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Women-owned businesses San Fernando Valley-based; ranked by 1999 revenues

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY For the San Fernando Valley’s largest women-owned businesses, 1999 was a good year. Every business ranked by the Business Journal reported an increase in revenues over 1998, and many reported significant increases. “There are more women going into businesses that have been traditionally focused more toward men,” said Sheila Hartman, owner of Financial Independence Co., No. 1 on the list. M.A. Sahroian, president of No. 2 Foothills Nissan, is still one of the few women owners of an auto dealership. Sahroian said most women in her line of work took over ownership after a husband or father died. Sahroian worked her way up to owner. “The factory would have preferred that my partner (a man) take over as dealer, but I stood firm,” Sahroian said. “They’re more accepting now of women.” THE PACESETTER financial independence co. Sheila Hartman started her business in 1984 as a way to educate Spanish-speaking workers about employee benefits. Since then, Woodland Hills-based Financial Independence Co. has grown into a nationwide provider of employee benefits, largely to the hotel industry. Financial Independence Co. reported $65 million in revenues for 1999, up 9.2 percent over 1998. Hartman said the firm added new clients last year without losing any of the big ones, such as Wyndham International Inc and Sheraton Hotels. Hartman said she has grown her business over the years not by pushing the fact that it’s woman-owned, but by focusing on client needs. “I never used the idea of being a women-owned business to recruit clients,” Hartman said. “I’ve never really felt it was necessary.” Even though the employee benefits and insurance field is filled with a substantially high percentage of women workers and a low percentage of women owners, Hartman said she didn’t face more obstacles than a man would. “For me, it was about being very corporate,” Hartman said. “I always dressed very corporate and not very feminine. I was very professional.”

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