The journal Bizwomen.com rated the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country, looking at opportunities available for women both as entrepreneurs and climbers of the corporate ladder. The cities with the most highly paid and well-educated women landed at the top of the list, with the Sarasota-Bradenton area coming in at number 21 -- the best in the state, and well above Orlando (ranked 31st), Tampa-St. Pete (36), Jacksonville (48) and Miami-Ft. Lauderdale (49) .
We spoke with Suncoast businesswomen to get their response, and they say the findings are right on.
"Men will come into my store and say, ‘I want to speak to the owner,’ and I will say its me,” says interior designer Julie Lautermilch. “They'll say ‘where’s your husband,’ and I say he’s not a part of this, its just me."
Lautermilch is talking about a stigma associated with women business owners. The owner of Rustic Rooster says that while her husband has been supportive of her endeavor, the day to day operation falls on her.
Lautermilch started out in the marketing field, but ventured into design after being laid off. "I started first selling furniture in my garage,” she says. “Then I started selling it to my friends, and then I realized to sell the paint and continue to grow, I had to have a location.”
That was several years ago, and Lautermilch's business is now thriving.
And she's far from the only one.
"I would say that 90 percent of the woman on this street owns their own business," she says.
An informal survey points to Lautermilch being right. Just a few stores down from her is Treat, a boutique owned and operated by Nicole Pepe-Dorn.
"I came home from work one day and I sat down and said to my husband, ‘I don’t think I’m living my authentic life,’” she says. “He was like, 'is this the I want to have a baby conversation’ and I was like, no, I want a store."
That was in 2013. Since then, Treat has emerged as one of the top boutiques in the area.
But this trend is bigger than the stores on Pineapple Avenue.
"In the short time I've been in business in Sarasota, I’ve noticed a huge outpouring from the woman in the community … helping to grow my business and being supportive,” Dorn says.
It’s support that financial planner Sarah Phillips has also noticed in her work.
"I love the area, I think it’s great for growth -- it’s a great economy if you look at the rest of the country," she says.
Phillips credits the Suncoast with playing a major roll in the success of her firm.
"This is a really good environment for it,” she says. “When you think about some of the larger cities, especially as a female, it’s easy to get swallowed up."