WASHINGTON – When Susan Gilbert became a widow at 25 in 1990,she was left with no income,education or insurance. Today,she is a businesswoman who attributes her success to an entrepreneurial spirit.
“Entrepreneurs all have a burning desire to succeed,are willing to make the decisions necessary to attain their goals and then go for it,” Gilbert said. “I call it the ‘dog with the bone’ syndrome. Ever tried to take a bone from a dog? They hold on tight.”
Gilbert started in 1990 by moving 2,500 miles away from home and starting several businesses. She now owns and runs Café in the Park in Balboa Park in San Diego.
Gilbert,like others quoted in this story,was interviewed by e-mail. She is somewhat unusual because she is a woman entrepreneur.
Although 1.6 men start a business for every woman who does so,that trend is much more pronounced in the 18-to 24-year-old category. Younger U.S. men are three times as likely to be entrepreneurs as are women,according to a study by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor,a publication sponsored by several universities.
According to the 2002 national entrepreneurship assessment,U.S. women tend to become actively engaged in entrepreneurship later in life than U.S. men,who tend to be more active in their earlier years compared with the worldwide average.
The Census Bureau reported in 2000 that 6.6 percent of the 130 million employed civilian population age 16 and over was self-employed in a non-incorporated business. Of women,however,just 5.3 percent were self-employed.
Sherry Hoskinson,associate director of the Karl Eller Center for the Study of Private Market Economy at University of Arizona,said the status of women in entrepreneurship mirrors what is happening to women in other areas.
“Many studies demonstrate that women are minorities in higher level management,new enterprise creation,armed forces etc.,however this is less to do with opportunity,which by and large exists on an equal level,and is much more a matter of choice,” Hoskinson said. “Women would seem to be less inclined to make the emotional,mental and physical investment in these areas.”
But that’s not true of Dionne Muhammad,33,president of Celebrity Personal Assistants Inc. — an Atlanta lifestyle management and personal assistance agency that caters to athletes and celebrities. She said women are entrepreneurs by nature because they are “masters at multi-tasking.”
“I was having natural childbirth,” Muhammad said. “In between contractions,I would talk to the businessman that I was in negotiations with,scream,take a breath and resume our conversation. He was amazed.”
Even though both the businessman,who was on the phone,and the nurse insisted that she postpone closing the deal,Muhammad refused.
“I said,‘No. I want to get this done before I have the baby so I can scratch it off my to-do list!’”
Some businesspeople say the gap between the number of women and men starting a business could be because men are more likely to leave or sell a business once it is successful and start a new one.
“Typically a male entrepreneur is enthusiastic about the challenge of the venture itself and often loses enthusiasm in the business after it becomes successful and settles into a routine of daily predictable tasks,” said W. Denis Nurmela,CEO and founder of AlertNotify.com and other ventures. AlertNotify,based in Canyon Lake,Calif.,sends notices for companies,military units and governments.
Nurmela,40,said he has been an entrepreneur since he was 9 and started an ecology club.
“On the other hand,women seem to be more motivated by the end result of a venture and look forward to the end product,” he said. “They seem to do much better carrying a business beyond the start-up phase than male entrepreneurs.”
Bette Price,63,a Dallas management consultant who has been in business for 20 years and is the coauthor of the book “True Leaders,” said women tend to venture more into service-oriented businesses instead of manufacturing or product-driven businesses — giving them no collateral and making it difficult to get capital.
The GEM study showed that many young men are self-employed in the construction and trade industries,which require less education and experience to launch successfully.
“Women tend to start their own businesses after they have taken their education to the corporate sector,then hit a glass ceiling,” Price said.
Nurmela agreed that “female entrepreneurs seem to transition well to stage two of management in a venture,while male entrepreneurs are much better off to hire a good CEO and move on to another venture.”
Entrepreneurs say experience and motivation are two of the things influencing a new venture's success.
“With the exception of chance and luck in the mix,success of an entrepreneur is often directly proportional to age,” Nurmela said. “Most entrepreneurs who do not have at least one or two business failures under their belt do not have the stamina or the know-how to deal with problems in a venture when they arise.”
Ian Park,19,a college student from Florida who is chairman of Park & Halpern – a nonprofit organization that aims to reform the securities market – said he thinks motivation could explain the GEM report.
“I guess men are probably more greedy,” Park said. “It is surprising.”
Starting a small,home-based business can be the solution for the career-oriented woman who still wants to take care of her children.
“I started PublishingGame.com,my company that does books and workshops for writers,eight years ago,and I’m able to manage it successfully while still being home for my three kids,” said Fern Reiss,40,of Boston. “I left the corporate world — and I’ll never go back.”