Top 5 Big-City Startup Hubs for Women Entrepreneurs

By    April 9, 2014

Natalie Saldana and Allana D'Antonio

The brutal Battle of the Alamo in San Antonio marked a turning point in the Texas Revolution, pitting Texas troops against Mexican troops in a clash over independence. Nearly 180 years later, San Antonio is the site of another, much more civil revolution.

For two years in a row, the San Antonio metro area has been ranked as the major U.S. metro area wielding the most “economic clout” for women-owned businesses.

Reports released in 2013 and 2014 by American Express OPEN graded the country’s 25 most populated metro areas on three measures: growth in number of women-owned businesses since 2002, along with growth in revenue and employment among those businesses. San Antonio came out on top of the rankings for both years.

You might call this the San Antonio Startup Revolution.

“By nature, women are all about garnering and fostering relationships. In San Antonio, the Hispanic culture along with the small-town feel give women entrepreneurs the upper hand in building their networks,” said San Antonio entrepreneur Alanna D’Antonio (pictured at right in the above photo with business partner Natalie Saldaña).

Here are the American Express OPEN rankings for 2014:

1. San Antonio
2. Atlanta
3. Baltimore
4. Houston
5. Portland, OR

Here are the American Express OPEN rankings for 2013:

1. San Antonio
2. Portland, OR
3. Houston
4. Riverside, CA
5. Washington, DC

Alamo

The Alamo City is a hotbed for women entrepreneurs.

‘High-Five’
How did San Antonio land in the No. 1 spot for two consecutive years? More to the point, why are women entrepreneurs doing so well in the Alamo City?

Women’s entrepreneurship researcher Julie Weeks, who authored the American Express OPEN report, said three factors account for this year’s high rankings for San Antonio as well as Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston and Portland:

  • Strong overall economic growth for the metro area.
  • Metro population growth.
  • A supportive climate for development of women-owned businesses.

“For a woman who lives in one of those areas, she should give her fellow women entrepreneurs a high-five,” Weeks said.

What follows are vignettes of three women-led startups in San Antonio whose executives are highly likely to be giving some high-fives.

Bettina McGriggler

Bettina McGriggler launched an in-home care service in San Antonio.

‘Spirit of Inclusion’
In 2013, Bettina McGriggler joined the legions of women entrepreneurs in San Antonio with the launch of an in-home care franchise, Synergy HomeCare of Greater San Antonio.

McGriggler said the San Antonio business community warmly welcomes startups. She cited SCORE and the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Institute for Economic Development as just two of the local organizations that assist women entrepreneurs. Beyond that, McGriggler said, established businesswomen in San Antonio embrace women who are just earning their entrepreneurial stripes.

“San Antonio women business owners foster a spirit of inclusion by their willingness to mentor women entrepreneurs, share resources and participate in referral programs,” McGriggler said. “Business owners are eager to tell their story, and to identify what worked well and what did not for their individual ventures.”

Sara Helmy

Sara Helmy leads a marketing and advertising agency in San Antonio.

‘Remarkable Place’
Sara Helmy is CEO of Tribu, a Generation Y-focused marketing and advertising agency that she launched three years ago in San Antonio. Helmy described the Alamo City as a “remarkable place” for women entrepreneurs.

“It’s a highly family-oriented city, and it retains the Texas-friendly vibe with a unique culture of its own. These attributes can make a working woman feel at home in the business and personal landscape that San Antonio has to offer,” Helmy said.

Helmy said she takes advantage of government- and business-backed workshops, networking events and other activities in San Antonio—many of them free—to help her build Tribu. Helmy certainly is building her business for the long run. Revenue soared 290 percent from the first year of operations to the second year, she said. Today, the company employs seven people.

“The business landscape of San Antonio generally demonstrates steady growth throughout economic fluctuations,” Helmy said, “and I’m sure that part of that can be attributed to the support being offered to small businesses.”

Alanna D'Antonio and Natalie Saldana

Alanna D’Antonio (left) and Natalie Saldaña run a PR firm in San Antonio.

‘Accidental Entrepreneurs’
San Antonio native Alanna D’Antonio refers to herself and business partner Natalie Saldaña as “accidental entrepreneurs.” Last year, she and Saldaña established Belle and Bold Public Relations in San Antonio. D’Antonio and Saldaña had been collaborating on freelance projects and wound up with several joint clients before they’d even envisioned a name or logo for their budding business.

“We decided to capitalize on the momentum we had going and take the leap of faith,” D’Antonio said.

For now, it’s just D’Antonio and Saldaña–both in their 20s–running the show from their homes, along with one intern.

“Although we are young, we are fierce,” D’Antonio said. “We live by and promote a ‘Be Bold’ lifestyle and encourage fellow Millennials to go out and go after what it is that they want. We are hoping to start a revolution.”

Well, it looks like D’Antonio and Saldaña already are part of the startup revolution among women entrepreneurs in San Antonio.

John is editor of The SpareFoot Blog. He first moved to Austin in 1999, when downtown Austin wasn't nearly as lively as it is today. John's loves include pizza, University of Kansas basketball and puns.

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