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After starting her Internet-based business in May 2009, Deb Lumos moved her Cake Pop Co. into a permanent location earlier this month.
After starting her Internet-based business in May 2009, Deb Lumos moved her Cake Pop Co. into a permanent location earlier this month.

Women's business opportunities abound

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Deb Lumos became a statistic in May 2009.

But it’s in a growing category in which she is happy to be a member.

The number of women-owned businesses in Missouri continues to climb, up 8.5 percent during 2007, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 Survey of Business Owners, conducted every five years.

Missouri ranked 20th in the nation in 2007, accounting for 130,741 women-owned firms, up from 120,457 in 2002.

Lumos opened The Cake Pop Co. LLC as an Internet-based business, shipping her specialty cake-on-a-stick treats to customers nationwide while subleasing space at Café Whistle Stop, a friend’s catering company.

Last week, she hung a shingle, moving into a 2,000-square-foot storefront at 1805 E. Seminole St. in the Tower Grove center.

“I feel like women are looking for more creative ways to make money,” Lumos said. “Some of my friends are very creative people – recipes, art, styling something.
“We’re taking more of the reins and saying, ‘We can do this, too.’”

Nationwide, 28.7 percent of businesses are majority owned by women, and when considering 50/50 partnerships, 45.7 percent have women at the helm, the census study said.

In Missouri, women-owned businesses also rung up $19.7 million in sales during 2007.

Funding for all?
Despite the growing number of businesses owned by women, startup barriers exist, the biggest being financing, according to Kelley Still, executive director of the Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Drury University.

“Women actually have a lot of the type of skills that successfully launch and nurture new businesses, but we know that those businesses do not start with as much capital, nor grow as fast, nor get as large on average as men-owned businesses,” Still said.

Three out of four women-owned businesses start with less than $5,000 in funding, and 52 percent of female owners use a credit card to start their business, compared to 18 percent of overall startups, according to Springfield Business Journal archives.

Because she started small – with a $3,000 investment – Lumos didn’t have to seek outside funding for her business. When she moved into retail space, she applied proceeds from a large order by Weston, Fla.-based Anda Pharmaceutical.

“I didn’t do anything else with that money but buy equipment and move,” Lumos said.

Kim Wilkins, owner of Champ Industries Inc. in Seymour, has built her company on revenues through government contracts.

While manufacturing mechanical and engine parts, Champ Industries juggles 20 military contracts, and Wilkins said the jobs will continue to be her company’s bread and butter.

To help women-owned small businesses land federal contracts, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program is now accepting new applications, with the first contracts expected to be awarded by the fourth quarter of fiscal 2011.

The program allows contracting officers to set aside specific contracts for certified women-owned small businesses and will help federal agencies achieve the existing statutory goal of 5 percent of federal contracting dollars being awarded to women-owned small businesses. Program details and applications are available at www.sba.gov/wosb.

Knowledge is key
Events such as the Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium at Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Drury University on Jan. 22 are key to helping women entrepreneurs take the plunge, Still said.

There were 77 people in attendance for the third annual event, covering funding sources, guerilla marketing and a panel discussion with business owners. Serving as panelists were WineStyles franchisee Hallie Sale; Alliance Industries President Brenda Ryan; and Furniture Gourmet owner Karen Parry.

Breakout sessions covered feasibility studies, determining the proper size for a business and cash-flow management.

Sale networks with other women who own businesses in the area, and she hasn’t come across any who have faced funding issues.

“When we opened up, I did a lot of research,” she said. “I tried to go into it pretty prepared. If you go in prepared in whatever you do, it’s got to help.”

Like Sale, Lumos also counts on fellow women business owners for support from all over the United States, many via Facebook.

“Facebook has been a huge asset,” Lumos said. “I haven’t paid for any traditional marketing because word spreads so fast on Facebook.”

Through Facebook connections, Lumos had the opportunity to meet rock star Rob Thomas, lead singer of Matchbox 20. Their meeting turned into a fundraiser for Thomas’ foundation and viral marketing for Cake Pop. Lumos donated $3 for every dozen sold last July to Thomas’ New York-based Sidewalk Angels foundation that supports no-kill animal shelters.

A few months after the fundraiser, Thomas made a surprise visit to Springfield to see Lumos. “We didn’t raise quite as much as we had hoped, but it did get my name out there,” Lumos said.[[In-content Ad]]

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