Atlanta has long been known as a magnet for entrepreneurs…and for minority women, it tops the list. Georgia is second only to New York when it comes to the number of African-American women owned firms. Of all women owned firms in Georgia, 34 percent are owned by African-American women and that is growing at a faster rate than any other large state.
“It is probably driven mostly by Atlanta and the metro area,” said Kathey Porter. “It is a great environment and very fertile ground for people who see a clear path to entrepreneurship.”
Six years ago, Porter, who attended Georgia Southern University and Savannah State, began researching women owned businesses. She noticed that women were starting to gain ground in a range of industries and in recent years, year after year, the number of African-American women owned businesses has been growing more rapidly than others — generating $50 billion in revenue from 1997 to 2014.
“It may have always been that way, but in the last few years you started seeing research to support that,” said Porter. So Porter reached out to Andrea Hoffman and the two co-authored “50 Billion Dollar Boss,” (Palgrave Macmillian, $35).
The book tells the stories of leading African-American women in the business world. But you won’t find Oprah’s life story or Tyra Bank’s secrets to success. Instead, the focus is on real women running great businesses whose stories you probably haven’t heard.
That includes the stories of women with ties to Atlanta such as Joy Rohadfox, president and CEO of Rohadfox Construction Control Services Corporation and Ricki Fairley, founder, president and thought leader of Dove Marketing.
Porter noted that while African-American women lead growth in women owned businesses, their businesses tend to do smaller volume.
“One of the goals of the book is to help more women scale and grow their business to the five-year mark or million dollar growth which is critical for long-term success,” Porter said.
Porter realized that many women often choose businesses that are consumer and retail driven and while she doesn’t condemn that choice, she points out that consumers can be fickle and their actions are tied to economic fluctuations.
“When you look at business to business transactions and opportunities those are longer term and higher volume,” she said. “I hope more women will consider opportunities with business to business agencies and really leverage being a woman in business.”
Women are sometimes intimidated in fields still very much dominated by men, but that is often where there is the most opportunity, Porter said. “If there is a low barrier to entry, anybody can to it. You can reduce your competition just by considering other options,” she said.
Even if you do have a consumer driven businesses, she suggests finding a way to create a businesses to business focus.
Porter said she wants women to get out of their comfort zone and in doing so, generate the kind of wealth that allows them to fund the many other things they want to do.
One featured entrepreneur, a terrorist security expert, is a government contractor, who has used revenue from her business to fund a restaurant and develop other properties in her hometown.
For Porter, her mission is far-reaching, to help women build wealth, build networks and build stronger generations for the future.
“I would like to see through my work…more African American women consider entrepreneurship,” said Porter. “That is one of the things that has long-term opportunity when we talk about things like generational wealth.”