Women in business are proliferating throughout the United States. The latest American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Businesses report found that, as of 2017, women were starting businesses two-and-a-half times faster than the national average, and that there were 114% more women-owned businesses in the U.S. than there were two decades ago. By comparison, in the same time period the overall national growth rate for businesses was 44%.
In Long Beach, local women in business are strategizing for growth. Women business owners reported optimism for the year ahead, based on growth within their industries as well as increasing consumer spending.
Dayna Mance, owner of Prism Boutique in Belmont Heights, has been steadily growing her business since she opened its doors in 2013. We started out in a really small space off of Termino [Avenue]. It was 650 square feet,” Mance recalled. As spaces adjacent to her shop became available, she expanded into them. “After two years, we expanded and remodeled and opened the store up into basically two spaces. And then, another year-and-a-half later, we expanded into our third space and remodeled.”
Mance said that both the shop’s online sales and social media presence have enabled her to grow the business. “We get a lot of, ‘I am in town and saw you guys on Instagram and wanted to come see the store,’” she said.
After holding a pop-up shop event in Costa Mesa last spring, Mance realized that Orange County represented another opportunity for expansion. This August, she opened a second Prism location at The Lab Anti-Mall in Costa Mesa. “My brand is growing,” Mance said. “The response has been really good. We’re making sales every day. We are doing really well.”
Continuing to grow online sales while getting used to operating two locations is a challenge for Mance. “I realize the importance of an online business, and growing that business is make-or-break these days,” she said. “Behind the scenes, I am still trying to figure out so many things like managing inventory, managing cashflow, and paying two rents and two payrolls.”
Anoosheh Oskouian, president of Ship & Shore Environmental, Inc. in Signal Hill, is also feeling optimistic about the potential for her business to continue growing. Ship & Shore provides air pollution abatement systems for manufacturers and other industrial businesses. Although Oskouian noted that the “current political climate” might lead one to believe that environmental regulations are going to be relaxed, she has not found that to be the case.
“We still see the local agencies and the state, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District and other regional agencies, pushing forward with making sure they have clean air as part of their overall platform to move forward,” Oskouian said. For this reason, Oskouian is optimistic that her company’s services are going to become increasingly necessary to industrial businesses.
The current presidential administration’s focus on growing manufacturing in America is also a positive sign for Oskouian. “Whether they move back to the country or we have a growth in manufacturing, which is the overall goal, there would be need for our type of involvement with respect to the environmental needs in engineering, manufacturing and installing anti-pollution control systems,” she explained.
This month, Oskouian is celebrating 18 years in business. She continues to expand beyond the U.S., with operations in China, Canada and the Middle East. “I am happy to say that we have steadily had growth within the organization. We have increased the number of employees as well as our reach into . . . different types of industries,” she said.
Patricia Watts, president and CEO of Long Beach-based FCI Management, noted that she has faced challenges associated with changing industry standards during the past few years. However, her long-term outlook for her business – which provides energy efficiency solutions for corporate, residential and public institutions as well as utility companies – is positive.
“My business is a little different because it is largely driven by the utility space, and we do a lot of RFPs [requests for proposals] for contracts with the utility companies to implement energy efficiency programs,” Watts said. “The contracts for energy efficiency programs from the utility companies are in a transitional period. They are going to be, in the next year or two, rolling out new RFPs for energy efficiency programs that won’t look like the typical programs we’ve had in the past. That’s different for contractors such as myself.”
As utility companies work through their planning processes to prepare for new trends in energy – such as building out infrastructure to accommodate electric vehicle charging – their funds have been reallocated toward those efforts, rather than to new contracts. This has temporarily caused FCI Management to “trend down” in terms of securing contracts, according to Watts. “They put fewer funds into the programs that we implement, which meant that our contract values have gone down instead of gone up. So those kinds of changes have really impacted us,” she said.
Still, the potential for the future is optimistic, Watts noted. The firm is actively engaged in pursuing contracts related to electric vehicle infrastructure, which is expected to be “a huge market” in coming years, she said. For now, she is focused on keeping her business steady – but she expects that next year FCI Management will grow.
The five local women in business profiled on the following pages come different walks of life. Some ended up as business owners by chance; others, in pursuit of a lifelong dream. In all, they represent a growing force in business in America: the woman entrepreneur. Despite challenges and growing pains, they share in common an optimism for the future.