Utah ranks first in rate of self-employed women

Oct 31, 2022, 6:16 PM | Updated: Nov 18, 2022, 6:03 pm

Mckenna Sonntag and her husband opened their store Bonsai Bai Me in April. Sonntag is one of many w...

Mckenna Sonntag and her husband opened their store Bonsai Bai Me in April. Sonntag is one of many women in Utah finding success in self-employment. (Chloe Anderson)

(Chloe Anderson)

SALT LAKE CITY — Women across the state of Utah are making their entrepreneurial dreams come true by starting their own businesses and being self-employed.

Utah has the highest percentage of women in the self-employed workforce, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Approximately 52.7% of the self-employed workforce in Utah are women, accounting for around 39,000 women.

The Women’s Business Center of Utah estimates there are approximately 89,000 women-owned businesses in Utah.

From jewelry, to clothing, to plants, to beauty care, thousands of women across the state are successfully running their own businesses and making an impact in Utah communities.

Holly Ross Davis, owner of Mauve Jewelry, said she thinks Utah is a very entrepreneurial state, in general.

Davis had previous jobs in teaching and in corporate technology, and she found that most jobs would make simultaneously being a parent quite difficult. Although she doesn’t have children yet, Davis was worried about when she did eventually have kids.

By owning her own business, Davis feels that she has found peace knowing she can follow her dream to have a family — and also her dream to have 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 trust that the system will accommodate for you,” Davis said. “I think these intelligent entrepreneurial women want to work but there’s not a system set up for it. So they created it for themselves.”

Mauve Jewelry started out as a side hustle, for fun — a creative outlet for Davis. As it picked up traction, she decided to make the leap to running the business full time and Davis has loved the last year-and-a-half since.

Being in charge of everything can be difficult and stressful, but Davis said it’s rewarding to know the success of the business has come from her own hard work.

“I have a little 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 rely only on yourself. But I would say to just go for it,” she said for anyone interested in starting a business. “The risk that I took to go for it with starting my small business is ultimately the way I was able to find this rewarding career and this path for myself.”

Carissa Wachtor, who founded Nolia Jewelry, has lived and run her business in both California and Utah and believes running a business is easier in Utah.

“Between the slightly more relaxed pace of life here and such a family-oriented community, it takes the edge off” of running a business and raising a family at the same time, she said.

Although it’s still difficult to do both, the community and resources available in Utah make it more manageable for women and mothers to be successful in business ventures.

“I knew nothing when I started. I just started making things,” Wachtor said.

She encourages anyone interested in starting a business to just do it and not let fear creep in.

Having started as a small shop on Etsy, Wachtor said it’s 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 take that step back and see it big picture,” she said. “That’s pretty cool.”

The hardest part of owning a business, Wachtor said, is turning it off at the end of the day. In other jobs it’s easier to separate work from home, but as a business owner, Wachtor finds herself thinking about her business all the time.

Now that her business is more successful and established, Wachtor has been able to enjoy the freedom offered by self-employment. She is able to have a more flexible schedule and take time off to spend time with family.

Nail artist Kayla Kimball similarly said being self-employed 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 her nail salon is something she could still do on the side when she someday has kids.

“It’s a nice reliable job that I can just pick up whenever I want; or not do whenever I need to do that,” Kimball said.

Kimball thinks many women do well in the beauty industry in Utah because people in Utah love trends and get hair and nails done frequently. It’s a smart way to have a business while still enjoying freedom and flexibility, she said.

McKenna Sonntag and her husband started 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 take care of and maintain bonsai trees.

Bonsai blossomed from a hobby at home, into a business that brings Sonntag joy seeing customers enjoy their experience taking care of their trees. Opening a store was a huge risk for Sonntag, as she didn’t know if people would even care or patronize the business.

“I think the coolest part about having your own business is the fact that, like, it’s your baby. It just feels really, really exciting to go to work every day and get to shape it how I want and bring my vision to life,” Sonntag said.

Bonsai wasn’t the first business idea Sonntag and her husband have had, but they are glad this one is sticking around and finding success.

“I think a lot of times, we may put things off because we think that the timing isn’t right or it’s going to be too hard, and I would say there’s never a more perfect time than now,” Sonntag said.

Entrepreneurship takes a lot of guts because it requires a lot of risk and there can be a lot of failure, she said, adding that in order to find success, you just have to go for it and start trying to find something that will stick because the risk is worth it.

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Utah ranks first in rate of self-employed women