Women-Owned Businesses Up 42% in Michigan Since 1997


The number of women-owned businesses in Michigan has increased 42 percent over the past 17 years, however, the state lags in the bottom half of the national rankings, says a recent report by American Express Open, the credit card company’s small business program.

According to the annual report, women own more than 261,000 businesses in Michigan, earning nearly $32 million in revenue. In comparison, in 1997, there were about 185,000 businesses in the state, which earned about $26 million in revenue.

Julie Weeks, a research adviser at American Express Open, attributes the growth to an increase in programs aimed at helping women start their own businesses as well as the fact that more women hold managerial positions before starting their business than in the past.

Weeks also credits “the relentless march of women throughout universities.” According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 37 percent of women 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 35 percent of men in that same age group.

Of Michigan’s female business owners, 47 percent, or 123,100, are in metro Detroit. Among them is Angela Williams, who co-owns Detroit-based Detail XPerts, a steam-cleaning car wash franchise that opened in 2002 and now claims 58 stores.

Williams, as the company’s president, says she no longer finds herself struggling with some of the things she faced while climbing the ladder in the corporate world due, in part, to technology and the Internet. “Really, social media gives you an identity. It gives you the opportunity to speak with customers you normally would not speak to one-on-one,” says Williams, noting that she used to feel as though no one recognized she was a business owner.

Looking ahead, Williams expects the number of business owners — both male and female — to skyrocket over the next seven years. “This year is going to be big. The economy is making a turn, which gives people hope. And I think the non-attachment to job and health care makes a difference as well. (People) know that (they) can get health care in the marketplace and don’t have to hold onto a job they may not love because they need their health care.”

And she says the more women who jump on board to start their own businesses, the better. “Let’s face it: the more of your peers that you see doing it, the more interested you’ll be — and the more likely you are to say, ‘They did it, so can I.’”

While there are more female business owners today than there were nearly two decades ago, Michigan’s growth in women-owned businesses ranks 33rd in the country. “What makes a state rank higher is its general state climate, robust network of women business owners, and policies that are put in place by the state government to support women-owned businesses,” Weeks says.

Nationally, the U.S. is home to more than 9 million women-owned businesses, up nearly 68 percent since 1997.