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Dr. Molly Ramsey checks on a recently spayed cat at her 1,900-square-foot Nixa Animal Hospital, which was backed by roughly $300,000 in startup loans. Ramsey says she wrote a plan and stuck with it.
Dr. Molly Ramsey checks on a recently spayed cat at her 1,900-square-foot Nixa Animal Hospital, which was backed by roughly $300,000 in startup loans. Ramsey says she wrote a plan and stuck with it.

Calling the Shots

Posted online
A growing number of women-owned businesses across Missouri and the nation is proof that women are geared up to take charge of their professional endeavors.

Released in late 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 Survey of Business Owners found the number of women-owned businesses grew 8.5 percent that year, and the Show Me State ranked 20th nationwide with 130,741 women-owned firms that brought in $19.7 million in sales.

While the next edition of the survey won’t be taken until 2012, the upward trend seems to be ongoing in the Ozarks because of women such as Dr. Molly Ramsey, a veterinarian who opened the 1,900-square-foot Nixa Animal Hospital on July 11.

Setting the bar
Ramsey, who had five years of previous veterinary experience, launched her practice so she could set her own standards – and her own rules.

“A lot in veterinary medicine is about being able to practice the way you want,” she said. “By opening my (clinic), I got to set the quality of medicine, equipment and the flexibility of hours.”

Ramsey used a $250,000 loan from BancorpSouth, backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration and its 504 loan program, as startup capital for clinic infill and equipment at 700 W. Mount Vernon St.

Another loan, $50,000 at a fixed 3 percent interest rate through the Missouri Small Business Loan Program – created by Gov. Jay Nixon and available through the state Department of Economic Development – covered extra equipment and pharmaceutical purchases.

Even with that funding in place, Ramsey had to watch her bottom line carefully.

“I had to make a plan and then stick to it,” she said. “With construction and starting inventory, I realized there is not any back-up money.”

Ramsey’s not the only Ozarks woman to take the leap in order to choose her own professional path.

For Julie Alexander, launching Lush Desserts LLC in March was motivated largely due to her desire to return to self-employment. A longtime hobby baker and former owner of Alexander Search Associates, Alexander’s business was inspired after tasting a treat that had a little something extra.

“I had an alcohol infused-cupcake, and I thought it was really a unique niche idea,” she said. In the early stages, Alexander teamed up with Debra Yeager – who is no longer involved with the company – to create alcohol-infused cake, cupcake and brownie recipes.

Alexander, who declined to disclose revenues, has rented commercial kitchen space for an undisclosed amount at 425 Downtown on Walnut Street, and her goal is to leave behind a part-time retail gig at Battlefield Mall to bake full time.

“I don’t want to go back to punching the time card,” she said. “I like the flexibility and making my own hours.”

As a stylist with 22 years of experience, Janet Chappell had experience with some elements of entrepreneurship. Before opening Bella Hair Salon at 1711 W. Battlefield, Ste. 27, in Salon Suites, Chappell rented booth space from another salon owner, but she didn’t quite get to call all the shots the way she does now.

“I have the freedom of setting the prices,” she said. “I like being my own boss.”
She leases her space for $115 a week, and since she already had her own products and tools, Chappell said she only spent about $500 in startup costs.

“If I hadn’t had my own products, it would have been a lot more expensive,” said Chappell, who has joined a networking group and started a Web site, BellaHairSalonSpringfield.com, to add to her existing clientele.

Lessons learned
Kelley Still, executive director at the Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship at Drury University, said business ownership is a viable option for women, because many of them are able to multitask well.

“(Women) sometimes already have several balls in the air, whether it’s with their home or a child, which is sometimes the reason women do start their own businesses,” she said.

Although some women might be more suited to business ownership than others, it doesn’t mean they won’t face hurdles along the journey.

For example, Ramsey said if she were to start another business, she’d allow more time for preparation and planning, which she completed in just a few months for Nixa Animal Hospital.

“It was a lot of stress,” she said.

Her efforts, however, are bringing results. She declined to disclose revenues, but noted that the company broke even in its first quarter of operations. With 360 clients who enlist her services to care for more than 800 animals, the clinic has exceeded her expectations.

Ramsey also recommends working with other local businesses.

“I used a local bank and contractors,” she said. “It’s important to build those relationships, and staying local was key.”

Alexander declined to disclose startup costs for Lush Desserts, but she said gaining exposure for a low cost helped keep her expenses down.

“In my experience, free sampling is the best way to get exposure,” she said. “I’ve given out samples at Wine Styles and at Harter House World Flavors.”

She also said taking her time to get the business going full steam has helped set the company’s foundation.

“Too many people jump in with both feet and go into debt immediately,” she said.[[In-content Ad]]

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