The Best Cities for Women to Start a Business

America is home to more than 11.6 million women-owned businesses.1 From employment rates to equal pay, see which American cities rank the best for women entrepreneurs.

October is Women’s Small Business Month!

Women-owned businesses in the United States employ almost 9 million people and account for some $1.7 trillion worth of sales per year.2 And only 39% of US businesses are owned by women, with some states having as few as 19% of their businesses owned by women—just imagine how high those numbers could be if more women started their own businesses.3

That’s why, to celebrate Women’s Small Business Month, Business.org wanted to find the best cities for women to launch their businesses. We hope to see more women entrepreneurs following their business dreams (and boosting the economy while doing so).

So where should women go to start businesses?

What we learned

California had the most cities make our list of the best places for women-owned businesses, with five metro areas appearing in our top 50. But the Sunshine State gave California a run for its money, with four Florida metro areas making the list. So there’s no need to choose a best coast—both the east coast and west coast have great options for female entrepreneurs.

They might want to avoid Tennessee, though. Memphis came dead last in our rankings, thanks to it low percentage of existing women-owned businesses and its high unemployment rates for women.

But what about the middle of the country? The St. Louis, MO, area has the highest percent of female-owned businesses (30%), while the Minneapolis-St. Paul area has the lowest percentage of female unemployment (just 3.5%)—making them both great options for aspiring entrepreneurs.

And if you’re more of a New England person? Then get used to saying, “Good morning, Baltimore!” because it was the top New England city in our ranking, in position 13.

Methodology

Our data analysts collected data about four different factors for each of the 50 largest metropolitan areas: the percentage of female-only owned businesses, the unemployment rate for women, the pay differences between women and men, and the number of new businesses per capita. Our sources included the U.S Census Bureau, the Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, and the American Community Survey.

Each of the four factors were normalized on a 0-1 scale, with 1 corresponding to the measurement that would most positively affect the final score and 0 corresponding to the measurement that would most negatively affect the final score. These adjusted measurements were then added together with the weights mentioned below to get a score out of 100.

  • Percentage of women-owned businesses: 40%
  • Number of new businesses per 100,000 people: 30%
  • Women-to-men pay difference: 20%
  • Unemployment rate for women: 10%

Ready to see the complete list? Then without further ado, here are the best metro areas for women entrepreneurs.

Top 50 cities where women should start a business

Rank
Metro area
Percent of female- owned businesses

1

Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO Metro Area

29%

2

Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL Metro Area

27%

3

Austin-Round Rock, TX Metro Area

29%

4

Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA Metro Area

28%

5

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metro Area

26%

6

St. Louis, MO-IL Metro Area

30%

7

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA Metro Area

29%

8

Jacksonville, FL Metro Area

27%

9

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA Metro Area

26%

10

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL Metro Area

28%

11

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL Metro Area

25%

12

San Diego-Carlsbad, CA Metro Area

27%

13

Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD Metro Area

28%

14

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA Metro Area

28%

15

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metro Area

27%

16

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA Metro Area

27%

17

Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV Metro Area

25%

18

Raleigh, NC Metro Area

24%

19

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI Metro Area

24%

20

Kansas City, MO-KS Metro Area

26%

21

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX Metro Area

24%

22

San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX Metro Area

26%

23

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC Metro Area

28%

24

New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metro Area

23%

25

Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ Metro Area

25%

26

Oklahoma City, OK Metro Area

24%

27

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX Metro Area

26%

28

Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI Metro Area

24%

29

Richmond, VA Metro Area

25%

30

Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC Metro Area

22%

31

Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA Metro Area

25%

32

Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA Metro Area

23%

33

Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI Metro Area

23%

34

Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN Metro Area

21%

35

Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN Metro Area

23%

36

Providence-Warwick, RI-MA Metro Area

23%

37

Columbus, OH Metro Area

23%

38

Salt Lake City, UT Metro Area

20%

39

Pittsburgh, PA Metro Area

24%

40

Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN Metro Area

22%

41

Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT Metro Area

22%

42

Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY Metro Area

20%

43

Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH Metro Area

21%

44

Cleveland-Elyria, OH Metro Area

22%

45

Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI Metro Area

20%

46

New Orleans-Metairie, LA Metro Area

23%

47

Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD Metro Area

20%

48

Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN Metro Area

21%

49

Birmingham-Hoover, AL Metro Area

19%

50

Memphis, TN-MS-AR Metro Area

19%

The takeaway

Women-owned businesses make up a vital part of our communities. With all the contributions they already make to employment and our economy, we can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.

So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and open that business you’ve always dreamed of—we already found the perfect place for you to do it.

Need a little inspiration to get you going? Check out our list of the most inspirational women leaders around the world!

Chloe Goodshore
Written by
Chloe Goodshore
Chloe covers business financing and loans for Business.org. She has worked with many small businesses over the past 10 years, from video game stores to law firms. Those years watching frustrated business owners try to sift through their many options gave her a passion for breaking down complex business topics. She wants to help business owners spend less time agonizing over their businesses so they can spend more time running them.
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