October 26, 2015

Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs

When Diane Barrett moved back to Grant County nearly two decades ago, she didn't expect to become one of the biggest employers in Silver City's historic downtown. An accomplished pastry chef and single mom, Diane's lengthy resume overqualified her for every open position she could find. So she took out a small business loan and became her own boss, starting Diane's Restaurant with just six tables.

Her homemade sweet bread, pastries, cakes and pies proved so popular that Diane expanded and opened Diane's Bakery & Deli across the street, and now her restaurants are a downtown staple. When I stopped in for lunch recently, Diane told me that she employs about 40 people and plans to keep growing.

October is National Women's Small Business Month, which celebrates the many contributions entrepreneurs like Diane have made to their communities and our economy. Women own nearly 40 percent of New Mexico's businesses, an impressive figure that puts us in the top five nationally. With women breadwinners at an all-time high, lifting up women-owned businesses helps families nationwide achieve the American dream. And I'm proud to fight for policies in the U.S. Senate to support women and families and help women-owned small businesses keep growing.

The influence of women entrepreneurs is strong throughout the state - in Española last month, I visited with builder Liana Sanchez, the CEO of Avanyu General Contracting. And at Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, I enjoyed a memorable meal cooked by the founder of The Feasting Place, Norma Naranjo.

Like Diane, Liana and Norma have built up the economic base in their communities. But success was never guaranteed. Starting a small business is a gamble, and that's why I keep pushing Congress to act on legislation to make capital more available, reduce government red tape, and expand subcontracting opportunities - especially for minority and women-owned businesses. Those simple steps can help more women concentrate on turning their skills and strengths into thriving businesses that create jobs in communities across New Mexico.

Nationally, women-owned businesses are growing three times faster than their counterparts. Here in New Mexico, our 60,000 women-owned businesses support thousands of jobs and contribute almost $9 billion to New Mexico's economy each year. We need to make sure that number keeps growing.

During National Women's Small Business Month, let's recommit to working together to empower entrepreneurs and support women-owned businesses so that they continue to succeed.