Entrepreneurship: Even Barbie’s Doing It!

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After 130 or so careers as diverse as rock star to astronaut and aerobics instructor to veterinarian, Barbie is going into business for herself.

At the American International Toy Fair held last week in New York, Mattel announced the new entrepreneur version of its iconic fashion doll. It’s unclear just what Barbie’s start-up business is, but clad in a bright pink shift dress and black heels and armed with a tablet and a smartphone, she looks ready for anything.

Although the new Barbie drew ire from some corners – she still has that ridiculously unattainable shape, after all – she is representative of a new trend in American business. According to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), women will create over half of the approximate 10 million new small business jobs expected by 2018, and most of them will be starting from home-based offices.

According to the Guardian Life Index, a small business research organization, the reasons women are looking to small businesses are low-start-up costs, flexible schedules and a general frustration with corporate politics. Another over-riding reason is the independence entrepreneurship provides.

Many of those start-ups aren’t staying small. A January study called “Growing Under the Radar: An Exploration of the Achievements of Million-Dollar Women-Owned Firms” written by Womenable, a women’s entrepreneurial organization, reports that the number of women-owned firms with revenue of $10 million or more has increased by about 57% over the last 10 years. The Gender-Global Entrepreneurship Development Index (GEDI) ranks the United States first in the world for having supportive conditions for female entrepreneurs.

Women may be uniquely suited as entrepreneurs, according to Larry Keeley, author of the book Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs. After analyzing 30 years of business data, he asserts that women approach problem-solving differently than men by not looking for simple answers and creating comprehensive solutions.

Last year for the first time two American-born women, who are not celebrities, made the Forbes World’s Most Powerful Women list. Nearly 60 percent of the nation’s wealthy women have earned their fortunes themselves.  Some experts predict that by 2030, women could control two-thirds of the nation’s wealth.

Here is our list of five of our nation’s top female entrepreneurs. You’ll notice they are non-celebrities and that they represent a variety of industries:

Top five female entrepreneurs

Sara Blakely – This former Disney World ride hostess has a success story that would make Walt Disney himself proud. When she was 29, Blakely invested $5,000 in her new line of shaping undergarments.

Since then, Spanx has skyrocketed from Blakely’s Atlanta apartment to more than $250 million in annual revenues and net profit margins estimated at 20 percent. In 2012, Blakely, who is now 43, became the youngest self-made woman on Forbes’ Billionaires list.  Her Sara Blakely Foundation helps women through education and entrepreneurial training. She is the first female billionaire to join the Giving Pledge, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s pledge for the world’s wealthiest people to donate at least half their fortune to charitable organizations.

Alexa von Tobel – While a senior at Harvard College in 2006, von Tobel came up with the idea for LearnVest, the financial planning company she founded three years later. LearnVest Planning provides personal finance training and tools and is a registered investment advisor. The financial planner who assists you on your way is the equivalent of a personal trainer in the financial fitness center, often providing detailed advice tailored to the specific needs of the client.

Tory Burch — Born and raised in Philadelphia, Burch, 47, worked with Ralph Lauren and Vera Wang before beginning her own fashion brand out of her New York apartment in 2004. Her versatile ready-to-wear clothes, shoes and accessories have been called preppy-bohemian.

Arianna Huffington – A syndicated columnist, author and radio host, Huffington created her namesake website in 2005.  The 63-year-old Greek American was a conservative radio commentator before switching to liberal politics and starting The Huffington Post, which has become a Pulitzer prize-winning international online news platform.

Crystal Culbertson—After working for two and a half years as a logistics specialist for the Air Force, Crystal Culbertson started her own company in 2002 to help the U.S. Armed Forces streamline procurement processes. Today Crystal Clear Technologies specializes in information technology and data communications issues involving the federal government.  The company’s motto is “Serving Those Who Serve,” and Culbertson said in an interview with Inc.com, “as cheesy as it may sound that’s the best part of the job.”

According to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Survey, there are more than 10 million women-owned American businesses. They employ more than 13 million people and generate nearly $1.9 trillion in sales. Since 2008, the only businesses that have shown a net increase in employment are large, publicly-traded corporations and privately-held majority women-owned firms.

That’s the good news.  The bad news is that according to the same NAWBO survey, almost 25 percent of female business owners reported that they did not seek a new loan or line of credit because they did not believe they would get it. There is reason for their reluctance. Industry experts estimate that loan approval rates for business start-ups for women are 15 to 20 percent lower than they are for men.

I wonder how Barbie got her funding?

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