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Business Brief: Jacksonville Among Top Cities For Women To Own Businesses


A recent analysis ranks Jacksonville among the country’s top 30 cities for women to open a business. In this week’s “Business Brief,” analyst John Burr tells WJCT News Director Jessica Palombo what makes the city so attractive to female entrepreneurs.

The Small Business Trends ranking put Jacksonville at No. 21 in the country among markets friendly to female business owners, based on U.S. Census data.

Burr talked to two entrepreneurs: Ann Sabbag, CEO of Health Designsand a former Florida Small Businessperson of the Year, and Renee Parenteau, who owns the successful Renee Parenteau Photography and makeup studio in Springfield.

Both women agree Jacksonville is a great place to start a small business, and both say they have not felt they are at a disadvantage because they are women in business.


So what makes Jacksonville such a good place? Parenteau, who moved to Jacksonville from Los Angeles nine years ago, said she’s found networking  to be easy and productive.

“Anybody you want to meet, pretty much you can access them. You can go have lunch, you can network, you just tell people, ‘I need your help on this.’ Everybody’s willing to help,” she said. “So it’s kind of like a small town, friendly, yet big enough to be a great place for business.”

Sabbag agrees and credits the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce with being supportive and responsive to the needs of her health-and-wellness company as it has grown over the past 20 years.

Asked what the city could do better, Sabbag notes Jacksonville lacks women in leadership positions, “not necessarily solely related to women business owners, but certainly women leaders. There are not—I mean, it’s a paltry number related to our big organizations: Fidelity,  JEA, JIA, JAA.”

And she said men have much to gain by mentoring and promoting women into leadership roles.

“Having the good old boys around them only gives them more of their same thinking. If companies are now going to be successful long-term in this market, in the global market, in how the world is today, it’s going to take a lot more diverse thinking,” she said. “And women have a different skill set. Certainly we’re more collaborative than competitive.”

Listen to this story on Redux:

WJCT Business Analyst John Burr is a veteran journalist who has been been directing news coverage and reporting in Jacksonville since 1983. He is currently also a news analyst for WJCT, where he can be heard regularly on the "First Coast Connect" media roundtable.