GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A Gulfport business owner said opportunities for women in the business world have come a long way over the last three decades. This year marks 25 years since Congress passed the Women's Business Ownership Act to encourage more women entrepreneurs.
According to the Small Business Administration, there are 8.1 million women-owned businesses across the country. Together they generate $1.3 trillion in revenue. In Mississippi, 61,000 businesses are owned by women, and they generate $7.3 billion.
These days Jeanne Dibble runs a wreath and gift shop on Pass Road in Gulfport. The sixty-year-old has had many enterprises over her lifetime from selling produce to operating a laundry service.
"It runs in my blood, my family has owned businesses all my life. I grew up in family owned businesses," Dibble said. "There's a lot of freedom to it. And just the joy of being able to work with people and work with them on your time frame and your schedule."
Dibble said, 30 years ago she was one of very few women business owners. She said back then women were expected to stay at home and were often not given a chance to compete by a largely male-dominated business world. She said laws requiring a portion of federal government contracts to go to women owned businesses forced open some doors of opportunity.
"Now I know that a lot of those programs took a lot of flack years ago," Dibble said."Oh, it's unfair and you should be able to thrive on your own merits. You shouldn't have the government encouraging you in business or encouraging businesses or telling them what they have to do. Who to hire and how many to hire. But given the background from so many years ago men were in the workplace, women were at home. Women would not have had the opportunities had it not been for those programs."
Dibble co-owns the shop with her daughter and said it does her heart good to see that nowadays there are so many women entrepreneurs.
"I had to say anything to anyone whether it be a woman or anyone starting a new business, you've got to look to God for your strength. You've got to have faith but you've also got to know that it's a lot of hard work. It doesn't come easy," she said.
Part of the Women's Business Ownership Act was designed to end discriminatory lending practices by banks that favored male business owners For example the law eliminated all individual state laws that required women to have a male relative sign a business loan.