Survival rates for women-owned businesses

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There are an estimated 10.6 million privately-held business in the United States that are wholly or partially owned by women.

The National Women’s Business Council says that black women are majority owners in an estimated 365,110 privately held U.S. firms. They own more than one-third of all black-owned businesses and more than one-third of all minority-owned companies. Asian women have majority ownership in about 358,503 privately held U.S. firms. An estimated 470,344 majority owned, privately held Hispanic businesses are owned by women, which accounts for 8 percent of all privately held companies owned by women in the United States.

Survival rates among business owned by women of color are highest, 77 percent, among the Asian population, according to a three-year study conducted from 1997 through 2000 by the National Women’s Business Council in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau. Business owned by black women had a 68-percent survival rate. Businesses owned by white women had a survival rate of 73 percent.

In Colorado, the survival rate for businesses owned by black women was 28 percent; Hispanic women had a 62-percent survival rate; and Asian women were in line with the national statistics with a 75-percent survival rate.

Nationally and locally, Asian women who own businesses are proving their staying power.

Jannie Richardson was born in Korea. She married a U.S. serviceman and moved to the Springs in 1976. They divorced in 1979, and Richardson, the mother of a 3 year old, became a part-time hairdresser and the owner of Sentry Excavating.

As an Asian female in a field dominated by white males, Richardson encountered challenges. However, she was able to secure government contracts and keep her business afloat amid a sea of doubters. But a city contract that she won was widely scrutinized in the media, she said, and caused major problems for her excavating company.

Because of the problems, Richardson was forced to trade moving dirt for developing ground. She was undaunted by the downfall of her seven-year excavating business and stayed in construction.

During the past 10 years she has put all of her energies into a land development and building company, Sunshine Home Development Inc.

Richardson is in the middle of completing a 100,000-plus square-foot office building and shopping center – Pine Creek Village, on Briargate Parkway. The four-building complex is situated on almost eight acres. Nine spaces have been leased; seven are in negotiation. Richardson said two of the four buildings will be ready for tenant finish by Sept. 1.

“I have to work five times harder than anyone else in this business,” Richardson said. But her hard work has paid off.

Richardson built Candlewood Suites on North Academy Boulevard; she owns 22 condominiums that she built in downtown Denver; she bought 123 houses in Charleston, N.C., in a distressed property sale, remodeled and sold them all. She did the same with 200 homes (she still has 40 for sale) in the San Bernardino Valley in California, where Richardson also owns two parcels of land and a medical office building. She owns commercial property in New Jersey and Arizona and bought and renovated a Holiday Inn and turned it into a Comfort Inn in Overland Park, Kan.

Richardson has two other projects in the works: a 10,000 square-foot strip mall – Jannie Plaza – at Dublin Road and Academy Boulevard, which she hopes to finish by the end of the year, and a 500-acre housing, shopping and industrial complex in Castle Rock. She is working with the city, Douglas County and state officials on the latter development.

Even with all of her accomplishments, Richardson said it is difficult for her male counterparts to recognize her presence as a developer and builder. She said that visitors to her building sites have ignored her as they looked for a superintendent or someone to answer questions about the particular project.

Richardson said she gains much of her support from fellow Korean business owners and the Springs’ fast-growing Korean community. She is the president of the 500-member Korean Chamber of Commerce. Chi Eung Yi, the group’s vice-president, said there are 2,500 Korean-owned businesses in the Springs, and that 100 are owned by women. “Most of those women are in the service business,” Richardson said. “And many of them are single parents. “

Richardson said Korean women face the same challenges as all women in business, whether they are white or women of color. She said she has survived as a business owner because of her love of work and a work ethic she adopted as the daughter of farmers. “I love to work – I love everything I do, and I love all of the cultural differences and even the challenges.”

Marsi Loving has experienced equal challenges as a black woman who owns a business. Loving and her male business partner, Darison Orung, have survived 10 years as owners of an asbestos abatement and environmental hazards removal business, Daro Tech. Loving said the company’s bread and butter has come from jobs in Denver, business that has eluded the company in the Springs.

Loving said she believes that it has been easier to make inroads into the Denver market because it is a larger city and there are more projects – projects with minority requirements. She and Orung registered as a minority business in the Springs, but the work has not been forthcoming.

As a black woman in construction, Loving has felt the same prejudices as Richardson. “Many times, men will avoid talking to me and wait to talk to my male partner about an on-the-job situation,” Loving said. “I don’t know if it’s because I am female, a black female or if it is a little of both.”

Kathleen Foster, who also is black, has owned Everything for Kids and Maternity Consignment store in the Austin Bluffs Plaza for 10 years. She is a board director for the Black Chamber of Commerce. Foster said her trials and tribulations are comparable to those of every business owner.

Her main customers are white females, and she isn’t sure if the reason is because white women tend to shop consignment stores more than minorities or because few minorities live in the area surrounding her store.

“I think the challenge to black women owners depends on the type of business they own,” Foster said.

Loving said that black owners who survive in business do so because of the naysayer who tells them they can’t. “People look for you to fail,” she said. It’s an incentive to prove them wrong.

“And getting through others’ prejudices is an added burden to proving oneself in business.” Loving said the key to survival is what most businesses – black, white, Hispanic, Asian, male or female – need to live by: “Keep doing what you can not to fail.”

- Marylou.Doehrman@csbj.com