Female entrepreneurs applaud new top ten ranking for women-owned business in Iowa

Britttany Hannah owns her own restaurant, but has struggled being in a male-dominated field. She says the new ranking is encouraging.

From entrepreneurs to politicians, women across Iowa are celebrating a new report showing the state is ranks in the top 10 for female entrepreneurs.

Iowa was consistently dead last for women-owned businesses for many years, but the most recent American Express annual study is shifting the state's rankings. It’s a good sign for small corridor businesses and the women who run them.

Like on Marion's 11th Street.

“Everything around us is all women-owned," says Brittany Hannah, a business owner herself.

The small area near Marion Square is a hub for female entrepreneurs, many of them cropping up in just the last year. A sign of the changing times for Iowa businesses.

"It makes me feel like there's progress being made," Hannah says.

In American Express's 2018 annual report on women-owned businesses, Iowa tied with Georgia for eighth place for economic clout, or growth in the number of firms, employment, and revenues.

Iowa also ranked fourth for employment vitality -- one of several rural states where women-owned businesses employed more people.

Christa Nelson, who started all-female marketing and PR firm Epiphany a year ago, is excited about the move.

"It is a huge leap from being 51st just three years ago,” she says. “We're employing eight percent of the private workforce. That's huge!"

However, she’s not surprised Iowa is now in the top.

She says it’s a great place to live and work, full of hard-working people who will support each other, regardless of gender.

Not everyone has felt so supported.

“I've had somebody come in to turn in an application to me, find out that I was the kitchen manager, the chef, and rip up the application and throw it at me. Because I’m a woman," says Hannah, who owns Bistro 3 Nineteen. She says professional cooking is a male-dominated field, and she’s even struggled to have reps “give you the time of day.”

She says state assistance will help her six-month old bistro after her downtown Cedar Rapids restaurant flooded.

Other female bosses credit Iowa’s new top ranking to cultural shifts and supportive families.

“Women that support each other rise together," says Cassie Hammarmester, who recently bought Roots in Bloom. She also teaches yoga and owns a wellness business in the area upstairs from the flower shop.

Even Governor Kim Reynolds applauded the ranking, tweeting that it's a good sign for the state.

Many of these female entrepreneurs are also mothers; sometimes Cassie says it helps her female customers feel at home to see her with a child on her hip behind the counter.

She says it’s an added bonus to being her own boss: she can bring her kids to work.

“They see me doing schedules and they see me watering plants, fixing the toilet. I wear all the hats as a small business owner."

Besides making their own schedules, taking vacation when they need, and now having some recognition for their efforts, it just feels good to be doing a woman's work.

Find the full American Express report here.

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