by Terry Rogers
According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, approximately 31 percent of the privately-owned businesses in the United States are owned by women and this number has grown steadily over the past decade. A report from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research shows that the number of women-owned businesses was about 26 percent in 1997, but that the number of businesses owned by women has increased 68 percent since 2007.
A review of businesses in downtown Milford indicates that the town has a significant number of women-owned businesses. Of the approximately 52 businesses in the downtown area, 24 of them are women-owned. This means that about 46 percent of the businesses in the downtown area are owned buy women, much higher than the national average of 31 percent nationwide.
“I think it is wonderful thing that women who want to own businesses are choosing Milford to invest in their future,” Jo Schmeiser, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford, said. “However, I believe both females and males are taking notice of the growth of the community, so I believe we’ll continue to see investments from individuals, couples, families and large corporations.”
Each business that opens in Milford has their own reasons for choosing the town. When Eugenia Sparks decided to open Irish Rose Gift Shop on North Walnut Street, she and her husband knew they wanted to open in Delaware when they made the move from selling at festivals to a brick-and-mortar location. She said she was approached by then-DMI president, the late Irv Ambrose, about opening a shop. Once she and her husband began working with DMI and visited Milford, they found the town had what they were looking for.
Guidance from Milford organizations and business owners seem to be a theme when female business owners are asked why they chose to locate in Milford. Sisters Rous and Marie Robles say that they dreamed of a bakery that would provide the sweets they remembered from their native home of Puerto Rico when they moved to Milford nine years ago. In December, they became one of the latest female-owned businesses in Milford when they opened My Sister’s Fault Bakery.
“We met Mike Canevari who operated a bakery where we are now until his wife, Cindy, passed away,” Rous said. “He expressed he was not going to reopen after her death and that was when we knew our dream could become a reality. He already had the bakery in place and he guided us through the entire process. Thanks to him, everything went smoothly.” The sisters also received financial assistance from Downtown Milford, Inc., which also helped them open in Milford.
DMI Director Murrie Zlotvizer says he is not really sure why so many female business owners seemed to choose Milford’s downtown area to open their doors.
“I am sure each owner’s story is a bit unique, but probably has some similarities,” Mr. Zlotvizer said. Overall, the owners indicate that the town’s economic development focus as well as a desire to bring new businesses to the town were incentives. This, combined with the assistance received from DMI and the Chamber of Commerce, helped many of the business owners decide to locate in Milford’s growing downtown.
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