on Thursday, November 16th, 2017 at 9:47am.
Austin, Texas wears many different hats. Live Music Capital. Home of SXSW. Filming location of Richard Linklater’s early films. Namesake of the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan. Up-and-coming tech hub.
But more recently, Austin has come to be defined by its young, entrepreneurial base that celebrates the increase in women-owned businesses across the city. This fact has never been more clear than when you talk to the women who are starting and running successful businesses in Austin. Their energy is apparent, and the optimism is almost tangible.
“Austin is perfect for growing a business,” says Page Vandiver, founder of Simply Heaven Design. “There's a unique blend of creativity that allows people to think flexibly and dream for the future. There are enough places to work, no matter your preference--brick and mortar, coworking, or virtual office. And it also allows you to counterbalance your effort with a real life. You don't have to sacrifice one for the other. I feel like this market understands and makes allowances for that.”
Austin and its surrounding metro areas are a mix of vibrant industry and a lot of culture. From award-winning restaurants to some of the top music and tech festivals in the country, there’s something in Austin for everyone, even outdoor adventurers. There’s a lot a green space for hiking, biking, and trail running in the Texas hill country. Women entrepreneurs who set up shop in Austin can find themselves networking and attending events almost every night.
Page’s business has felt the direct benefits of Austin’s robust business scene. “In terms of challenge, there are a lot of top producers here--people who have grown businesses to 7 figures who challenge your thinking to take it to the next level, but there's also opportunity,” she offers.
“Those who disrupt the industry are the ones to watch, and you can always be one of those companies that finds the newest product or shortcut that changes the market. Creatively, Austin is so diverse that no matter where you go you will find new ideas, cultures, and subcultures that will help to give you a new perspective or a different way to approach your current problem or situation.”
Austin tied for #5 in the US for women-owned business growth and economic clout
According to Howmuch.net, the number of women-owned businesses in the US increased by over 45% from 2007-2016. In other words, American women have opened 3.5 million businesses in the past nine years. Women are creating jobs and disrupting markets in unique ways at an unprecedented rate. Austin is tied at #5 among US metro areas for women-owned firms based on its ranking in combined terms of both growth and economic clout.
“I love being a woman entrepreneur in Austin!” says Kiera Wallner, an Austin-based photographer. “I feel like there is an amazing community here. A community that wants to encourage and build each other up rather than compete and tear each other down. I also feel like there is so much growth here and that allows for more opportunities.”
Twenty- and thirty-somethings are flocking to Austin to start businesses, find willing collaborators, and quickly make their mark in lucrative industries such as tech. Austin is a great place to launch a woman-owned business because it has been ranked the top US city for young entrepreneurs and America’s best place to start a business in 2016.
Austin is #10 in the country for female-owned business growth from 2007-2016
In terms of absolute growth, from 2007-2016, Austin added 41,413 women-owned businesses (WOBs), raking in over $10 billion total in profit. This means that Austin has been adding new WOBs at a rate of 65.2%.
Page, who has grown a successful digital marketing firm in Austin in the past several years, says: “Overall, to grow a business, you need a few things: Stability, support, opportunity, challenge, and creativity. I think Austin offers the best of all worlds.”
Sophie Kwok, another woman entrepreneur in Austin, found a place in tech through an accelerator program geared toward launching businesses owned by women and minority entrepreneurs. “I’m extremely lucky to be entering tech in Austin at this time and to have found incredible communities like DivInc,” she says.
“DivInc is an accelerator program I went through that promotes diversity in tech by supporting female and minority founders. Through DivInc I was able to have an intro to incredible mentors who genuinely want to lift up female and minority founders. I am extremely fortunate to have such an amazing support system around me but I know as I begin to raise funding my perspective will likely shift.”
Sophie is the founder of Love Intently. She is currently in the process of launching an app to provide couples with a personal relationship guide. “Our app sends customized suggestions to couples based on their personalities, interests, and their relationship, fostering open communication and strengthens their relationship with their partner. Essentially, we help take the guesswork out of showing you care. In the midst of our noisy and chaotic world, we empower them by reminding them of the little things that matter most. There are tons of apps and services that help you find love, we empower you to stay in love.”
Female entrepreneurs based in Austin
Up-and-coming female founders like Page and Sophie are making their mark on Austin. Many Austin businesses are forward-thinking and innovative, which means they are looking for ways to include, empower, and propel women along in their careers. In Austin, women-owned business are hiring. Austin is #3 in the country for WOB employee growth. Businesses owned by women had a 59.5% employment growth rate from 2007-2016.
In Austin, the overall sentiment is that if you need to hire, there is a good chance you will have a stack of qualified resumes on your desk within a couple hours of posting a job.
Simply Heaven Design has added three female employees in the past two years. “People are open. They want to talk, network, and work together,” Page says. “When you need community, team members, or outside help, there's a strong workforce out there that can help.”
Austin also boasts some female-owned brands that have become household names. Kendra Scott calls Austin home, and it’s where she runs her successful jewelry, home decor, and beauty company. Bumble CEO Whitney Wolf recently moved her headquarters to Austin, establishing a chic office for the female-friendly dating app startup just off North Lamar. Hiring for both companies has been strong.
Majority women-owned businesses Workplace Resource LLC and Shelton-Keller Group Inc. (SKG) dominate the office furniture retail space in Austin. Gay Gaddis’ innovation agency T-3 rakes in over $16 million dollars a year while allowing new moms and dads to bring their babies to the office.
Women Supporting Women in Business in Austin
Between homegrown Female Founders Meetup groups and a growing number of supportive collectives for female entrepreneurs, you can find a mentor or a group of women to help you thrive in business. Page Vandiver has benefited directly from this sharing economy:
“There are vibrant communities of experts here--whether you need support or community, you can't throw a stone in this city without hitting a marketing expert, a web developer, or a business pro who has connections, answers--and who simultaneously wants to exchange with your expertise. Over the last year alone, we've gotten thousands of dollars of sales, hundreds of leads, and exposure in the millions for our clients. Most of those clients exist nationally or internationally, but I landed them through relationships I have here in Austin.”
Mallory Lehenbauer, a freelance marketer and copywriter with a background in editorial, is one of the many young entrepreneurs finding a space in Austin. She is the incumbent chapter leader of Yellow Co. in Austin. “Yellow Collective is a national organization for women entrepreneurs and women who believe in doing good,” she writes. “The Austin chapter is very small (currently 8 women). We meet once a month and talk about ways we can support one another, we have access to a database of other women entrepreneurs across the world, as well as online resources.”
Best places for entrepreneurs to own a home in Austin
It’s a really exciting time to live in the capital of Texas. If you’re looking to move to Austin to relocate your HQ or start a business from scratch, our best piece of advice is to live in a neighborhood near where you work.
Even if you’re moving from Atlanta or LA, Austin traffic is no laughing matter. If you’re starting a business on Manchaca down south, don’t move to Lago Vista. If you’re going to work in Lakeway, don’t get an east side bungalow. As an entrepreneur, you fortunately have flexibility to limit or eliminate your commute altogether. All you need is a game plan.
Many entrepreneurs find that biking to their workplace is increasingly the best option in Austin. Alternatively, if you need to get downtown, consider living along the MetroRail.
Page loves Austin because it also offers hard-working entrepreneurs infinite chances to play and destress from a long work day. “I also need a heavy counterbalance to the mental strain of leading and staying on the ever-evolving edge of digital marketing. The ability to get outside and walk around, go to a coffee shop, have meetings on the fly, and take a trip down an unknown street--only to find a new little dive, a group of people that are totally opposite to my background or a creative place to challenge my thinking and break me out of my box. Austin and Pflugerville really offer that.”
Top Neighborhoods in Austin, Texas
To get a feel for different neighborhoods around Austin and the surrounding areas, click on the following link to see listings and read our breakdown of top Austin neighborhoods. You can use this search tool to find top school districts or learn about some other Austin metro areas that might be a good fit for your lifestyle.
Here are some of our suggestions for finding a home in Austin:
Filled with the young and the restless, east Austin has changed dramatically year after year. Many young professionals and families have chosen the east side. Sophie Kwok, when asked about trends in where Austin entrepreneurs live, responded, “I think it depends on what your business is. My initial answer would be East Austin if you are a creative or in tech because it puts you close enough to everything happening downtown yet you’re in the creative sphere as well. The most successful tech startups have incredible designers or creatives on their team. However, these areas are not necessarily the most affordable.”
West Austin is the traditional home of Austin’s affluent community. Rollingwood and Westlake are hubs for families looking for a good school district. Neighborhoods to check out are Balcones and Bee Cave for amazing, unique 3-4 bedroom homes that will define your Austin lifestyle.
If you want to walk or easily bike to work, living downtown may be well worth the rent. “In my opinion, most of the women I know work and live close to downtown,” says Mallory Lehenbauer. Check out properties and get ready for some stunning views.
South Austin is where the “Keep Austin Weird” still really runs the show. Neighborhoods like Shady Hollow and South Manchaca have loads of personality and plenty of access to Ben White Blvd (which usually remains low-traffic compared to other highways in Austin). Many younger homeowners are moving south for more affordable prices, and enjoying the quirky Austin vibes.
Page says, “I would recommend Pflugerville. It's along a toll corridor so it's easy to get to meetings when I have them in town. It's also a quiet edge of the city, so it's easy to record live video on the fly or have spontaneous sales calls.
“I got my degree here, went and lived in Australia for a few years, and then came back. I am totally biased. There are many beautiful places in the world, and I travel regularly to them, but this is where I call home.
Uh, plus, there's queso and creamy jalapeno sauce here. Just saying.”