Listen up, ladies. Want to make some cash? Forget fashion, fitness or beauty. The real money lies in non-traditional businesses — think trucking, warehousing and wholesale trade.
That’s according to Marsha Firestone, who leads the Women Presidents’ Organization, a trade group for multimillion-dollar women-owned businesses. This week, WPO released its annual ranking of the 50 fastest-growing women-led companies. Most are business-to-business companies in traditionally male-dominated fields, such as information technology and transportation, which are scalable and attractive to banks or investors.
The list includes Strategic Communications, a Louisville provider of technology services run by Kathy Mills, which pulled in $97.3 million in revenue in 2013. Another is WDS Inc., a warehousing, distribution and inventory management company led by Jennifer Maier of Lake Wylie, S.C., whose revenue topped $155 million.
There’s even a tractor company on the list: Erkunt Traktor Industry Inc. of Turkey, run by Zeynep Erkunt-Armagan.
“Women have a great deal more confidence today and are working in businesses such as trucking that are more fundable,” Firestone says. “They see the dollar value in non-traditional businesses.”
In the not-so-distant past, women had little access to credit, and typically started businesses that didn’t require much capital, such as one-person consulting firms, she says. “These were largely based on the founder who started the business, and not sustainable without the leader being there,” she says. Now, with more funding opportunities and female trailblazers to follow, women are running non-traditional firms that combat the old perception of female companies being all “cookies and crafts,” she says.
The WPO ranking proves that “a woman’s success doesn’t have to be baking or an Etsy project,” Firestone says.
That said — for women who don’t have an interest in, say, construction management — the No. 1 firm on WPO’s 2014 list is Thirty-One Gifts, a direct seller of purses, totes and other fashion accessories. The company, founded by Cindy Monroe, may be more stereotypical “female” but its revenue growth would impress any member of the Old Boys Club. Over the past four years, sales have growth from $38 million in 2009 to $760 million in 2013.
To see the complete list, click here.