LAKEWOOD RANCH — Catering to a dominant, rising sector in Florida, six local women business owners secured seats at a roundtable headed by Rep. Vern Buchanan. They shared with the congressman challenges of heading a company in 2013.
The panel, speaking April 19, at Gold Coast Eagle Distributing Co., in Lakewood Ranch, cited finding qualified workers, obtaining financing and dealing with rising health-care costs and a complex tax code as deterrents to growing a business.
Buchanan says women-owned businesses will account for 57% of business growth in the coming year and that Florida ranks as the fourth most populous state for those companies.
The unknown of the Affordable Health Care Act, to take effect in January 2014, drew the biggest concern from the panel.
Angela Massaro-Fain, founder and president of Grapevine Communications, a Lakewood Ranch advertising, marketing and public-relations firm, said rising health-care costs contribute to her limiting her staff to 15 employees.
Her company pays 50% of each employee’s health insurance, Grapevine’s second-biggest expense behind human capital, and finds creative ways to provide benefits, such as paying for employee’s cell phone bills. Grapevine hasn’t needed outside funding. Massaro-Fain and her husband, John Fain, completely self-fund the company.
Grapevine provides marketing material to many manufacturing companies, so Massaro-Fain was interested to hear the plight of Lee-En Chung, president and owner of Ivy Ventures Inc., a Sarasota construction consulting firm.
Chung said she’s struggled for years to obtain financing to build a new industrial center in Manatee County.
Janet Mixon, co-owner of Bradenton’s Mixon Fruit Farms, complimented Manatee County’s push to provide tax credits to businesses that choose to work here.
But she complained of a too-long tax code that takes away time she could be putting into her business.
For his part, Buchanan, who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, presiding over tax policy, international trade, health care and Social Security, said he hopes to see more vocational technical schools, maybe started by woman.
“You see all these young ladies starting businesses, and you can see why the next decade will be pretty exciting,” Buchanan said.