Downtown Phoenix experiences increase in women-owned businesses

Vox Curvy Couture, located at 1022 N. 5th St., is a prime example of women-owned businesses popping up in downtown Phoenix. Owner Andy McManis cited the supportive culture of Roosevelt Row business community among the reasons why the growth rate of women-owned firms in Phoenix has surged. (Courtney Pedroza/DD).

Downtown Phoenix is fostering an environment where women business owners are beginning to take the lead and thrive, according to local business leaders.

Dorothy Wolden, president-elect of the Phoenix chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, said the growth in membership of the NAWBO in Phoenix reflects this progress. In addition to owning more businesses, Wolden said women are also becoming more involved in planning Phoenix’s future.

Wolden said the growth in women-owned businesses is present in both services-based companies and tech-related businesses, and she believes these rankings are a result of the tight-knit business culture in Phoenix.

“We have a very strong and supportive small business community and there are definitely more opportunities and possibilities for women here than in other parts of the country,” Wolden said. “We don’t see much of the good ol’ boys club and maybe that’s because we are a relatively young city.”

Wolden also said the lower cost of living in Phoenix creates more opportunities for women to start their own businesses, because there is less initial financial risk.

Andy McManis, co-owner of VOX Curvy Couture, said the communities in place in downtown Phoenix and Roosevelt Row are supportive and help connect her business to the surrounding area.

“There are a lot of strong women that have been very encouraging and helpful in getting started,” McManis said. “I feel like I’m part of something. I know my neighbors, I can walk around and we can talk about our store and about what we can do to help each other.”

Her biggest advice for women who want to own their own business: find something that you’re passionate about.

McManis said inspiring other women is what drives her. Not only does she want to empower women of all body types with the selection at her clothing store, she said she encouraged one of her customers to open a “curvy” lingerie store this fall.

“I’m very excited about being able to inspire another woman business owner to start,” she said.

Arizona is tied for the fourth largest economic clout for women-owned businesses in the country, according to the 2014 State of Women-Owned Business Report commissioned by American Express Open.

Daniela Baca, CEO of Standard & Specialty Wholesale Floral, said she is not surprised that Arizona women-owned businesses are impacting the state’s economy so greatly.

“I think women are taking the world,” she said. “We have come a long way. I think right now is our time to shine.”

She agreed with Wolden and McManis that Phoenix is a great place for women-owned businesses to thrive.

She said that, regardless of gender, maintaining a work-life balance while being a business leader can be hard.

“We’re part of something,” Baca said. “The city is growing so it feels like we’re growing with the city.”

Clarification: April 30, 2014:

A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Dorothy Wolden as president of the Phoenix chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. She is the president-elect.

Contact the reporter at vmfernan@asu.edu.