Santa Rosa area ranks No. 6 in US among mid-sized cities for its female-owned businesses

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Mid-Sized Cities With Most Female Business Owners

U.S. cities with populations between 350,000 and 1 million people:

Metro area: Fayetteville, N.C.

% of business owners who are women: 46.9%

Number of women owning businesses: 1,973

Metro area: Beaumont, Texas

% of business owners who are women: 41.3%

Number of women owning businesses: 1,429

Metro area: Honolulu, Hawaii

% of business owners who are women: 39.6%

Number of women owning businesses: 6,110

Metro area: Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.

% of business owners who are women: 39.2%

Number of women owning businesses: 3,819

Metro area: El Paso, Texas

% of business owners who are women: 39.2%

Number of women owning businesses: 3,301

Metro area: Santa Rosa, California

% of business owners who are women: 38.9%

Number of women owning businesses: 4,295

Source: Volusion analysis of U.S. Census Bureau 2017 data

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Read the full report here

Tracy Mattson has taken a slow approach over the last eight years to growing her handcrafted cookie business, Cookie...take a bite!, at a Larkfield shopping center. Her patience is paying off: cookie production has tripled and next month Mattson will start offering counter service for those wanting an immediate sugar fix.

“I have made a choice not to have a huge success overnight,” said Mattson, who previously worked as the pastry chef at Cyrus restaurant in Healdsburg. “It has allowed me to create my own space and destiny.”

She particularly values the work-life balance of the North Bay, where she’s raising her 14-year-old son, Jack. It’s an experience that she didn’t have earlier in her career, while working in restaurants on the East Coast.

Mattson’s entrepreneurial venture is one of many female-owned businesses in the Santa Rosa area, which has seen a surge in the number of such companies, according to a report released this week by Volusion, an Austin, Texas-based e-commerce company that crunched U.S. Census data from 2017.

About 40% of business owners in the Santa Rosa metropolitan area are women, the sixth-highest percentage among mid-sized U.S. cities and No. 41 in the country among cities of all sizes, according to the report. The U.S. city average is 31%.

Over the past 10 years the percentage of female-owned businesses locally increased by 7.8 percentage points, the report said. Overall, there are some 4,295 businesses in the Santa Rosa area owned by women.

Building on Sonoma County’s agricultural roots, the area has been an incubator for many female entrepreneurs in the food and wine industry. Through the years, many have staked out their own paths, such as vintners Judy Jordan of J Vineyards and Winery in Healdsburg and Merry Edwards with her Sebastopol winery. Those efforts have spread to other sectors, including an influx of women in the newly legalized cannabis industry.

The female-run business growth in the Santa Rosa area also is boosted because more women than men reside here, plus there’s a large group of highly educated women compared to other areas of the United States, said Robert Eyler, a professor of economics at Sonoma State University.

“Sonoma County and Napa County have become a nexus of educated female leadership,” said Eyler, noting the top three positions at his university are held by women including SSU President Judy Sakaki.

Another example is Kayse Gehret, who has found success with her Soulstice Mind and Body Spa as she broadened beyond providing massages at her Santa Rosa and Sausalito locations. In 2016, she opened a yoga and meditation studio at her Sausalito site and will open another studio in Santa Rosa next month.

There is great need within the local community to provide a more holistic approach to helping customers in their daily lives, Gehret said, especially those still reeling from the aftermath of the 2017 wildfires.

“We were closed for a week,” she said, recalling the time after the fires. “We were immediately busy right away once we reopened.”

Gehret has found the Santa Rosa area has a large pool of women, many of whom may not have a traditional business background, but have more of a creative bent that allows them to uniquely navigate the challenges of operating their own businesses.

“There are women we have here that approach things creatively and innovatively versus ‘This is the way they have always been done,’ ” she said.

Mid-Sized Cities With Most Female Business Owners

U.S. cities with populations between 350,000 and 1 million people:

Metro area: Fayetteville, N.C.

% of business owners who are women: 46.9%

Number of women owning businesses: 1,973

Metro area: Beaumont, Texas

% of business owners who are women: 41.3%

Number of women owning businesses: 1,429

Metro area: Honolulu, Hawaii

% of business owners who are women: 39.6%

Number of women owning businesses: 6,110

Metro area: Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.

% of business owners who are women: 39.2%

Number of women owning businesses: 3,819

Metro area: El Paso, Texas

% of business owners who are women: 39.2%

Number of women owning businesses: 3,301

Metro area: Santa Rosa, California

% of business owners who are women: 38.9%

Number of women owning businesses: 4,295

Source: Volusion analysis of U.S. Census Bureau 2017 data

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Read the full report here

Gehret and Mattson both cited the informal and formal networks of other local female business owners that they can rely upon for encouraging words, customer referrals and anything else to making their businesses sustainable for the long run.

“It’s a great support system,” said Nicole Serres, co-owner of Star Staffing in Petaluma, a staffing and employment firm that has eight offices in Northern California.

Serres has found more women running businesses approaching her firm looking for qualified employee prospects. Many are in the food production business, but there are others in sectors such as health and wellness and other specialty areas such as animal care products.

“I think it’s exciting to see this upward trend of more women entrepreneurs,” Serres said. “We’re seeing a lot more women businesses popping up.”

But she also said barriers still persist. As evidence she cited Forbes magazine last week publishing a ranking of the most innovative 100 CEOs in the country with only one woman listed.

“Still, there is a long way to go,” Serres said.

The Volusion report found that woman business owners in the Santa Rosa metro area earn an annual median income of $46,538, which is only 57% of the yearly earnings of men who own local businesses. That disparity mirrors national trends in which the Santa Rosa would not be immune from, Eyler said.

“The (pay) gap has closed ... but has not closed as rapidly as some advocates had liked,” the economic professor said.

The drive to push ahead, however, is still strong for many local women, including Serres and her co-owner. Lisa Lichty. The two have plans to open three more Northern California Star Staffing offices before expanding into Southern California.

“We’re very ambitious. Creativity is what we are good with,” Serres said.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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