McKenna Sonntag and her husband opened their Bonsai Bai Me store in April. Sonntag is one of many successful Utah women in self-employment. (Sydney and Shelby Bishop, Pic Bishes)
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SALT LAKE CITY – Women across the state of Utah are realizing their dreams of entrepreneurship by starting their own businesses and becoming self-employed.
Utah has the highest percentage of women in the independent workforce, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 52.7% of Utah’s freelance workforce is female, representing about 39,000 women.
The Women’s Business Center of Utah estimates that there are approximately 89,000 women-owned businesses in Utah.
From jewelry and clothing to plants and beauty treatments, thousands of women across the state are successfully running their own businesses and impacting Utah communities.
Holly Ross Davis, owner of Mauve Jewelry, said she thinks Utah is a very enterprising state, in general.
Davis had previously held jobs in teaching and corporate technology, and she found that most jobs would simultaneously make being a parent quite difficult. Although she did not yet have children, Davis worried about when she would end up having children.
By owning her own business, Davis feels she has found peace knowing she can achieve her dream of having a family – and also her dream of having a career. Many other women in Utah have been able to do the same after starting their own businesses and creating a place to enjoy both family and work, she said.
“It’s one of those things where if you value family and career, you have to make it work for yourself and you can’t believe the system will adapt to you,” Davis said. “I think these smart, enterprising women want to work but there’s no system in place for that. So they created it for themselves.”
I think these smart enterprising women want to work, but there’s no system in place for that. So they created it for themselves.
–Holly Ross Davis, purple jewelry
Mauve Jewelry began as a side business, for fun – a creative outlet for Davis. As it grew, she decided to take the leap to run the business full-time, and Davis has loved the past year and a half since.
Being in charge of everything can be difficult and stressful, but Davis said it’s rewarding to know that the company’s success has come from his own hard work.
“I have a bit of a financial scarcity mindset, where you’re worried about your next paycheck or how it’s going to come and it’s scary to just rely on yourself. But I would say to go,” she said for anyone interested in starting a business. “The risk I took starting my small business is ultimately how I was able to find this rewarding career and path for myself.”
Carissa Wachtor, who founded Nolia Jewelry, has lived and run her business in both California and Utah and thinks it’s easier to run a business in Utah.
“Between the slightly more relaxed pace of life here and such a family-oriented community, it takes away the advantage ‘of running a business and raising a family at the same time,’ she said.
Although it is still difficult to do both, the community and resources available in Utah make it easier for women and mothers to succeed in business ventures.
“I didn’t know anything when I started. I just started doing things,” Wachtor said.
She encourages anyone interested in starting a business to do so and not let fear take hold.
Having started as a small shop on Etsy, Wachtor said it was amazing to see something she created grow into something bigger than herself. “It’s very rewarding and it’s almost like an otherworldly experience…you can step back and see the bigger picture,” she said. “That’s pretty cool.”
The hardest part of owning a business, Wachtor said, is shutting it down at the end of the day. In other jobs, it’s easier to separate work from home, but as a business owner, Wachtor thinks about his business all the time.
Now that his business is more successful and established, Wachtor has been able to enjoy the freedom that freelance work offers. She can have a more flexible schedule and take time to spend time with her family.
I think the coolest part of having your own business is the fact that it’s like your baby. It’s really, really exciting to go to work every day and shape it the way I want to and bring my vision to life.
–McKenna Sunday, Bonsai Bai Me
Nail artist Kayla Kimball also said being a freelancer has allowed her to create her own hours and choose how many appointments she has each day.
Kimball runs her nail salon, Kayla Eve Nails, from her apartment and loves being able to build relationships with her clients.
Although she does nails full time right now, Kimball said she wants to be a stay-at-home mom eventually. Kimball is grateful that her nail salon is something she could still do on the sidelines when she has kids one day.
“It’s a nice, dependable job that I can take when I want or take it off when I need to,” Kimball said.
Kimball thinks many women do well in the beauty industry in Utah because Utahans love the trends and get their hair and nails done frequently. It’s a smart way to have a business while enjoying freedom and flexibility, she said.
McKenna Sonntag and her husband launched their plant business, Bonsai Bai Me, in April and are busier than ever.
Sonntag and her husband both work full time and run their shop at night, where they teach customers how to care for and maintain bonsai trees.
Bonsai has grown from a home hobby to a business that brings Sonntag the joy of seeing customers enjoy their experience caring for their trees. Opening a store was a huge risk for Sonntag, as she didn’t know if people would be interested or patronize the business.
“I think the coolest part of having your own business is the fact that, like, it’s your baby. It’s really, really exciting to go to work every day and shape it the way I do. want and bring my vision to life,” Sonntag said.
Bonsai wasn’t the first business idea Sonntag and her husband had, but they’re glad it stuck around and succeeded.
“I think a lot of times we can put things off because we think the time is not right or it’s going to be too difficult, and I would say there’s never a more perfect time than now,” Sonntag said.
Entrepreneurship takes a lot of courage because it requires a lot of risk and there can be a lot of failures, she said, adding that to be successful, you just have to go out there and start trying to find something. who will stick because the risk is worth it.
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