Hartford has more female entrepreneurs than nearly any other metropolitan area in the country, according to a new analysis of census data from Seek Business Capital, a financial institution out of Los Angeles.
The city ranks fourth in the nation behind only St. Louis, Missouri, Austin, Texas and Providence, Rhode Island, with nearly 500 startups owned by women employing over 3,000 workers.
“Hartford has seen the momentum that women entrepreneurs are gaining nationally,” said Milena Erwin, the program manager at the University of Hartford Women’s Business Center. “I think it’s wonderful to get recognized for the activity that’s building up.”
Erwin works with female entrepreneurs in the greater Hartford area every day. She’s excited, but not surprised to learn about Hartford’s high ranking in the Seek Business Capital report.
“I think what’s really helping is the recognition of the value in the Hartford area that women entrepreneurs bring,” Erwin said, “and the many resources that are here available at any stage and at any step of the way to help them along the way.”
Founder and CEO. of the Hartford-based company Bare Life, Ali Lazowski, says this was the perfect place to start her business.
“I was looking into where would be the best place, and Connecticut was top of the list. And it was so easy because I was there,” said Lazowski.
Ali was a junior in college at Johns Hopkins University when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Eventually, she was also diagnosed with IBS and Lyme disease. Her doctors told her she had to stop eating dairy, gluten and refined sugars.
“I was like what am I going to eat now? So, I started playing around in my kitchen and came up with our hot chocolate mix, which is our first product,” said Lazowski.
After starting with a crowdfunding campaign in 2017, Ali sold 1,400 units in the first two months of sales. The locally-produced product is made with just five ingredients: coconut milk, coconut sugar, cacao, vanilla bean and Himalayan salt.
“It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free, soy-free, organic—I mean, could list it for an hour, but I’d sound like a weirdo,” she said.
Maybe a weirdo to the outside world, but Ali says she feels right at home in amongst the tight-knit army of female entrepreneurs in Hartford.
“Every time I run into a female entrepreneur, they’re like ‘oh, let me help you with this,’ ‘this is what I struggled with,’ ‘have you looked at this?’ and it’s just such an incredibly giving supportive community,” Ali said.
She says it’s also thanks to specialized organizations and programs in the area that make the city’s female entrepreneurs, like her, feel supported.
“There’s just a lot of institutions that are just dedicated to helping out startups, and especially women startups,” she said, “In addition to the community itself and entrepreneurs, those institutions are just incredible and so unique.”
Ali sells her clean hot chocolate online and at several locations across the state. Her goal is to someday sell it at every food store in the country.