INC. BRANDED CONTENT / ENTERPRISE FLORIDA
It was smooth sailing for Kay Stephenson, co-founder and CEO of Datamaxx Group, for her frst 10 years in business. Her company provides secure communications
services to law enforcement and security
companies—and competition from bigger
companies was minimal. But that changed
dramatically after September 11, 2001.
Rather than confronting the increasing
number of large competitors head-on,
she freely shared her experience and
technology, deftly positioning Tallahassee-
based Datamaxx, a certifed woman-
owned business (WOB), as an invaluable
partner. That partnership made those
large companies eligible for set-aside
contracts that otherwise would have been
out of their reach.
From the dozens of Lean In Circles
throughout the state to an abundance
of targeted resources, Florida is a great
location for women entrepreneurs.
Stephenson has benefted
from many of them. “The
and the resources
available here make
Florida a very attractive
place for women-owned
businesses,” she says.
economy abounds with
opportunities for a wide
range of businesses.
It is home to market
leaders in technology,
aviation, life sciences,
many others. Florida
ranked third among
all states by number
of WOBs in 2016,
according to “The 2016
State of Women-Owned
Businesses” report. More
tellingly, it recorded
the highest growth in
number of women-
owned frms between
2007 and 2016—up 67 percent.
After successfully repositioning
her business after 9/11, Stephenson
had to build a new state-of-the-art,
32,500-square-foot facility just to keep
up with the booming demand for
Datamaxx’s services. At that time, she
briefy considered a move to another
state, but the compelling reasons to stay
put quickly made that idea a non-starter.
Stephenson is quick to tout Florida’s many
advantages. A business-friendly climate
and favorable tax structure complement
a competitive cost structure, talented
workforce, and robust technology
infrastructure. In addition, the state is
home to a number of entrepreneurial
incubators like the Florida State University
Florida is just as appealing to high-
concept entrepreneurs, says Anna Bond,
creative director and co-owner, with her
husband, Nathan Bond, of Rife Paper
Co. Their artistic paper goods venture in
Winter Park, just outside Orlando, has
achieved explosive growth since its 2009
launch. It’s been on the Inc. 5000 list of
fastest-growing businesses since 2013
and now has a workforce of about 200.
“We developed a reputation as a
creative and really interesting company to
work for, and that attracted very talented
people early on,” says Anna Bond. She
retained those promising early hires, who
grew with the company. She considers
talent pool access one of Florida’s big
advantages, in addition to the number of
other women business owners in the area.
“It creates a very supportive atmosphere
for female entrepreneurs,” she says.
Access to superior manufacturing
and logistics infrastructure has been a
boon to Rife Paper. It’s formed long-
term relationships with “wonderful local
partners that know our standards,” Bond
says. Low cost of living and commercial
real estate values let the company
maintain a large retail space in downtown
Orlando and a massive warehouse
operation just 15 minutes away.
Lee Kapel says Florida was the
perfect place for her to break through
the aviation industry’s notorious gender
barriers. As owner, president, and CEO of
Weston-based TSI Aviation, she uses her
company’s WOB status to target lucrative
government and private-sector contracts.
Cuban-born Kapel particularly
values the multicultural environment
that characterizes south Florida. ” We
do so much business in Latin America
and other parts of the world,” she says.
“Having a multicultural workforce has
been huge for us!”
From high-tech infrastructure and a
business-friendly atmosphere to a deep
talent pool and renowned quality of
life, Florida has emerged as the growth
leader in women-owned businesses. And
with the wealth of resources targeted to
female entrepreneurs it’s no surprise that
so many women business owners are
choosing the Sunshine State.
Women Rock Florida’s
Women entrepreneurs thrive in this low-cost, business-friendly environment.
Anna Bond, co-founder and creative director of Rife Paper Co.