Seattle is Second Best City for Women Entrepreneurs


Nerd Wallet, a personal finance site, examined which cities are the best for women entrepreneurs based on the following questions:

  1. Is the city an entrepreneurial one? We assessed the cities’ entrepreneurial climates by the number of businesses in the city per 100 residents.
  2. Are there female entrepreneurs (for networking or mentorship)? We analyzed the percentage of businesses in the city that are women-owned to gauge the level of support women would be able to find as well as how friendly the city is to entrepreneurial women.
  3. Does the city have a thriving economy? We examined the median income and unemployment rate to determine which cities have an economy that is conducive to new businesses and which have strong economic fundamentals. Cities that ranked higher have a high median income and low unemployment rate.
  4. Is it a highly educated city? Education levels correlate with entrepreneurship, and a study found that 92% of tech founders hold a Bachelor’s degree. We assessed the presence of educated workers in the city by the percentage of residents over 25 years old with a Bachelor’s degree.

The full study is here. Here are the results:

    1. San Francisco, CA

    San Francisco is well-known for its entrepreneurial climate, particularly in the technology industry. With nearby Silicon Valley and a whopping 13.7 businesses per 100 residents, the city has plenty of fellow entrepreneurs for networking and collaboration opportunities. The Bay Area is also home to three of the nation’s most famous businesswomen, Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook), Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo) and Meg Whitman (CEO of Hewlett-Packard).

    2. Seattle, WA

    Seattle is one of the most highly educated cities and has a correspondingly high median income and low unemployment rate. With 12.5 businesses per 100 residents, the city is highly entrepreneurial, and women own around 4 of those businesses.

    Organizations like CHEW organize events and panels to encourage female entrepreneurs to open their businesses in Seattle. Seattle is also home to one of the world’s most famous and civic-minded businesswomen, Melinda Gates, as well as rising chef and restaurant entrepreneur Renee Erickson.

    3. Washington, DC

    Over one-third of businesses in DC are owned by women, meaning that women in this city can find plenty of female coworkers and mentors. The city provides plenty of resources to women as well, such as the Washington, DC Women’s Business Center. The organization, partially funded by the SBA, offers trainings, classes and one-on-one consultations.

    4. Minneapolis, MN

    Minneapolis has the dual benefits of having a very low unemployment rate and an educated workforce. Additionally, women own almost a third of businesses in Minneapolis. Minnesotan businesswomen can meet each other and network at quarterly events at Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota. The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) of Minnesota is very active, providing networking and other events, and nearby twin-city Saint Paul-based WomenVenture offers loans and transitional career services.

    5. Portland, OR

    This laid-back West Coast city has it all: plenty of businesses, a good share of which are owned by women, an educated general populace and a low unemployment rate. Additionally, organizations like Women Entrepreneurs of Oregon hold plenty of events for women. Intel is Oregon’s largest employer, and the company has six Oregon campuses as well as a female Executive Vice President, Renee James.

    6. Atlanta, GA

    Atlanta has plenty of businesses, a third of which are run by women, and an educated population, making it a great city for female entrepreneurs. Plus, businesswomen can meet at the various networking events and educational programs run by the NAWBO in Atlanta. The Georgia Mentor Protégé Connection assists women in finding mentors, and the state provides plenty of trainings and networking assistance for women business owners.

    7. Austin, TX

    Austin is known for its startups—there are almost 11 businesses for every 100 Austin residents. Austin has a very low unemployment rate of only 6.2%, which is one reason we rated it as the number one city for job seekers. With organizations like Austin Women in Technology, businesswomen in Austin will have little trouble finding a supportive and knowledgeable community.

    8. Raleigh, NC

    Raleigh’s low unemployment rate and high number of businesses per person make it a great city for female entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs can check out organizations like Raleigh Business and Professional Women for resources. In addition, the City of Raleigh has adopted a Small Disadvantaged Minority and Women Owned Business Program, promising to award 15% of the city’s contracts to minority-owned and women-owned businesses.

    9. Denver, CO

    Denver is a highly educated city with plenty of businesses, 30% of which are owned by women. The Mile High City also has resources for businesswomen through The Entrepreneur Center at the University of Denver, which provides mentorship and networking opportunities. The city even hosts Denver Startup Week, a week of trainings, office hours, parties, mentorship and networking events. The week was so successful in 2012 that the city has announced a second year of the program.

    10. San Diego, CA

    With an educated population, moderately high median income and entrepreneurial atmosphere, San Diego is a great city for women in business. San Diego female entrepreneurs can access mentors, workshops, networking events and various small business tools through SCORE and the NAWBO. There are also several startup incubators in the city that help foster entrepreneurs and their ideas, including EvoNexus and the newly launched cybersecurity incubator CyberHive.

    Rank City Per capita income Unemployment rate Businesses per 100 residents Percent of businesses that are women-owned Percent of population 25+ with a Bachelor’s degree Overall score for women entrepreneurs
    1 San Francisco, CA $46,777 8.6% 13.7 30.1% 51.4% 63.4
    2 Seattle, WA $41,695 7.5% 12.5 30.3% 55.8% 63.0
    3 Washington, DC $43,993 10.2% 9.5 34.5% 50.5% 58.0
    4 Minneapolis, MN $30,693 6.3% 10.4 32.1% 44.7% 51.8
    5 Portland, OR $30,631 8.4% 11.9 31.9% 42.0% 50.6
    6 Atlanta, GA $35,884 12.1% 9.8 33.4% 46.1% 50.1
    7 Austin, TX $31,170 6.2% 10.8 28.2% 44.5% 48.7
    8 Raleigh, NC $30,377 7.6% 10.5 28.4% 47.3% 48.5
    9 Denver, CO $32,051 9.1% 11.5 30.1% 41.3% 47.7
    10 San Diego, CA $33,135 10.0% 10.3 30.7% 41.0% 45.9

    Detailed Methodology:

    The overall score for female entrepreneurs was calculated from the following measures:

    1. Number of businesses per 100 residents from the U.S. Census
    2. Percent of businesses that are women-owned from the U.S. Census
    3. Median income from the U.S. Census (half-weighted)
    4. Unemployment rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (half-weighted)
    5. Percent of residents 25+ who have a Bachelor’s degree

    50 of the most populous U.S. cities were included in this analysis.

    Paying the Price for $15 an Hour

    Paying the Price for $15 an Hour

    With the economy soaring, it’s hard to gauge the effectiveness of Seattle’s minimum-wage hike. Some small-business owners remain dubious.
    When the Seattle City Council passed the $15 minimum- wage ordinance in June 2014, David Lee, founder and CEO of the Field Roast Grain Meat Company, was not happy.
    “The minimum wage hurts businesses like ours that compete on a national level,” says Lee, who believes it makes employers feel “cheap” and weakens “the goodwill that bound employers to employees.”
    Even so, reflecting the mixed feelings of many Seattle businesses that want to do the right thing even as they struggle to survive, Lee decided to raise the minimum pay of his workers more than 20 percent — to $15 an hour — this fall, years before he was required to do so under the law.
    “I wanted to get it behind me,” he explains.
    Under a complex, multitiered system, Seattle companies with more than 500 employees must begin paying a $15-per-hour minimum wage starting in January. Companies with fewer than 501 employees  have until 2019, unless, like Lee, they provide health care or other benefits, in which case the $15 minimum wage rule applies to them beginning in 2021. Lee says his decision will cost Field Roast $300,000, about a quarter of its total earnings in 2015.
    Ivar’s Seafood increased prices by 21 percent in 2015 to cover an increase in employees’ minimum wages to $15. The company didn’t have to start paying $15 an hour until next year, but Ivar’s President Bob Donegan believed it was the right thing to do. The decision helped resolve long-standing tension between lower-paid workers in the kitchen and wait staff who received much higher wages thanks to tips. Donegan says most patrons continue to tip even when they are told gratuities are now included in their bills.

    A CASE OF COMPRESSION: Lynn Stacy unwraps grain meat for sausage products at Field Roast,
    which has a flatter pay structure because of its higher minimum wage.

    Some companies, however, remain concerned that the higher minimum wage could still hurt them. BrightStar Care, which offers home care and medical staffing in most states, is operating at a disadvantage because of the minimum wage, says CEO Shelly Sun. “Our Seattle franchise has only about 50 employees,” Sun notes, “but it’s being treated like a big business.”
    Because Seattle treats the franchised operation of a national chain as if it were a large business, BrightStar will have to pay $15 an hour as of January, whereas some of its competitors with similar employee numbers in Seattle may not have to pay that much until 2019. Sun says a consequence may be reducing the size of the Seattle franchisee’s staff, which could have implications for clients.
    Meanwhile, the national restaurant chain Buffalo Wild Wings says it is hesitant to expand in Seattle because the high minimum wage makes it economically inefficient to hire and train inexperienced workers. Still, what was once considered a movement isolated to “liberal” western cities like Seattle and San Francisco has gained sufficient momentum nationwide to be included in the national platform of the Democratic Party this election season. 
    Thanks to Seattle’s strong labor market — the unemployment rate in the Seattle metropolitan area was 4.4 percent in July (compared to 5.8 percent statewide) — the higher wages have had little negative effect on the economy.
    A report released in July by the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance concluded that the new minimum wage law hasn’t had a lot of upside, either. Since a strong labor market would have increased wages in any case, the study concluded, only a quarter of the recent gains could actually be attributed to the minimum-wage law — a little more than a few dollars a week. 

    Revisiting the minimum-wage story | Seattle Business magazine examined the minimum-wage issue in its May 2014 issue, just as the Seattle City Council was considering an ordinance raising the minimum hourly rate to $15 in a gradual process over several years, depending on a company’s size. This is the magazine’s first follow-up since passage of the minimum-wage law.