Final Report on Women's Business Ownership in Vermont
The Vermont Women’s Fund, a component fund of the Vermont Community Foundation, today released its summary report on women’s business ownership in Vermont. This report is based on data gathered by This Way UP: There’s Power in Our Numbers, a website and survey to identify and map women-owned businesses in the state.
The data collected from this digital platform offers a uniquely comprehensive look at women-owned businesses in Vermont, namely because prior to This Way UP’s survey, there was little to no differentiation of gender in state economic calculations or business forecasts. The two-year survey closed having counted 3,432 female-identified businesses from every county in Vermont.
“This is just the start,” said Meg Smith, outgoing executive director of the Vermont Women’s Fund, who led the work on behalf of the nonprofit organization serving women and girls statewide. “It is almost shocking that women business owners were so overlooked in the economic metrics of our state in the past. We believe this data proves that we need to identify and better understand this previously invisible sector of our economy.”
“Women in a rural state like Vermont,” Smith continued, “have often turned to entrepreneurship out of necessity—they live in small towns and jobs are scarce—but they need an income, so they start their own business.” The report shows that 55 percent of the surveyed business owners slowly built their businesses over time. “Access to capital has been a long-standing roadblock for these small start-ups as they lack collateral to qualify for conventional loans,” Smith said. Strategies that expand access to capital would help more women succeed and also power the Vermont economy, Smith added. “What if they had the resources to better finance and grow their businesses more quickly? What a boon this would be for our state.”
Despite obstacles, the 3,432 women-owned businesses contribute $2.4 billion to Vermont’s economy and generate almost 6,500 part-time and full-time jobs.
Other highlights of This Way UP’s survey include:
- A surge in business start-ups from 2020 to 2023 during the pandemic, with 661 businesses founded between 2020 and 2021 alone
- The two largest age groups for businesses owners are women ages 34 to 45 and 45 to 54
- In addition to the 55 percent who built their businesses slowly over time, 40 percent used savings, 12 percent secured a loan from a bank or related financial organization, and 10 percent borrowed money from family and friends
- The 3,432 women-owned businesses generate 6,494 jobs (part-time and full-time)
“Gendered data is critical to Vermont’s economic growth,” Smith said. “Almost half of the businesses surveyed are solo businesses run by women who want to scale up and grow. These women entrepreneurs hold the future to a successful, vibrant economy in Vermont.”
The Vermont Women’s Fund is a statewide philanthropic resource dedicated to women and girls. Visit vermontwomensfund.org to learn more.