Between February and April of 2020, lockdowns and shifting demand caused by the Covid-19 crisis hit women-owned businesses particularly hard: 25% of women-owned companies closed.*
But, some not only survived, they thrived.
“At a time when bright spots are few and far between, we are thrilled to celebrate the business accomplishments of these 50 inimitable leaders,” said Camille Burns, CEO of the WPO. The 50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies from Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and American Express was released a few days ago. “Not only do women-owned businesses fuel the economy with trillions of dollars in revenue and the millions of jobs they provide, many have also pivoted their offerings and business strategies to provide essential services and accommodate their employees, which has proven to be vital for navigating the pandemic,” said Jessica Ling, Vice President and General Manager, Marketing Strategy, Content and Experiences at American Express.
What lessons can be gleaned from women running the fastest growing businesses that policymakers and women running companies can use?
1) Government Supplier Diversity Programs Are A Win-Win
A majority—68%—of the 50 Fastest-Growing Businesses do business with the government. If you’re 51% owned by women or other underrepresented groups, you can take advantage of government supplier-diversity programs at local, state, and federal levels. Creating more significant opportunities for historically underutilized businesses to grow and prosper through public procurement policy is a strategy that can help women-owned businesses not just survive the pandemic, but thrive.
Local governments spend $1.8 trillion on goods and services, state governments $2.1 trillion, and the federal government $4.5 trillion. Government supplier-diversity programs also improve the competitiveness of their supply chains. Supplier diversity programs benefit government agencies and taxpayers by:
- accessing innovative products/services
- increasing competition, resulting in better prices and service levels
- highlighting their commitment to diversity and inclusion
- building a shared and durable prosperity
- becoming more flexible, agile, and resilient
Governments at all levels can leverage their spending to help women-owned businesses pull through the crisis and grow.
Of course, you’ll need to get certified. How you do that will vary depending on the government agency from which you are seeking to win contracts. At the federal level, the certification process just changed.
2) Tapping Global Markets
For many chart-topping women run-businesses, the world is their oyster: 56% of the 50 Fastest Growing do business globally. Those in the US recognize that three quarters of the world’s purchasing power and over 95% of world consumers are outside US’s borders. “… there is vast upside potential for these and other fast-growing women business owners to reach even further internationally …,” said Laurel Delaney, president of GlobeTrade.com, founder of Women Entrepreneurs Grow Global, and Chicago Chapter Chair of the Women Presidents’ Organization.
Only 12% of businesses that export are owned by women. To encourage more to do so, track trade by women-run companies, highlight their importance in the global economy, offer gender-related provisions that facilitate fast-track global growth, provide more resources, such as training, financing, and mentoring, commented Delaney.
3) Empower Employees To Work From Home
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a massive shift from working in an office to working from home: Eight in ten—82%—corporate leaders plan to allow employees to work remotely some of the time.** It’s no different for the 50 Fastest. Though the number of people working partially or fully remote has been rising slowly, the coronavirus pandemic dramatically increased that trend. Working from home was the most significant adjustment for the six female leaders who shared their experiences. Some now see a real benefit from work-from-home policies.
Transiting to a remote workplace was the biggest pivot that TKT & Associates, the fastest-growing woman-owned business, made in response to the crisis. The company assists public- and private-sector clients to assess procurement, reporting, and compliance monitoring. It also does staffing. The business was founded by Tierra Kavanaugh, who recently passed away. Questions were answered by Kimberly Bunton, chief administrative officer and general counsel.
Working from home was also the most significant pivot for Asma Ishaq’s company, Modere. She is the CEO of the third fastest-growing woman-run company. Modere delivers innovative products—personal care, health and wellness, and household care.
“I learned that we can work remotely and be effective and that I can put a lot of trust in my employees,” said Christine Meyer, president of Battaglia Associates. The company is a general contracting firm specializing in commercial and industrial services and materials. It is the fifth fastest-growing woman-run company.
Solvix Solutions provides a single location to find all your business technology solutions and is eighth on the list. “We have started building our practice of supporting employees working from home and helping businesses provide better support to those who will continue working from home,” said Stacey Rock, managing partner and president.
For employers, the benefits include lowering the cost of office space. For employees, the benefits include a flexible schedule, the ability to work from any location, and no more commuting. “We are currently considering remaining remote indefinitely,” Bunton said. “We can be effective and, in some cases, increase productivity working remotely.”
However, as Mary Hensley, president and director of marketing for Enspire Energy, points out, there are conflicting issues. She founded the company with Julie Hashagen. Enspire is a full-service, natural gas marketing company and ranked #2 on the list. Remote work fosters less of a team environment. Some employees are thriving at home and want to stay remote, while others want to return to the office. Policies need to be developed that accommodate all workers’ styles. Companies are learning lessons.
To mitigate the risk of a cyber threat, Enspire also has increase security measures.
4) Expand Digital Offerings
To make sure companies are meeting the needs of customers, they are introducing more virtual products. TKT is expanding its digital products and is not alone in developing online products. “We have added product segments that weren’t available through our company prior to the pandemic,” said Patrica Bible, founder, president, and CEO of KaTom Restaurant Supply. It is one of the nation’s largest restaurant equipment suppliers, and ranked tenth on the list.
5) Move Fast and Be Agile
Finally, Bunton points out that whatever strategies you are putting in place for your company, “Be flexible. Adapt quickly.”
What changes can you make so your business thrives despite economic uncertainty?