Utah ranks first in rate of self-employed women

McKenna Sonntag and her husband opened their store Bonsai Bai Me in April. Sontag is one of many women in Utah who have found success in self-employment. (Sydney and Shelby Bishop, Pic Bishes)

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SALT LAKE CITY – Women across Utah are realizing their entrepreneurial dreams by starting their own businesses and becoming self-employed.

According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Utah has the highest percentage of women in the self-employed workforce. Women make up approximately 52.7% of the self-employed workforce in Utah, which is about 39,000 women.

The Utah Women’s Business Center estimates that there are approximately 89,000 women-owned businesses in Utah.

From jewelry, to clothing, to herbs, to beauty care, thousands of women across the state are successfully running their own businesses and making an impact in Utah communities.

Holly Ross Davis, owner of Mauve Jewelry, said she thinks Utah is a very entrepreneurial state in general.

Davis had previous careers in teaching and technology, and realized that multiple careers made it too difficult to be a parent at the same time. Although she hasn’t had a baby yet, Davis was worried about when she might finally have one.

Owning her own business, Davis feels at peace knowing she can pursue her dream of having a family — as well as her dream of a career. She said many other women in Utah have been able to do the same after starting their own businesses and creating a place to enjoy family and work.

“It’s one of those cases where, if you value family and career, you have to make it work for you and you can’t trust that the system is right for you,” Davis said. “I think these smart women entrepreneurs want to work but there’s no system set up for it. So they created it for themselves.”


I think these smart women entrepreneurs want to work but there is no system set up for it. So they created it for themselves.

– Holly Ross Davis, Purple Jewels


Mauve Jewelry began as a side hobby for fun—a creative outlet for Davis. As the business grew, he decided to make the leap into running the business full-time, and Davis has loved the past year and a half since.

Being responsible for everything can be difficult and stressful, but Davis said knowing the success of the business came from her own hard work.

“I have a little bit of a scarcity mentality, where you’re worried about your next paycheck or how it’s going to come and it’s scary to just rely on yourself. But I say just go for it,” he said. Anyone interested in starting a business. “The risk I took to start my own small business is ultimately how I found this rewarding career and path for myself.”

Holly Ross Davis, founder of Mauve Jewelry, helps a customer select jewelry at her booth.  Davis is one of many women in Utah who have found success running their own businesses.
Holly Ross Davis, founder of Mauve Jewelry, helps a customer select jewelry at her booth. Davis is one of many women in Utah who have found success running their own businesses. (Photo: Chloe Anderson)

Carissa Wachtor, who founded Nolia Jewelry, has lived and operated her own business in both California and Utah and believes that running a business in Utah is easier.

“Between the slightly slower pace of life here and such a family-oriented community, it prevents you from starting a business and raising a family at the same time,” he said.

Although both are still difficult to accomplish, the community and resources available in Utah make it more manageable for women and mothers to succeed in business ventures.

“I didn’t know anything when I started. I just started making things,” Wacher said.

He encourages anyone interested in starting a business to just go for it and not let fear get in the way.

Wachtor, who started as a small shop on Etsy, said it’s been amazing to see something she’s created grow into something bigger than herself. “It’s very rewarding and it’s almost like a transcendental experience … you can take that step back and see the big picture,” he said. “That’s pretty cool.”

Wachtor said the hardest part of running a business is shutting it down at the end of the day. In other jobs, it’s easier to separate work from home, but as a business owner, Wachthor is always thinking about his business.

Now that his business is more successful and established, Wacher has been able to enjoy the freedom offered by self-employment. He can have a more flexible schedule and take time off to spend time with his family.


I think the coolest part about owning your own business is the fact that it’s like your baby. It’s very, very exciting to go to work every day and shape the way I want and bring my vision to life.

– McKenna Sontag, My Bonsai Boy


Nail artist Kayla Kimball similarly said that being self-employed has allowed her to create her own hours and choose how many appointments she has each day.

Kimball runs her nail salon, Kayla Eve Nails, out of her apartment and loves being able to build relationships with her clients.

Although she currently paints nails full-time, Kimball said she wants to eventually be a stay-at-home mom. Kimball is thankful that her nail salon is something she can still do on the side when she has kids one day.

“It’s a nice reliable job that I can do whenever I want or not whenever I need to,” Kimball said.

Kimball thinks many women in the beauty industry do well in Utah because people in Utah love trends and regularly get their hair and nails done. It’s a smart way to run a business while enjoying freedom and flexibility, he said.

McKenna Sontag and her husband started their plant business, Bonsai Bai Me, in April and are busier than ever.

McKenna Sontag and her husband opened their own shop, Bonsai Bai Me, in April, where they teach classes on bonsai trees.  Sontag is one of many women in Utah who have found success in self-employment.
McKenna Sontag and her husband opened their own shop, Bonsai Bai Me, in April, where they teach classes on bonsai trees. Sontag is one of many women in Utah who have found success in self-employment. (Photo: Sydney and Shelby Bishop, Pic Bishes)

Sontag and her husband both work full-time and run their shop at night, where they teach customers how to care for and maintain bonsai trees.

Bonsai blossomed from a home hobby into a business that brings Sontag the joy of seeing customers enjoy the experience of caring for their trees. Opening a store was a big risk for Sontag because she didn’t know if people would even care or support the business.

“I think the coolest part about owning your own business is that it’s, like, your baby. It’s really exciting to go to work every day and shape and bring my vision to life the way I want to,” Sontag said.

Bonsai wasn’t the first business idea Sontag and her husband had, but they’re happy to see it continue and succeed.

“I think a lot of times, we might put things off because we think the timing isn’t right or it’s going to be too hard, and I’d say there’s never been a better time than now,” Sontag said.

He said that entrepreneurship takes a lot of courage because it involves a lot of risk and there can be a lot of failure, adding that to achieve success, you just have to go for it and start trying to find something that will last because risk It is worth it.

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Cassidy Wixom is an intern for KSL.com and likes to cover arts, entertainment, human interest, health and science fiction.

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