Dry-cleaning men's white-collared business shirts may be the bread and butter for Brooklyn Park-based Pilgrim Cleaners, but it's a woman who owns and operates the company.
Pilgrim Cleaners President Bonnie Engler purchased the company from her father eight years ago. She joins a growing trend of women-owned businesses nationwide. Since 1997, women-owned businesses have increased by 54 percent according to a business report published by American Express Open.
"Data is showing that women owned businesses are growing 1.5 times faster than overall businesses in the economy," said Chris Hurn of Mercantile Capital Corporation.
Hurn believes the growth is in part due to the demographic shift that's been happening at college campuses throughout the country, with the number of women enrolled outnumbering men. It could also be due to a cutural shift that's enabling women to bring different skills to the table.
"I've often said I think women are the best sales people out there, much better than most men actually because of things like empathy and putting themselves in their buyers' shoes and really trying to understand what the problems are and how to solve them," said Hurn.
At Pilgrim Cleaners, Engler oversees 24 different metro-area shop locations and 200 employees, and she says she always makes decisions with the customer and her employees in mind.
"I try to think of what I not only as a business owner, but as a woman would want to see," said Engler. "I want them [customers] to walk-in and see a nice, beautiful, modern facility."
Engler's touch on the business includes large and small things from flowers and a candy dish at the front of each store to a milllion dollar investment in new machines that use environmentally friendly green cleaning technology.
"You have to keep being progressive in everything you do," said Engler. "Our investment in our technology has provided better cleaning, more efficiency."
As of 2012, it's estimated there are more than 8.3 million women–owned businesses in the United States, generating nearly $1.3 trillion and employing more than 7.7 million people.
Alexandra Renslo reporting
Monday, October 22, 2012