The Land of Opportunity for Women Entrepreneurs

Blonde woman with glasses working on computer

More women than ever before are starting businesses in the United States, despite a less than stellar climate for them to do it. The country is still lacking many of the resources it takes for women to play on the same field as men, including access to education and capital. But women have persisted and are continuously finding ways to set up shop. A study commissioned by American Express shows the 11 million women business owners in the U.S. account for the majority ownership of 38% of businesses nationwide.

It seems the American Dream is indeed attainable for hard-working women. Now, a new report by online lending marketplace Fundera shows chances of success may be higher in certain states. This spring, Fundera calculated the top 10 states for women entrepreneurs.

The report considered factors including annual revenue growth, number of women-owned businesses, number of Small Business Association’s Women’s Business Centers and number of paid employees.

For women considering a location change to build their businesses, experts suggest they look for a bustling economy, a strong pool of talent to employ and room for growth. So, would it surprise you that North Dakota ranked number one on the list?

Only three states have fewer residents than North Dakota. Vast stretches of relatively flat and unpopulated terrain support the energy and agriculture economies. And over the course of the year, temperatures can rise or fall by more than 100 degrees.

That might be how many people think of North Dakota.

But, if you ask a local, you’ll get a different picture. They’d probably start by telling you how the economy has exploded with the oil boom and neither schools nor roads can be built fast enough for the rapidly growing population. Job opportunities abound and a college education isn’t necessary to make $80,000 a year here, where the unemployment rate is tied for lowest in the country.

To some, the prairies are a faraway place, too desolate to find innovation and success. To us, it’s the land of opportunity. The difference is entirely a matter of perspective.

On Fundera’s ranking criteria, North Dakota passed with flying colors when it comes to the health of its economy. The average woman-owned business brings in $200,000 in annual revenue and the average five-year revenue growth is nearly 120%.

But the number of women who are actually taking advantage of this economic climate in North Dakota is drastically low. Only 30% of the total businesses in the state are owned by women, putting North Dakota second to last in that category. Perhaps this, too, requires a change of perspective.

Samantha Swanson, new mom to an adorable little girl, is also the owner of a sweet little boutique called Lily Valley Baby in the center of Bismarck, North Dakota.

“It was always kind of in the back of my mind. Nothing ever came out of it, but it was always something I wanted to do,” she says, pausing to say hello to moms pushing strollers into her bright, airy shop.

Tiny dresses hang on tiny hangers. Soft stuffed animals sit, watching. Sam buzzes from customer to register, as she tells HER Magazine the story of how this little dream of starting a baby boutique turned into a huge leap of faith- one that would change the way she thought about her position in the world.

“I was just thinking the other day, ‘What would I do if I was still in that type of environment?’”

Just six months ago, Sam was working in human resources in Bismarck- in an office, with a newborn and an 8-to-5-schedule.

“That wasn’t me,” she says.

So, while adjusting to the lifestyle changes of having a baby at home, Sam set out to build and open a baby fashion business in just a few short months.

“I just started reaching out to these companies, thinking maybe they’ll respond to me, maybe they won’t. I don’t really know how all of this stuff works.”

As she found her way, Sam was beginning to find out her dream wasn’t so far out of reach. She describes the feeling as “a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.”

In some ways, entrepreneurship can feel like taming the wild west: pioneering through new territory, being resourceful, having the courage to weather the storms. Maybe that’s why women find such success in North Dakota, a place a where the American Dream thrives.

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