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FARMINGTON — The month of October is National Women in Small Business Month, and women increasingly are choosing the option of becoming small business owners, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Audra Winters, president of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce, said San Juan County is a good area for women to start a business because of the support available to them.

“I don’t believe women are intimidated these days to start a business,” said Winters, who believes women make good business owners because of the tasks they take on in other areas of their lives. “Many women have to run a house and raise kids, so they are usually tied into a wide range of people in the community, making their ability to network broader."

But some women do run into obstacles when considering whether to start a business, and those hurdles aren't always external.

“Sometimes, women have to convince themselves they can own a business,” said Judy Castleberry, the San Juan College Enterprise Center director, who added that she often notices women minimizing the work they do, classifying it as merely a hobby. “Even when they own a business, sometimes they don’t think of themselves as being entrepreneurs. For example, a woman may have been selling her artwork or doing consulting on the side, and don’t really think of it as a business. They need to change that thought process."

Betsy McCord has owned the Farmington clothing store M. Moose for the past 20 years. It was originally located downtown, but it has been at its current East Main Street location since 2008. McCord described the store, which offers clothing, shoes, jewelry, handbags and other specialty items, as a very upscale boutique.

“We work diligently to not carry what other stores carry,” said McCord. “The store’s really changed since the beginning and is maturing as we mature.”

McCord feels that being a woman in the field of business offers many advantages.

“We prioritize and multi-task well, and we’re also very family supportive, which helps when dealing with other people,” she said, adding that this also helps her to be very attuned to her customers and what’s happening in their lives. “I think women take the time to be empathetic, and it means we’re also more aware of what’s happening within a business.”

The most rewarding part about owning a business, McCord said, is the opportunity to keep growing and learning.

“I realize how lucky I am to learn something new every day — this has been the greatest gift this store has given me,” she said.

Another local small business owner is Crystal Williams, who has owned The Colosseum gym on East Main Street for the past two years. Williams and her husband also co-own Phoenix Services, an oil and gas field wireline business in Bloomfield.

Williams said that as a woman business owner, she has had different experiences with the two businesses.

“I’ve noticed that with the (Phoenix Services) company, when a male customer is asking a question, he’ll sometimes address it just to my husband, who will often redirect the question to me,” she said. “Eventually, though, they come to realize that I’m often the one with the answer.”

Williams doesn’t experience that at her gym, which specializes in personalized fitness training.

“Many of the clients here are women, and a lot hit me up for advice because of my age,” said the 51-year-old Williams, who also competes in fitness shows. “That has been a huge advantage because I can relate to age-related things they’re going through.”

The gym is unique in that customers are given an entry card and can come and go whenever they like to work out. But they must also work at times with a certified fitness trainer.

“Because they have to have a personal trainer, our gym is more individualized and tailored to each client,” Williams said.

The Chile Pod Restaurant on West Main Street specializes in classic and unique Mexican dishes. Owner Monica Schultz opened the restaurant about six months ago, and she said it is drawing a steady breakfast, lunch and dinner crowd.

Schultz said she grew up working in her aunt and uncle’s restaurant in Cuba, N.M.

“I always knew I wanted to do something like this, but I was thinking something really small, like with five tables,” she said. “But when the building came up for lease, I didn’t have a business plan or anything, I just had to jump in and do it.”

Schultz said she didn’t experience any of the trepidation that often comes with starting a new business because of the speed with which it all happened.

“If I’d had longer to think about it, I probably would have had fear, but I had to put the money on the table and just go with it,” she said.

The restaurant is a family affair, and counts Schultz's mother, daughter, son and sister among its staff. She calls her husband, Shannon, her biggest cheerleader.

“He’s the reason why I did it — his support alleviated any of the fear and anxiety that I might otherwise have had,” she said.

Schultz said she has learned some important things about her own abilities — and about the community — since starting the restaurant.

“This has opened my eyes to shopping and eating local," she said. "That’s something I never thought about before.”

Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.

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