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OLD TOWN LANSING — Over the past few years, Old Town Lansing has erupted with new women-owned  businesses.


According to the State of Women Owned Businesses Report in 2013, there are more than 8.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States. Between 1997 and 2013 the number began growing at 1.5 times the national average.


Old Town reflects that trend.


Almost half of the businesses in Old Town are owned by women today, according to the Old Town Commercial Association. Women have slowly but surely brought life back to the community by opening their own shops.


Among the states, Michigan is ranked number 10 for number of women-owned business firms. Old Town is one of the causes of that high ranking.


The Institute For Women’s Policy Research reported that it would not be until 2056 that women finally will reach pay parity with men.


Read more facts and statistics:


Women vs. Men in the Workplace


Women continue to move toward parity with men in the business world. However, Rhea Van Atta, owner of the new Old Town General Store, said that men and women both contribute to the community’s success.


“It has nothing to do with gender. The biggest challenge is the same that it would be for anyone starting a new business– that is trying to figure out your market… and marketing.”


Van Atta said that the only women-oppressed adversity she has experienced was when she had to hire contractors.


“When you’re dealing with contractors, being a woman, you better do your homework before you hire somebody,” Van Atta said, “If you don’t know what things cost or the product that they’re talking about, it’s very easy to get taken advantage of. It really helps to research a project before hiring someone.”

She learned that the hard way. She hired a male contractor to do her windows for her and since she did not know much about the project and its prices, she said she felt ripped off.


Van Atta urged women in businesses to find people that they can trust, even if it costs you a little more money.


Like Van Atta, Cindy, who helps run Lambs’ Gate Antiques, says that women are no different from men when running a shop.


She said that she has not experienced any gender issues in the workplace and that women business owners in Old Town Lansing are equal to the men.


“If we were a large company, I do think there would be inequity between men and women but we are just a small antique shop,” she said.


She says that any woman thinking about opening a business has to have patience and stick with it.


Marketing not gender


“You have to first have name recognition. Then you have to really figure out what it is you’re pitching. What’s so special about Old Town General Store?” explains Van Atta. “Why would anybody want to come here?”


Van Atta admits she had a problem with figuring out how to identify herself and her business so that people would understand what they’re about. In her mind she knew what she wanted but it was very hard to put into words.


Lambs’ Gate Antiques store runner said when starting your small business do not expect to make money in the beginning months and to focus on marketing.


Van Atta said that so far Facebook and word of mouth have been the best way to market her store. She has also done ads. One in particular is the Women In the Arts program ad. She says she’s a strong proponent of women entrepreneurship and also empowering young girls.


“You can do anything you want,” said Van Atta. “Don’t let anybody ever tell you that you can’t.”




By: Sierra Williams

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