ShareThis Page
Business Headlines

Western Pennsylvania trails nation in growth of women's businesses, data show

| Thursday, April 7, 2016, 10:21 p.m.

Women-owned businesses have gained ground in Pittsburgh, but their growth in numbers still lags the rest of the nation, according to a report released this week.

Women-owned firms in Pittsburgh increased 23.7 percent since 2007 despite flat growth among the total number of local businesses, the State of Women-Owned Businesses report from American Express OPEN found.

The pace of expansion outside the region has been faster. Nationally, the number of women-owned firms increased 45.2 percent. The city ranks 47th among all metro areas.

Just because growth in Pittsburgh lags other cities doesn't mean there is less local support for female entrepreneurs, Julie Weeks, research adviser at American Express OPEN, said Thursday. Rather, it may reflect demographic issues and overall sluggishness in the local economy.

“I think there's a lot to be said for macroeconomic trends, in terms of population,” Weeks said. “If the population is flat or declining, you don't have as many people and you won't have as many businesses.”

Pittsburgh's population has been shrinking. The seven-county metro region has lost 3,943 people since 2010, according to Census data. It was the only city among the largest 30 metro­politan areas to have lost residents during that period.

Still, Pittsburgh could be doing more to support female entrepreneurs, said Robyn Race, owner of Evolve Wellness Spa in Shadyside. She said she struggled to find funding when she started her business in 2010 and would have benefited from having an adviser. She found support once she was established, but not early on when she needed it most.

“I think there are a ton of resources out there, I just don't know how much they helped us in the beginning,” Race said.

Helping early-stage companies get off the ground is the goal of the Women's Business Center that opened this week at Chatham University. Funded through the U.S. Small Business Administration, the center will support female entre­preneurs in an 11-county region surrounding Pittsburgh, said Rebecca Harris, director of Chatham's Center for Women's Entrepreneurship.

“A lot of times what people need is this one-on-one business counseling, and that's what this provides,” Harris said. “Let's tailor and customize a specific program and target the needs of the business.”

The center opened six months after a similar one hosted at Seton Hill University shut down in September. Chatham was one of six locations around the nation selected this month to open a Women's Business Center. There are a total of 114 throughout the country.

Kelly Hunt, the SBA's district director in Pittsburgh, said Chatham was a perfect fit to host the center.

“Chatham has a rich history of what they've been doing with women business owners for a long time,” she said. “Unlike some of the other places that could have gotten this grant, this is something they're already doing. This is what their passion is about. It's not fitting a square peg in a round hole.”

Chris Fleisher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7854 or cfleisher@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me