SALT LAKE CITY — Despite the great strides being made by Utah's homegrown companies, the number of women recognized for their achievements is lacking, according to some observers.
And that can impact a company's bottom line.
"It's difficult to be a woman in business in Utah because you're a minority, and there are a lot of obstacles that you have to overcome," according to Allison Lew, founder of Braid — a Utah company that provides workshops for entrepreneurs. One major issue for women is raising capital to get their business up and running.
"Nationwide, less than 3 percent of all venture capital goes to women-founded companies," she said. "We hope that by increasing visibility for these women that we can see a shift in the percentage of venture capital that is distributed (among businesses)."
To achieve that goal, Lew and others organized the Sego Awards, Utah’s first that specifically honor female entrepreneurs and business leaders in the Beehive State. The award was developed to highlight the achievements of women who have impacted Utah in areas such as revenue growth, innovation, community influence and advocacy, Lew explained.
"We are delighted to have received so many inspiring nominations and applications, and we congratulate our finalists on this exciting accomplishment,” Lew said. “The Sego Awards were created to recognize the amazing work that female entrepreneurs all across the state are doing to build their companies, and we are proud to support and recognize their accomplishments."
The finalists and winners in various categories were formally honored during a gala on Friday night at Sundance Mountain Resort.
“The nominations we received confirmed just how many impressive women Utah has contributing to the business community,” said Trent Mano, event co-organizer and co-founder of Convoi — a global industrial relocation firm. “We learned a lot about the inspiring work these women are doing and are excited to celebrate those accomplishments with them.”
Lew noted that Utah is home to more than 80,000 women-run businesses generating approximately $14 billion in revenues. She said despite the impressive earnings, women lack the profile of their male counterparts in the state's business community.
"We wanted to increase visibility for these women and get them out and on the radar," she said. "(There is little recognition) even though they are doing just as well and even better than male-owned businesses."
She explained that the awards were named after the Utah state flower, the sego lily, which thrives in the harsh, desert climate.
Lew said economic power is often gained as businesses grow and become successful, but women have often been left out because so many spend much of their time running their enterprises that they aren't able to cultivate the relationships necessary to get noticed by funding sources. Hopefully, that dynamic can change when investors can recognize the number of talented women that are changing the state's business landscape.
Recognition for young female entrepreneurs is especially important for companies that are working hard to establish themselves, said Jenny Wecker, founder and CEO of Fawn Design, which makes designer diaper and parent accessory backpacks. She was the first place recipient for "Fastest Growing Company Under Five Years."
"I've always felt supported by others as a female entrepreneur, but an award like this will open doors to so many more opportunities," she said. Her advice to other women entrepreneurs is to believe in themselves and display that belief to others.
"Walking into a room with confidence helps anyone take you seriously. There is a ways to go in leveling the playing field, but I do feel like we are getting closer," Wecker said. "We can't control others, but we can control how we present ourselves and our business. Do it with confidence, and humility and that will set you up for success."
"I hope that awards like these will help to highlight the impact that women are making at organizations in Utah and throughout the country," said Ayde Soto, founder and chief technology officer of SimpleCitizen — a Salt Lake City digital immigration solutions company — who won the award for "Innovation in Technology."
She considers herself fortunate to be in Utah "surrounded by other inspiring women leaders doing great work at their companies and in their communities."
"The more we come together like this to show appreciation for the amazing work these women are doing, the more opportunities there will be for women to lead in management roles, the C-suite and on boards," Soto said. "That’s a wonderful thing for the tech ecosystem in Utah."3 comments on this story
Vanessa Quigley, co-founder of Provo-based Chatbooks.com — the first place winner for "E-commerce," lauded the "many talented, passionate and fearless women" in the state's increasingly diverse business sector.
"There are women in Utah's business community doing some amazing things and we need more of a spotlight on those achievements," she said. "As female founders and CEOs become more visible, we not only help level the playing field for female entrepreneurs but also strengthen the impact of girls and women across the state."