Regional Women Win Praise

Published: April 1999
Tom Caruso | The Connecticut Post

Faced with a tight labor market and budget, Antoinette Allocca turned to the mature work force to staff her Essential Data consulting company in Stamford.

She decided that the 50-plus crowd had the depth, credibility and initiative to find clients for her technical writers, who help firms rewrite computer guides, training manuals and other company publications.

It obviously worked. Her Church Street company has cracked the list of 500 largest women-owned businesses featured in June’s Working Woman magazine with the second annual list.

She also learned that her company was the fastest growing on the list: Revenues doubled from $10 million in 1997 to $20 million in 1998.

“I am thrilled,” she said Tuesday from her office.

Her company ranked No. 461 on the list, which included five other businesses in Connecticut.

Easter Bag & Paper on Research Drive in Milford, with Meredith Reuben as chief executive officer, made No. 137 with annual revenue of $92.5 million.

Cracking the $1 billion mark at No.15, was Axel Johnson Inc., in Stamford, with $1.15 billion in revenue. The diversified holding company owns Sprague Energy Corp., two environmental companies and other operations.

In the latest sign of their economic weight, the collective revenues of the magazine’s top 500 women-owned businesses grew 12 percent to $80.7 billion in 1998.

“They’re thriving,” said Sharon Hadary, executive director of the National foundation for Women Business Owners. “These businesses are becoming more significant players in the economy.”

The number of women-owned businesses leaped nearly 90 percent in the decade ending in 1997, according to the foundation. Today, they number 8.5 million – more than a third of all U.S. businesses.

The businesses are still small when compared to the country’s largest companies. General Motors, for example, had $161.3 billion in revenues in 1998.

Yet, the growing clout of women-owned businesses is increasingly evident. Between 1987 and 1997, their total sales grew 161 percent and their work forces grew 262 percent, according to the Foundation.

What’s more, women are displaying the talents that put them on the cutting edge of business world, with technological savvy first among them.

On the short list:

Several area women were named to Working Woman magazine’s list of the 500-largest women-owned businesses. Their rank below is followed by the company’s base, name and leader.

  • No. 15 – Stamford, Axel Johnson, Antonia Axson Johnson, Chair
  • No. 137 – Milford, Eastern Bag & Paper, Meredith Reuben, CEO
  • No. 140 – Stamford, Advantage Human Resourcing, Catherine C. Candland, founder/CEO/president
  • No. 461 – Stamford, Essential Data, Antionette Allocca, president

Area women listed by magazine

Consider this: 23 percent of women-owned firms have Web sites, compared with 16 percent of firms owned by men. Nearly half of women business owners have Internet access, compared with 41 percent of men.

Allocca said she decided years ago to think outside the box when facing a tough time. She needed a motivated sales force to crack into a booming market, she said, but could not afford to pay top dollar. So she hired older employers at low salaries, but high commissions.

“I broke all the rules,” she said. “I give people a chance who are overlooked.”

Working Woman ranks the companies on its list by revenue. Companies qualify if women are the largest individual shareholders, holding at least 5 percent of stock in a public company and 10 percent in private firms.

Many were inspired to go into business for themselves because they sought greater flexibility in their lives. Others his glass ceilings in corporate America.

“This is a chance for her to dream her dreams, fulfill them and keep control of her destiny,” said

Judy George, chief executive officer and founder of Domain, a Norwood, Mass., furniture company that ranked No. 220 on the Working Woman list.

“I know, I was president of a company. I was making a fortune….But I had my own dreams,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report

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