Christine Kosirog had a lifelong dream of owning a business. She also had two kids, both under the age of 4.
"I'm really lucky that I have a husband who's got a flexible work schedule, and family who's willing to help out," said Kosirog, owner of The Painted Lady flower shop, a downtown store that opened in November.
Kosirog's balance of kids and commerce is becoming more common. The U.S. Census Bureau will report today that the number of women-owned businesses across the country grew by 20 percent between 1997 and 2002, double the national average for all businesses.
In Lawrence, census officials said, the number of women-owned businesses grew by 22 percent during that time period, to 1,702 companies across the city. There are more than 6,000 businesses in the city overall, according to the agency.
Women-owned businesses in Lawrence include companies like Brown Cargo Van, headed by Sidney Garrett, which has 48 employees, according to the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. But the vast majority of such businesses in Lawrence are women working for themselves, according to the census.
Still, the number of women-owned businesses in Lawrence with paid employees nearly doubled during the survey period, from 202 to 380 - employing more than 2,200 workers. Overall, such Lawrence companies generated $195 million in sales and receipts during 2002. Statewide, the figure was nearly $7 billion.
Those figures don't surprise Kosirog. She was ready to join the ranks of female entrepreneurs.
"Ever since I was a little girl," she said, "I've always known I wanted to own my own business."
Sherry Turner, executive director of the Kansas Women's Business Center in Lenexa, said the trend could be attributed to several factors:
¢ Technology that makes it easier to work at home.
¢ The desire of baby-boomer women to find new challenges after their children have left home.
¢ A growing number of stay-at-home dads.
¢ The advent of a younger generation that saw its mothers pave the way for women to work outside the home.
"First it was more women in corporate boardrooms and executive positions, so it's a trend," Turner said. "The competence level is there - women who feel like this is something they can do."
Women, she said, do face some challenges in starting businesses. They tend to bear a heavier child-rearing load than men. And studies show women are less likely to attract startup capital and small-business loans.
Lora Wiley, who started the downtown European specialty store Au Marche in 1998, said she never ran into such problems.
"I really don't think I experienced any difficulties as a woman," Wiley said. "Getting a loan was no problem ... dealing with distributors wasn't a problem, either."
She's noticed, though, an increasing number of female colleagues in recent years.
"I think it's really cool that all these women are striking out and doing what they want to do," Wiley said, "even though it might be scary at times."
While Lawrence has seen major growth in the number of women-owned businesses, it doesn't lead the state. ¢ The city ranks fifth in Kansas in the number of women-owned businesses, with 1,702. Wichita, with 7,290 businesses, is the leader. ¢ Lawrence is sixth in the state in the amount of sales generated by those businesses, with $195 million. Wichita had more than $1 billion. ¢ Lawrence is fourth in the number of women-owned firms with paid employees, with 380. Wichita had 1,204. Source: U.S. Census Bureau