do it.  Perhaps, Mary Kay Ash was ahead of her time, when she revealed secrets of business and life to women business owners, “We must have a theme, a goal, a purpose in our lives. If you don’t know where you’re aiming, you don’t have a goal. My goal is to live my life in such a way that when I die, someone can say, she cared.”

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