Heitkamp, women business leaders talk entrepreneurship

Aug 25, 2017

Helping women entrepreneurs.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) held a roundtable meeting in Bismarck with women-owners of small businesses – to see what makes them successful, and what they might need to grow their businesses.

"The women of North Dakota have really stepped up," Heitkamp said. "They've looked for that financial independence, they've looked for that good idea -- the thing they can do that they know there's a market for."

Heitkamp said she’s interested in what it will take for those businesses to expand.

"We start a lot of businesses," Heitkamp said. "A lot of them stay in the 'small' category. I want to know what we can do to take it to the next level."

One business that has expanded is EarthKind of Bismarck. The business was founded by Kari Warberg Block. It manufactures various kinds of “natural” pest control. She started her company on a farm in western North Dakota.

"It was unique, coming from a state that didn't have much manufacturing," Warberg Block said in an interview. "being a woman, and not coming from the industry, we rose to one of the fastest-growth pest control companies in the country."

Warberg Block said EarthKind now employs around 100 people. She said growing a company like hers takes patience, determination – and grit.

"As an entrepreneur, you just keep going," Warberg Block said. "You get kicked down, you learn something new,. the regulations change -- you have to just keep getting up and believing in yourself."

Warberg Block said it kep her going through some hard time. She also said a network of women business owners also helped.

"It's good to admit what you don't know, and ask for help," Wardberg Block said.

Representatives of the National Women's Business Council were also on hand.

"We're interested in hearing from these women entrepreneurs about the types of support they are looking for, as they open new business and as they scale their existing businesses," said the Council's Annie Rorem. "80 percent of women business owners bring in $50,000 a year or less."

Rorem said there has been great growth in women owned businesses in North Dakota and in the US.

Since 2007, the number of women-owned businesses in North Dakota has grown by 33 percent – and is now more than 20,000 businesses.