$10 Million Women: The Next Level

It’s a rare group: female entrepreneurs who launch companies and take them beyond $10 million in sales.
M. Sharon Baker |   October 2012   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Lisa Hufford, left, and Jeanne Knutzen, photographed at Canlis Restaurant in Seattle.

When Lisa Hufford quit her executive sales job at Microsoft in 2006 to become a consultant, she had modest ambitions. 

She wanted the flexibility to travel less and spend more time with her children. Still, her new company, Simplicity Consulting, pulled in $300,000 in sales in its first year.

Other women who saw her success sought her advice on how to balance work and home life, and many ended up working for her as sales and marketing consultants to clients such as Microsoft and Amazon. The result: Revenues soared to $3.5 million in Simplicity’s second year.

By 2008, Hufford had 20 employees. “I really started getting bombarded with referrals,” she says. She had to decide whether to continue to preserve her flexible lifestyle or expand her company. She took a full day to think about what she wanted, and decided to go for growth. To preserve time for her two children, Hufford was diligent about blocking out periods to attend events and be with them, and she encourages her employees and consultants to do the same.

Pursuing growth paid off handsomely: Revenues doubled to $7.6 million in 2009 and shot past $14 million in 2011. Today, as Hufford prepares to take Simplicity Consulting national in two or three years, she’s already a member of a very exclusive club: Women who own companies with sales of more than $10 million.

It’s not clear how many women are members of that club. But only about 20 percent of $1 million businesses owned by women ever reach sales of more than $5 million, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research in McLean, Virginia. In Seattle, the $10 million club is so exclusive we could find only three other members: Jeanne Knutzen of Pace Staffing Network, Rosanna Bowles of the tableware company Rosanna Inc. and Paula Begoun of Paula’s Choice, a skin-care company. The three founders of Chasing Fireflies—Dina Alhadeff, Amy Grealish and Lori Liddle—left the club when they sold their $39 million Seattle children’s apparel and gifts business to HSN’s Cornerstone Brands in April.

More women are close to punching through that $10 million glass ceiling. Liz Lasater’s Red Arrow Logistics, a freight-moving company based in Issaquah, generated sales of $9.6 million last year. Lisa Keeney McCarthy is within striking distance, too. McCarthy purchased Keeney’s Office Supply in Redmond from her father in 1983 and has grown the business from $2 million to more than $9 million during the

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