The greater Santa Rosa-Sonoma County metropolitan region is the fifth-best urban area in the nation for women to start businesses based on a new analysis of federal data.
The region also ranked sixth for population density of women-owned businesses — 3.43 per 100 residents — and seventh for women with median annual income as a percentage of men — 89 percent.
The study (nerdwallet.com/blog/small-business/women-entrepreneurs-small-business-loans) was conducted by NerdWallet, a San Francisco-based personal finance information service. The study also found that four of the top 10 are in California and all have more women-owned businesses per 100 residents and higher annual incomes for women compared with the national average.
The results of the study were garnered from an analysis of data garnered from the U.S. Census Bureau and Small Business Administration lending.
Part of the reason the greater Santa Rosa area scored so high is due to a friendly, supportive, community atmosphere, a staffing firm owner said.
“There is opportunity here; women are opening doors,” said Nicole Smartt, an owner and vice president of Petaluma-based Star Staffing. “I’ve never felt less than my male counterpart. It’s like you can do anything. It’s a small county. If you work hard, earn trust and respect, the community stands by each other. In other communities, that doesn’t happen.”
Women can also find organizations which support other women here, such as Sonoma County Women in Law, Women for WineSense and Sonoma County Professional Women, which focuses on collaboration and mentoring.
Women-owned businesses in the county run the gamut from accounting firms to construction. Smartt said she is seeing more women becoming CEOs.
NerdWallet noted that despite these findings, there still remains a large entrepreneurship gender gap. In Santa Rosa, a woman who owns a business can expect average annual income that is 89 percent of what her male counterpart would earn. Average revenue for the area’s women-owned enterprises ws $115,113, the study said.
The study focused on small-business success factors such as financing, economic health and business climate in 174 U.S. metropolitan areas with populations of 250,000 or more.
The top 10 areas in the study are Boulder, Colo., in first place, followed by Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.; Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo.; Santa Cruz-Watsonville; Santa Rosa; San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward; Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn. and Wis.; Portland-South Portland, Maine; and Fort Collins, Colo.
From 2013–2014, there was a 19 percent rise in Small Business Administration-guaranteed loans to women, the study found. Women entrepreneurs in the top 10 cities received 24.36 SBA loans per 100,000 residents, well above the national average of 14.56.