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Tuesday, Sep 27, 2022
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Season for Resilience

During the last year, the impacts of the coronavirus and government-mandated closures disproportionately affected women business owners. Now, as businesses reopen without restrictions, women are driving the business recovery.

“With COVID, that really just put a glaring flashlight on all of the inequities that we see and live every day,” Tanya Hill, director of the National Association of Women Business Owners, said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce found in a recent survey that the pandemic disproportionately impacted these businesses, with women reporting less optimism about revenue, investment and hiring plans compared to male-owned small businesses. The number of female business owners who ranked their business’ overall health as “somewhat or very good” fell 13 points during the pandemic, from 60 percent in January to 47 percent in July 2020. By contrast, the number of male business owners reporting “good” business outlook only fell 5 points in the same period, from 67 percent to 62 percent.

In the Valley region, women business owners took a step back in the last year.“We lost pretty much all of our charter business, so that was pretty much non-existent,” said Kathryn Purwin, owner of Van Nuys-based Helinet Aviation Services. “However, there were still fires. And (our helicopters) fight fires, and that wasn’t affected by the pandemic. … We didn’t have any greater business in any of our areas, so it’s not like anything picked up enough to make up for the business that we lost. It was definitely a hard time for us.”Helinet Aviation ranks No. 8 on the Business Journal’s list of Women-Owned Businesses.While, in general, women were more likely to leave the workforce due to concerns like childcare and less likely to receive Paycheck Protection Program loans to support their businesses, Purwin was committed to keeping her entire staff employed during the pandemic and was able to secure a PPP loan that helped keep the business afloat.

“We’re still here, we’re still employing everybody and business is slowly picking back up,” said Purwin. “I think we’re one of the lucky ones that can say we made it through.”Despite the lasting challenges, women-owned businesses are driving relief as the economy moves toward recovery, as illustrated by the profiles on the following pages.

Recent data indicates that 32 percent of small business owners are women, a 13 percent increase from last year’s 27 percent, according to the latest Small Business Trends report released by Guidant Financial. And nearly half (47 percent) of businesses started by women in the past year were started by women of color. Many did so out of need – minority women were more than twice as likely (35 percent versus 17 percent for others) to start a new business because of financial imperative, according to NAWBO research.

“I just think that women, at the end of the day, we’re going to do what it takes for us to survive, and to grow our businesses and protect our families,” Hill said. “We’re going to do what it takes.” 

Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert
Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert
Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert is a Los Angeles-based reporter covering retail, hospitality and philanthropy for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. In addition to her current beat, she is particularly interested in criminal justice topics, health and science stories and investigative journalism. She received her AA in Humanities from Moorpark College in 2016, her BA in Communication from Cal Lutheran University in 2019 and followed it up with a MA in Specialized Journalism from USC in the summer of 2020. Through her work, Katherine aspires to help strengthen the fragile trust between members of the media and the public.
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