WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — According to the most recent census data there are 162,000 women-owned businesses in the state of Indiana.
That’s a little under 30 percent of Indiana’s privately owned companies, according to Elaine Bedel, president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.
In 2012 roughly 90 percent of these businesses had only one employee, the owner.
Indiana can do better, Bedel said. Part of supporting small, women-owned businesses is increasing awareness about local and state programs available to support small businesses, including the WomenIN program run out of Purdue Foundry, available grants and Indiana’s Small Business Development Centers.
Greater Lafayette is an example of where state and local programs have already helped women-owned businesses develop and expand.
Diana Hancock is a co-owner of Speak MODadlities, a company that develops speech and language apps for children with autism and people with severe speech disabilities.
Hancock developed the app with Purdue University professor Oliver Wendt. The business received a state matching grant through the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund. This helped move the company more quickly from the development phase into commercialization mode.
The matching grant, Hancock said, really made a difference in terms of exposure and enhancing the company’s credibility.
“Once you’ve received a show of faith from the state you’re looked at differently by other entities,” she said.
Hancock added she’s attended a number of events sponsored by WomenIN, which provided support and resources to women business owners.
These events, Hancock said, have been a major motivator.
“Those kind of events give you such energy. They invigorate you. You see other women in your position doing similar things and they provide reinforcement and constructive criticism that strengthens what you’re doing.”
Tere Carvajal said she’s had similar experience participating in such programs.
Carvajal is a co-founder of BioKorf, a company pioneering a new, more tailored drug manufacturing process involving a layering of laminates with drug additives, making drugs that can be more easily tailored to the specific needs of patients.
Carvajal said a lot of her inspiration as a researcher and business owner, especially one working in a highly technical field, comes from listening to other women speak through the WomenIN program.
At the same time, she added, when she attended local networking events not specifically for women she wonders where other female business owners are.
“Sometimes at networking events I can count on my fingers the number of women there,” Carvajal said. “Even though women are welcome at these events I see very few.”
She said she knows women are integral to the small business community of Greater Lafayette and she wonders why they don’t turn up to these events.
Gretel Kulupka, owner of Gretel’s Fine Gifts, said she has never really felt like gender equality is an issue that needs to be addressed in the Greater Lafayette business landscape.
“I honestly can’t ever remember one tiny, little element against me due to the fact that I’m a woman,” she said.
Kulupka has, however, made use of the resources offered by the Indiana Small Development Centers when she was considering moving and growing her business. Kulupka said she contacted them for market research assistance, wondering if she was located in the optimal location.
“They helped me realize that I was actually doing well, so I took a larger place in the same shopping center,” Kulupka said.
Bedel said while these programs have been instrumental in helping to grow small businesses in the state, there is more the state and communities can do to help promote small, independent businesses, and with that support women in business.
“I’m not sure we reach as many people as we can,” Bedel said. “I want to put more emphasis on offering the tax incentives we do for larger companies.”
Call J&C reporter Emma Ea Ambrose at 765-431-1192. Follow her on Twitter: @emma_ea_ambrose.