By Kevin Smith, Southern California News Group,

The #MeToo movement has thrown a spotlight on the sexual harassment women often endure in the workplace

But despite that challenge, women entrepreneurs are gaining serious traction in the world of business, according to a new report from In fact, female-owned businesses grew five times faster than the national average over the past nine years, and California is ranked as the fourth best state for women-owned enterprises.

The list was topped by Georgia, which leads all states in the percentage of women-owned businesses. They account for more than 40 percent of Georgia’s overall mix of businesses. That was followed by Florida, Maryland, California, Colorado, Virginia, New York, Texas, Hawaii and New Mexico.

FitSmallBusiness, an online industry publication serving small business owners, based its results on a variety of criteria, including the percentage of women-owned firms, the economic clout of women in each state, the net number of women-owned firms that are established each day, the percentage of women-owned businesses with paid employees and the percentage of employees in each state who are working in women-owned firms.

In California, 129 new women-owned businesses are established each day, leading all 50 states. Women-owned firms represent 37.2 percent of all businesses in the state, according to the report, and they generate 5.15 percent of the Golden State’s total business revenue.

California’s high ranking comes as no surprise to Bianca Vobecky, founder, president and CEO of Vobecky Enterprises, a Glendora-based construction and logistics company.

“It would be nice if California was No. 1 or No. 2, but being fourth among all 50 states is still really good,” she said. “I belong to a couple women business groups as well as the National Association of Women Business Owners, so I see it.”

Vobecky founded her business in 2006 and it was named “Minority Small Business Champion of the Year” in 2016 by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The company has 10 employees with offices in Glendora, Oakland and Oahu, Hawaii.

The company specializes in everything from design/build projects, lighting and green energy, to logistics services for such companies as Southern California Edison and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Vobecky said women-owned companies face inherent challenges. But she offered some advice:

“It’s just breaking that barrier — you have to make sure you know what you’re talking about so you’ll be taken seriously,” she said. “You also need to do your research before you start getting organized. And when you get your first opportunity, you have to do a good job. That way you’ll get recommendations that will take you to the next job.”

Vobecky is dedicated to giving back to her local small business community. She mentors aspiring and new small business owners on a variety of topics, including how to leverage resources to build their businesses and how to network with potential customers.

Michelle Minch, who owns a home-staging business in Pasadena called Moving Mountains Design, said she took precautions to ensure that her business would remain afloat.

“I started staging homes in 2006,” she said. “The challenge was monetizing my business and making sure I had enough money to get me through the lean times. In 2015 I decided to take out a business line of credit, so I asked my CPA how I could do that and she hooked me up with someone from Union Bank. The bank was aggressively trying to loan money to women with small businesses at the time.”

The “lean times” exploded with full force when the Great Recession kicked in during late 2007, but Minch said she was able to tweak her business model to her advantage.

“We always say in staging work that we can help people sell their homes for more money and also help sell them faster,” she said. “I just modified my message to say that Moving Mountain will help sell your home faster during the recession. A lot of people were happy to get out with the shirts on their backs.”

Womenable, a for-profit social enterprise that works to improve laws, policies, programs and research-based knowledge that support women’s enterprise and growth, reported that the U.S. is home to more than 11.3 million female-owned businesses that employed around 9 million people and generated over $1.9 trillion in 2016.