Patty Leighton has always felt welcomed into the downtown Wilkes-Barre business climate.
The owner of Bee Hive Gift Shop worked with Wilkes University’s Small Business Development Center to start her business and encountered no issues due to her gender.
“People have welcomed me to the downtown,” said Leighton, who has operated the gift shop in the Midtown Village of downtown Wilkes-Barre for seven years.
According to a survey conducted by Wallet Hub, a personal finance website based in Washington, D.C., Wilkes-Barre, Scranton and Hazleton region is one the worst metro area for women-owned businesses.
The survey’s claim has been debunked by entrepreneurial resources at Innovation Center and Wilkes University’s Alan P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise, both on Public Square; Small Business Development Centers at Wilkes University and The University of Scranton, the Greater Hazleton Innovation Center and resources at the Chamber of Commerce in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton.
The study released Monday measured 100 metropolitan areas nationwide in three categories of Overall New-Business Friendliness, Female Entrepreneurship and Business Climate For Women, the news release stated.
“I don’t know why they (WalletHub) would say we are not successful,” Leighton wondered.
Leighton’s comments were echoed by two other area female business owners.
“I don’t think I’m at any disadvantage,” said Michelle Levine, who has owned FASTSIGNS in Wilkes-Barre for 11 years. “Women like to do business with women and men like to do business with women.”
Dawn Davison-Monk, owner of Twin City Builders, forged a career in a male-dominated field over 20 years ago.
She said she has not had any issues when working with clients or sub-contractors. But acquiring the general contractor’s license was difficult, she said.
“It was not enough to pass the test; I had to get a 100,” she said.
According to WalletHub, each group was assigned the following numeric scoring system:
• Overall New-Business Friendliness, worth up to 30 points;
•.Female Entrepreneurship, a total of 50 points distributed in the areas of existing women-owned businesses, the growth of women-owned businesses, the number of employees, average revenue, income growth, industry variety and the location of Small Business Administration’s Women’s Business Centers; and
• Business Climate for Women, a possible 20 points available, measured by studying working moms and gender inequality.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton/Hazleton region received a total of 39.34 points in all three categories, the reported stated.
“That is just prehistoric,” John Maday, president of the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association, said of the survey
Maday noted many of the thriving downtown businesses are women-owned. Bee Hive Gift Shop, Shambala, Thai Thai and Let’s Eat are all owned by women, he said.
In the past, women and minority groups had to overcome challenges to achieve business ownership, said Dr. Rodney S. Ridley Sr., executive director of the Allan P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre.
Local support for entrepreneurs was “fragmented in the past,” he said.
Wilkes University’s Allan P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship and the Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce’s Innovation Center are working to remedy the problem by creating “an entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Ridley said.
“We (Wilkes University and the Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce) are trying to make resources easier to access for all entrepreneurs,” Ridley said. “Most entrepreneurs have a particular mindset, which is not gender specific.”
Bob Durkin, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Scranton Chamber, agreed, adding the Chamber offers various programs providing support and information to women-owned business, including the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce’s Women’s Network and the annual Women Leadership Conference at Mohegan Sun Pocono.
Local business women are smart, driven and growing, Durkin said.
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.