September 19, 2014

Entrepreneurs

A Different Direction

Women find a thriving environment as business owners in Tampa Bay.

Amy Welch Brill | 12/1/2004
Like many who worked for Intermedia Communications in Tampa in 2001, Marcy Wilson knew her job was in jeopardy.

With a strong resume, Wilson was confident she could find another job at a local company. In addition to her time as a manager at Intermedia, her resume included a stint at what is now PricewaterhouseCoopers and an MBA she earned while working at GTE as a manager in Tampa. But the impending pink slip led her in a different direction.

The corporate world was "OK but self-limiting," she says. Married with two children, she wanted more freedom.

So Wilson bought a business instead. And for three years she's owned Security Lock Systems in Tampa, a company that sells high-tech security systems to corporations. Revenue is over $1 million this year, and the company is profitable.

Wilson and other women business owners now are majority owners of more than half of the private companies in the Tampa/St.Petersburg/Clearwater area, according to a recent report by WellsFargo released by the Center for Women's Business Research in Washington, D.C.

That statistic places the region ninth in the nation among areas with the biggest share of private majority women-owned businesses. Tampa Bay is the only region in Florida ranked in the top 10 nationally. Miami ranked 10th among U.S. regions to add majority women-owned businesses the fastest since 1997.

Nationally, Florida ranks third in the number of private majority women-owned businesses.

Helping women entrepreneurs succeed, says Sharon Hadary, executive director of the Center for Women's Business Research, are good access to capital and a young, vibrant economy.

"Regional and community banks are focusing on doing business with women," she says, because their research shows that women are better credit risks.

Women today want the flexibility to be with their families but also the ability to influence the direction of the companies they work for, says Hadary.

Lack of flexibility led Skip Meadows to leave a sales job in Ohio in the late '80s to start a business in Clearwater. "I wanted to control my time and my destiny and my family," she says.

She decided on Tampa Bay because she read it was a good place for business. She has owned Meadows Business Systems, which provides filing systems and furniture, for 19 years.

"Corporations need to look at this issue," Hadary says. Women leaving corporations to start companies is due to a lot more than "this concept of the glass ceiling," she says.

Tags: Southwest, Tampa Bay, Business Services

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