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Georgia leads country in growth of women-owned businesses
Local business owners advise to hang in there when getting started
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Ava White, who started tutoring out of her home, sits in one of eight classrooms at Ava White Academy. The school specializes in teaching special needs students, White said, such as those with attention deficit disorder and autism. - photo by NAT GURLEY

There’s no one road for a woman to take when it comes to owning and operating her own business.

“Basically, I kind of stumbled into it,” local business owner Ava White said. “It wasn’t a purposeful, ‘I’m going to have a business plan and five-year plan, 10-year plan.’ I kind of stumbled into it.”

White is one of many women, not only in the county but across the state, who have contributed to the rise in the number of women who own and operate businesses.

A March report released by American Express OPEN showed Georgia ranked above other states with the fastest growth in the number of women-owned businesses between 1997 and 2014, at 118 percent. Texas came in second, at 98 percent.

White began her school, Ava White Academy & Tutorials, out of her home in the early 1980s, but it quickly grew into an office space. It’s now located on Thompson Bridge Road.

Carol Slaughter had a different experience, in that she took over the already-established Occasions Florist in downtown Gainesville from the previous owners in 2012.

“I’ve been in the floral business for a long time,” she said. “I’d always avoided having a shop. Owning a shop is different than working in a shop, because of all of the paperwork and all of the other stuff you have to do.”

Along with her sister, Slaughter took over the business when one of the former owners approached her. She said she enjoys it, but the paperwork is the biggest challenge.

“You just have to do it,” Slaughter said about going into business. “Life goes so quickly that if you don’t do what you want to do, it’s not going to come around, and you’ll get stuck somewhere.”

Nationally, more than 1,000 businesses are started by women on a daily basis, double the rate from three years ago. Overall, these businesses generate more than $1.4 trillion in revenues.

Georgia tied with Arizona for fourth place in a ranking of states with the highest “economic clout” for women-owned businesses, according to the same American Express report. And Atlanta was No. 2 on the list of metro areas with women-owned businesses greatly affecting the economy.

Those rankings were measured by averaging growth in number, revenues and employment.

Helen Loggins originally opened a gift shop with a friend, but found another passion: her embroidery.

“That end of it just didn’t appeal to me that much because I’ve always sewn,” she said. “So then the monogramming, we started seeing that becoming more popular and I thought that would be something I would be interested in.”

Corner Cottage, located inside Main Street Market, does sell gift items but Loggins has many products she can monogram or embroider for customers.

It’s been a tough road. Shortly after she opened in 2006, the recession hit.

“It’s just been trudging along until now,” she said. “It’s picking up now.”

When asked for advice for both women and men interested in starting their own business, Loggins said perseverance was the No. 1 thing people need to get off the ground.

“Just hang in there. I’ve seen so many people come and go since I’ve been here.”