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North Dakota No. 1 for women entrepreneurs, study shows

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A Simply Maid car sits outside while Penny, Krystan and Haley work inside on Monday afternoon. Jesse Trelstad / Forum News Service2 / 5
Krystan Standing Bear of Simply Maid places items out of the way while she cleans off the bathroom counter Monday afternoon. Jesse Trelstad / Forum News Service3 / 5
Penny VanHoudt wipes down the kitchen counters with a cleaner while the other two workers start in different areas of the house on Monday afternoon. Jesse Trelstad / Forum News Service4 / 5
Simply Maid workers Krystan Standing Bear, left, works on the bathroom while Penny VanHoudt cleans off cabinets in the kitchen on Monday afternoon. Jesse Trelstad / Forum News Service5 / 5

North Dakota is a good place for women to own and operate a business, according to a new study.

Fundera, a small-business lender, ranked states on a number of markers of success for women-owned businesses.

North Dakota is top in the nation for women entrepreneurs, and Minnesota ranked fourth.

North Dakota beat out the competition in the Fundera study because it had the highest five-year growth in average revenue of women-owned businesses, highest average revenue of women-owned businesses and highest percentage of women-owned businesses with paid employees.

Meredith Wood, vice president of content for Fundera, said the study was tied into Women's History Month.


Grand Forks is home to many women leaders in business who say owning a business is a challenge for anyone, but the rewards are worth the effort.

Sadie Gardner, owner of Sadie's Couture Floral and Event Styling, has operated businesses in both Minnesota and Grand Forks.

She started out in Minneapolis when her husband was completing his medical residency requirements.

In November 2006, she was pregnant with her second child and was having to stay in bed a lot, which hindered her ability to work. She started thinking about starting her own business, which would give her a more flexible schedule to raise her children.

She calculated that if she could do 15 weddings per year, she could make as much money as she was at her job. By January, she was in business for herself.

She provided floral services for 120 weddings the first year, 200 the next and 250 in the third year.

She and her husband moved to Grand Forks when he started working for Altru Health System.

She sold the Minneapolis business and started another in Grand Forks.

She now does about 40 events a year, but it's a broader range of services than her Minneapolis business.

She said it's hard to compare experiences across the two states. She was in a much larger market in Minnesota and the business was focused more on floral services.

But she said women leadership in North Dakota tends to be a lot more visible than in other places.

"You see women in business and as leaders, so it doesn't seem so unreachable," Gardner said.


Katie Stauss, owner of Simply Maid, was a manager at Merry Maids for many years when she decided she wanted to call the shots.

"After that many years, I can do it myself," she said she thought at the time.

She went into business for herself on Feb. 10, 2014. With all of her experience, she said it was easy to get set up and going.

She started with herself and another woman. Today, she has 22 employees. She said the biggest challenge is that she now spends most of her time in the office and actually misses doing the cleaning.

The marks for North Dakota in Fundera's study weren't all good.

The state had only one Small Business Administration Women's Business Center and a very low percentage of total businesses owned by women, with North Dakota coming in second to last.

Minnesota was ranked high in percentage of women with higher education degrees, five-year growth in average revenue of women-owned businesses and overall unemployment rate.

Like North Dakota, Minnesota also ranked low in percentage of total businesses owned by women.

Kevin Killough

Kevin Killough is the business reporter for the Grand Forks Herald. You can reach him with story tips, comments and ideas at 701-780-1244.