Female business owners share struggles

Paige Bennett

The number of women business owners in the United States has been steadily rising since 1997. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, women own more than 11.6 million American businesses and have generated $1.7 trillion in sales.

However, despite their growing numbers, women in businesses continue to face obstacles that differ from those faced by men.   

One of these women is Gwen Rosenberg.

Rosenberg owns Popped!, a popcorn and candy store located in downtown Kent. She opened her business in 2012 with the goal of turning her lifelong passion for cooking into an income that could support her family.   

When Rosenberg tried to open a business credit card, she was denied.

Having been a stay-at-home mom for roughly 12 years, Rosenberg was told by her bank that she did not have the credit to open a credit card. But in that timeframe, she had cosigned on multiple cars and houses with her husband.  

“In the eyes of the bank, I was good enough to sue for nonpayment or if we defaulted, but I wasn’t good enough to give a credit card to,” Rosenberg said.

After denying her a credit card, the bank informed Rosenberg that her husband could open one for her. She rejected the offer and launched without assistance from the bank.  

Another challenge Rosenberg faced in the launching of Popped! was feeling as though she was not being taken seriously.

“There were definitely some men who would come in as customers and, you know, they would think it was kind of cute that this woman was starting a business,” Rosenberg said.

Kelly Tannous, the owner of Twisted Meltz, a restaurant that specializes in gourmet grilled cheese, experienced similar problems. Tannous and her son, Steven, opened Twisted Meltz in 2014. One of the most difficult aspects of being a woman business owner, Tannous said, is getting people to respect and listen to her.

“Even after all these years, it still seems like you have to be a little bit more boisterous to get people to really understand, like, ‘I’m serious,’ ‘this is how it has to be done’ or ‘this is what I want,’” Tannous said.

 Although being a woman business owner poses challenges for Rosenberg and Tannous, they both said Kent has been a welcoming community.

“When we first opened up, everybody (in Kent) was so friendly, coming in and giving us compliments,” Tannous said. “It’s almost feels like it’s old-fashioned. People really want you to be here. People were really happy and excited for us to be successful.”

Not all women business owners have had these experiences. Michelle Sahr, owner of Off the Wagon, a toy and gift shop in downtown Kent, said she has not dealt with many difficulties as a woman business owner.

“I actually don’t encounter a great deal of difficulty (being a female business owner),” Sahr said. “On a super rare occasion, I’ve encountered men in business and in life who don’t take women seriously, and I’m always a little surprised about that to be honest.”

However, Sahr said her circumstances may be different from those of other women in business. Working in the toy industry, Sahr said she encounters more women than men.

In spite of the challenges she may face, any woman looking to be a business owner should go for it, Rosenberg said.

“If you are a woman, and you want to start your own business, you should,” Rosenberg said. “You don’t need to wait for permission and wait for the stars to line up. You can start the path towards entrepreneurship in small doses.”

Paige Bennett is a feature writer. Please contact her at [email protected].