The Evolution of the Arizona Women Business Owner Survey

UPDATE 6/5/2017: In September of 2017, Empowered PhXX will be executing a large community wide survey of women owned firms. We have used the feedback from Empowered PhXX meetings to inform the question for the survey. If you have questions or would like to review the survey, please contact us.

The survey will be launched on a survey monkey link in the month of September. We are asking that in the month of September (Money Month) all community partners forward and promote the link to as many women owned firms as possible.

Results from the survey will be shared with the community and used to create a comprehensive regional strategy to effectively support women owned firms.

As recently as the 2014 AMEX Open State of Women Owned Business report, Phoenix was ranked as the 4th best metro area overall for women business owners, this year Phoenix fell to 38th. While other cities have identified female entrepreneurs as a huge economic development opportunity and have built significant infrastructure in their ecosystem, Phoenix has fallen behind.  Another important detail about why Phoenix is ranked 38th was revealed by this year’s in depth analysis on specific metro areas that compared data gathered since the recession. It showed that women are starting businesses at the same rapid rate as their national counterparts but Phoenix women owned business are not growing at the same rate as women owned businesses in other similar metro areas like Austin, Salt Lake City and Denver.

AMEX State Charts

The question is why? What about Phoenix’s ecosystem is specifically causing this trend? The reality is that we don’t know. The results of the 2016 SOWB report is just one in a series of reports supporting the need for an in-depth market research initiative on female entrepreneurship in Phoenix.

Similar in-depth market research has been completed in cities like AustinNew York and in the State of Iowa, which have been mainly funded by local municipalities in partnership with community stakeholders. It has been used as a spring board to create more effective local policies, help local resources refine their support and overall leverage the rapid growth of female entrepreneurship.

Research has proven that women business owners are a key economic factor in creating sustainable, dynamic, local economies. Women are starting businesses at 5 times the rate of men. The business women start are more sustainable, they pay their employees better and they have been proven to volunteer and reinvest back into their communities at higher rates. Businesses with female leadership are twice as likely to be successful. This growing body of research is starting to gain the attention of capital investment firms, national economic developers and high tech companies resulting in an increase of diversity as a variable in national rankings, location decision making and signs of a thriving ecosystem.

Enter Empowered PhXX 

In September of 2015, we had our first Empowered PhXX meeting. The goal of that meeting was to discuss the advancement of female entrepreneurship and how these national trends are affecting our local economy. The attendees articulated concerns about specific challenges that they and their constituents have in the entrepreneurial ecosystem but before we could develop an action strategy, several of them asked one very good question.

What does the data show? 

We all had individual experiences that we could articulate about what we felt were the challenges and possible solutions (especially since several attendees had built several successful businesses) but in order to effectively move forward, we needed data. The group agreed that Phoenix as an ecosystem has grown past it’s nascent stage where resources and solutions are developed based on the experiences of a few individuals, no matter how qualified those individuals are.

So we set about the task of gathering all of the research available on female entrepreneurship in Phoenix, data on our local ecosystem and best practices from across the country.

What We Found

There is not enough data locally to effectively evolve our ecosystem and monitor the economic growth of entrepreneurship.

National reports from the National Women’s Business Council Center, annual reports like the AMEX Open State of Women Business Ownership and others provided us a glimpse of where Arizona and Phoenix stood relative to other communities. From that data we can see two facts:

1.) Women business owners represent a HUGE economic development opportunity. Many states have leveraged this opportunity by creating comprehensive initiatives around female entrepreneurship that have yielded economic benefits like an increased flow of jobs, increased capital and a thriving environment for all entrepreneurship.

2.) Phoenix is drastically falling behind other cities. While it previously ranked very high on several national lists, Phoenix has fallen on several prominent lists like the AMEX Open and the Kaufman Index. Influenced by the growing body of research on the topic, organizations are including diversity as a key indicator in a community’s ability to grow entrepreneurship. Unless action is taken, it is likely that Phoenix will continue to trend downward in national entrepreneurial rankings .

Several institutions have looked at female entrepreneurship and we have developed a much more refined understanding of women owned businessesthe challenges they face nationally and how they interact with entrepreneurial resources. The research consistently found two variables that are critical for the development of a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem for female entrepreneurs.

1.) Diverse entrepreneurs require unique tools and support to thrive.

2.) Gender bias is a systemic challenge in business and must be addressed and accounted for.

Other ecosystems have embraced these two facts, taking specific steps to address these challenges through increased accountability on diversity metrics and building specific resources that address the challenges diverse entrepreneurs commonly face.

That is what we know … but there is a lot we don’t know.

There are still a lot of questions about female entrepreneurship in Phoenix that we do not have answers to.

Who are the women business owners in Phoenix (geography, age, goals)?

What are the growth challenges that they face?

What is their experience in the ecosystem accessing resources and engaging in the community?

While some research has looked at the resources available for entrepreneurs or has interviewed a smaller portion of female entrepreneurs, no comprehensive study with measurable benchmarks has been completed to date.

The first action set out by Empowered PhXX is to execute this market research initiative.

Our goal is to find the answers to these questions and more . It will be the largest study completed on women business owners in Phoenix and it will give us the data we need to effectively leverage the growing economic opportunity that female entrepreneurship represent. We plan to accomplish this goal by using a combination of surveys, focus groups and data pulled from existing research. Our research will be completed in partnership with several of the partners in the community and after it is completed we will create guidelines and recommendations for applying best practices based on the findings.

The AZ WBO Survey is now open! Take the survey and forward it to your networks.



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