Women entrepreneurs finding their groove in Utah

Saturday , May 17, 2014 - 12:00 AM

By JESUS LOPEZ JR.
Standard-Examiner staff

BRIGHAM CITY – Over the last 13 years, Stephanie Loud has worked to find success in the male-dominated world of construction.

Loud is the owner and manager of Mountain West Precast, 1047 W. 600 North in Brigham City, which specializes in commercial construction and precast concrete architectural cast stone.

The Small Business Administration recognized Loud’s efforts and named her the winner of the 2014 Utah District women-owned business award.

Loud is one of a growing group of women entrepreneurs in Utah. She is part of a group of women who have shown that the entrepreneurial spirit, of which the Beehive State prides itself for, thrives regardless of gender.

The SBA recognized Loud and the other Utah 2014 Small Business Award winners at a luncheon on May 5.

“I am very flattered and surprised,” Loud said.

Last fall, a representative of Zions Bank called Loud and asked if she minded being nominated.

“I didn’t hear back, so I kind of forgot about it,” Loud said.

Loud said she gets a lot of recognition because she is one of a few women in her field.

“I’m very unique in this industry,” Loud said. “There are not a lot of female owners. There are a lot of good female and minority owned businesses and they don’t always get the recognition they deserve. It is difficult.”

Loud overcame many of those difficulties early in her career.

“When I started, there were some barriers,” Loud said. “I had to show that I knew the industry.”

She said she would attend trade shows or industry conventions with her husband (who is not involved in the company) and no matter what she said, the responses were directed to him.

Loud said since then, she has proven herself.

“I think they’ve had some time to get used to me,” Loud said.

There are 66,500 women-owned businesses in Utah, said Chantel S. Chase, vice president and manager of the Women's Financial Group at Zions Bank. Those businesses contribute $11.4 billion to the state economy.

Yet, Chase said, only 24.6 percent of businesses in Utah are owned by women, compared to the national average of 28.8 percent.

Chase said it is important to get women involved in business, because they control two-thirds of the nation’s wealth.

“They are making the decisions for their families and it is important they have the resources available to them,” Chase said.

MarketStar-founder Alan Hall, who created the angel investor program Grow Utah Ventures, said women-owned businesses are a relatively new phenomenon in Utah. Most began after the turn of the millennium.

“It’s sort of an open world for women to be entrepreneurs today and to be supported,” Hall said.

Debbie Williams, co-owner of Timeless Medical Spa and Weight Loss Clinic, 6112 S. 1550 East, Suite 103, in South Ogden, has been in business for eight years.

“I really love nutrition,” Williams said. “It opened up an opportunity to really do the things I love to do.”

She finds that people are surprised when she tells them she owns a business.

“They think the doctor owns it and I work for him,” Williams said, “but it’s the other way around.”

Like SBA award winner Stephanie Loud, Williams has worked hard to be accepted as a business owner -- a problem that exists for women not only in conservative Utah, but around the world.

“There is always a good old boys network and that’s been established for a long time and it is like that in any town,” Williams said.

It is necessary for any business owner to be accepted in established circles because it is important for getting ideas, getting referrals and obtaining loans, which are necessary to help a business grow.

“Financially, it is more advantageous to be a male-owned business in regards to getting a loan and things like that,” Williams said.

Christine Jacobsen, owner of Wasatch Pharmacy Care, 4387 Harrison Blvd. in Ogden has the double challenge of being a minority (she is Hawaiian) and a woman.

She has tried to make a name for herself as a pharmacist, not as a woman of color.

“I had to show I was effective in the pharmacy and effective in my business,” Jacobsen said. “I try not to use my race card or my woman card.”

Even if she did, she said she has the same right as everyone else to have the opportunity to run her own business, even if others do not like it.

“That’s their problem,” Jacobsen said. “They are going to have to figure it out themselves. The government of the United States says a woman can put a business wherever she wants.”

There are many resources in the community to help women pursue entrepreneurship.

Both Williams and Jacobsen are members of the Women in Business group of the Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce. Loud is a member of several organizations specializing in her industry.

Through such groups, the women have developed networking and mentorship opportunities that have helped drive their businesses forward.

Groups such as Hall’s Grow Utah Ventures and grants offered by financial institutions and the federal government also help underserved communities, such as women get the financial help they need to start or help a business succeed.

Troy D’Ambrosio is executive director of the Lassond Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah, which helps students develop their own companies.

The institute has an ambassador program for underserved communities and has a proactive effort to get more women involved.

“It is more male dominated but we have a pretty good percentage of women involved,” D’Ambrosio said.

Not all of the women have the initial idea for a business, but they add a valuable perspective to a startup.

“To be a successful entrepreneur is to be able to build a team,” D’Ambrosio said.

For Williams, her feminine perspective is essential for the type of business she is in and has helped her pursuit of entrepreneurship continue to succeed.

“What has really been nice as a woman, you really get the opportunity to develop relationships with your clients. I think women are better at that because that is a characteristic of women.”

Contact Jesus Lopez Jr. at 801-625-4239 or jlopez@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @jesuslopezSE and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/JesusLopezSE.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.

×