Women-owned small businesses reach historic goal

Published: Mar. 3, 2016 at 10:59 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 4, 2016 at 1:49 AM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - As the owner of area restaurant Johnny D's Waffles and Bakery, Jamie Saunders said she has had to overcome adversity as a female business owner.

Still, she is happy at the direction the country is going to make women an equal part of the workforce.

"I think when people will be like 'Can I talk to the chef?' or 'Can I talk to the owner?' a little girl would come out and you know they were expecting like a man or I don't know what they were expecting, but I could tell by the look on their faces they were surprised I was standing in front of them." said Saunders.

Saunders has owned multiple restaurants in New York, and Myrtle Beach, and said it has always been a man's game.

Yet in 2015, a milestone was reached when over 5 percent of federal funding - over $17 million - was provided to female-owned small businesses, the highest in the country's history.

Leann Mischel, a business professor at Coastal Carolina University, said while 5 percent is an accomplishment, there is still a long way to go.

"It's true, even with angel investors, we only get about 19 percent of what angel investors are offering. So getting funding at the basic level is very important to get female-owned businesses off the ground." said Mischel.

Mischel said, believe it or not, South Carolina is actually above the national average when it comes to women's pay.

"We here in South Carolina will make 80 to 84 cents for every dollar that men make. Still not enough, we're still not equal, but we are making strides," she said.

Saunders said she has noticed those strides while running her restaurant. And while it was slightly harder for her getting started, she said she no longer feels like she is being held back.

"As a female, you know when historically we have had a bit of trouble getting that equality. Now that that opportunity is there, whoever wants to get there is going to get there," Saunders said.

The Small Business Association reports that nearly 8 million Americans are currently employed by female-owned businesses. Saunders believes that number will continue to grow.

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