Dr. Susan Henson owns her own dental practice at 811 N. Water St. in Burnet. She practices in both Burnet and San Saba. She and her husband, a lawyer, have an 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old twin boys. Courtesy photo
The owner of J&J’s on Main in Marble Falls juggles running her downtown shop with raising two young kids as a single parent. In Burnet, a young dental student moved her family from Georgetown and established a practice while also planning and raising a family of three children, including now-5-year-old twin boys.
They are both part of a growing number of women in the Highland Lakes successfully operating their own businesses and helping make Texas the number one state for female entrepreneurs. In Burnet County, women own 1 in 3 businesses, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent numbers, which are from 2012. The accomplishment does not come without struggles.
“One big challenge to owning your own business is having a young family, too,” said Dr. Susan Henson. “With a nine-to-five job, you typically leave work and go home. When you own the business, that’s not the case. You’ve got a lot more invested, especially time-wise. You have to learn to balance that with family.”
Lindsay Burrow’s business is all about her family. The Js in J&J’s on Main represent her two kids: Jake and Jayden. Until recently, the family of three lived above the Main Street store.
“Moving from a steady job to owning my own business changed how we lived,” Burrow said. “I exchanged benefits and a steady income for an increase in hours and a decrease in pay.”
Both women express no regrets, however, and plan to continue working hard to grow their businesses along with their families.
The number of female entrepreneurs in America is growing with them. In 1972, only 4.6 percent of all businesses in the United States were owned by women. That has increased to 42 percent as of this year. A growth spurt of 21 percent occurred between 2014 and 2019.
“Women face all the obstacles men face in opening a business, plus a few more,” said Robin Conner, vice president of marketing for DemandStar, a national company that connects businesses with government contracts. Conner is an advocate of female business owners.
“Historically, women have been underrepresented in small business,” she continued. “Every business owner worries about cash flow and getting started. With women, the biggest problem is often time. Women still face household chores and juggling children more so than men. That’s certainly true for single mothers.”
Both Highland Lakes businesswomen said they have learned a lot from their experiences.
“For both men and women, it’s hard to stick with it,” Henson said. “It may not always seem like you’re following the right path or the successful path, but you’ll find hard work and perseverance pay off.”
Henson serves patients in Burnet and San Saba. She bought a well-established practice in Burnet nine years ago from Dr. Michael Matthews, who helped her get up and running. Henson and her family chose the Highland Lakes because they knew and loved the area after years spent visiting a parent’s lake house.
“The dentistry is easy a lot of time compared to the actual challenges of running a business daily,” Henson said. “I had no idea what I was getting into as far as the business part of it.”
She drew on experience gained at her first job as an associate at a Houston practice to set up her own office, which is located at 811 N. Water St. in Burnet.
“The key is to stay humble and to learn from the good you’ve done and the mistakes you’ve made,” she said. “Growth and change are the keys, not necessarily monetary or numbers-wise, but more in just continued betterment, more in terms of evolving as a company and improving on what we provide our patients.”
At J&Js on Main, success comes with the ability to be flexible to meet changing customer needs. When Burrow first opened her store at 300 Main St. in Marble Falls, she focused on home decor, especially large pieces of furniture.
She added The Painted Pallet, a do-it-yourself art project, in a back room. This year, when Burrow discovered the owners of It’s All Goode, another Main Street store, were retiring, she bought the fudge and ice cream part of their business. She then sold The Painted Pallet and converted the space behind her storefront into a sweets shop.
“We are like a river, and we flow with what the needs are,” Burrow said. “We’ve transitioned from the bigger pieces to smaller gift items and souvenirs. People come in from other states, and they want something from Texas.”
Her biggest challenge is one that every business owner on Main Street faces: attracting more local shoppers. As far as the struggles of being a woman in business, she hasn’t noticed.
“I’ve never seen being a woman business owner as being a deficit,” she said. “I’ve never thought about it like that. Whether a man or a woman, opening a business is a struggle.”
The hard work and long hours are all worth it, they said. Despite spending more hours and having a less stable income, you also have more flexibility and control and a great deal of pride.
“My thing is that we have one chance on this earth,” Burrow said. “This is me doing what I do. If I’m going to put my whole self into something and give it my all, I want it to be mine. I want it to reflect who I am.”
“If you are constantly stretching your boundaries and changing with your clientele, the growth will come,” she said. “Success will follow.”