More women pursuing self-employment





Tali Greener
Sisters Kim Maxson of Griswold, right, and Lynn Hardell of Canterbury, left, in their shop, Two Sisters Shipping in Griswold on Thursday, March 15, 2007.

By Amy Lawson
GateHouse News Service
Published in the Norwich Bulletin on Sep 12, 2007 @ 11:44 AM

NORWICH, Conn. —

When Lynn Hardell took maternity leave from her job in 2001, she never dreamed that when she returned to work, it would be to manage her own business.

Two factors put her on the path to running her own business.

“I couldn’t commute to my job in Mystic from where I live in Canterbury because I had an infant son, and my job didn’t want me to do part-time,” she said. “My sister and I both have children, and we also didn’t want them in day care. We decided to try something of our own.”

Six years later, Hardell and her sister Kimberly Maxson are the owners of Two Sisters Shipping in Jewett City, a thriving packaging store that is half consumer-based and half freight management. The business ships packages for local residents and transports major goods across the country for larger companies. It even has a second location in Preston.

“We’ve grown a lot. It was slow and took awhile for the word to get out, but things are good now. But it would be nice to see more women take that chance,” Hardell said.

Statistics from the Center for Women’s Business Research show the number of private businesses owned by women in Connecticut has increased by 46.3 percent in the past 10 years. But the same enterprises still only account for 28.7 percent of all privately owned businesses in Connecticut. Stores and shops owned equally by men and women account for another 8 percent.

“Minorities and women haven’t really had the opportunity to get in and up to the plate,” said Fay Sheppard, president of the state’s chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. “Female entrepreneurs are the fastest-growing group of small business owners in Connecticut. But this state has a tough economy, and a whole lot of rules, regulations and taxes. It’s hard to do business here.”

Spurred by Layoffs

Sheppard attributes the increase to a large number of women leaving the corporate work world, where an employee may be considered old at 40, she said.

Since a high number of middle management employees are women, many entrepreneurial ventures happen after a layoff takes place, said Barbara Potopowitz, public information officer for the state’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women.

Issues such as finding health care are universal for small businesses, Potopowitz said, but certain issues are unique to women trying to start their own business.

“Sometimes lenders look differently at women. They often see their venture as a hobby or supplemental income for a family, and then believe that that woman might not need as much money,” Potopowitz said. “It’s hard to start a business, but statistics show that it tends to be harder for women.”

Potopowitz also said securing health insurance also can be more difficult for women since they are prone to need more preventive testing and care than men, and many companies don’t have affordable plans to cover those costs.

Maria Miranda, owner of Norwich-based Miranda Creative, said she’s faced adversity through the years of owning her business, but no more than any other entrepreneur — male or female.

“It’s a very small difference in prefix between self-employed and unemployed,” Miranda said. “It takes incredible self-discipline, many resources, including financial, and a lifestyle that can manage the 16-hour days. It’s not for everyone and, potentially, we are coming close to saturating the pool of women who fit the profile.”

Resources Available

Potopowitz said there are resources available for women who are looking to get into business and having difficulty securing funding, health care and other resources to become successful.

Initiatives such as the Microenterprise Resource Group and the Community Economic Development Fund can provide potential business owners with information, and help direct them to funding. Thanks to the efforts of the Small Business Administration, small women-owned or minority-owned businesses also have a better chance at securing government contracts.

Lynn Hardell knows firsthand what that can do for a business. She and her sister spent a few days at Lockheed Martin a few weeks ago packing up part of the Seawolf training program after winning the bid with the submarine base in Groton.

“That was a big deal,” she said. “The fact that we were even considered is important, because we wouldn’t have been a few years ago. It’s hard to do — we know we’re in a man’s industry — but it is possible.”

Contact Amy Lawson at alawson@norwichbulletin.com.