Entrepreneurship was once considered a man's domain, but women are changing that. More firms in the United States are owned by women than ever before in history, but the gender gap is still largely apparent. With only 6.4% of the United States biggest companies (by revenue) run by women, there is a clear uphill nattle for females targeting entrepreneurship.

What are some of the challenges?

Gender discrimination and stereotyping, dual career-family pressures, lack of equal opportunities in certain industries, missing support network/mentorship and defying social expectations.


San Luis Obispo is home to some truly inspirational women who are overcoming these challenges. Lisa Hess is one of these women.

Lisa Hess, entrepreneur and business owner of Lucy's Coffee Co. in San Luis Obispo, shares her story of success in opening up her own business. She discusses the satisfaction of finally being able to open her dream shop, but also some of the challenges she faces both as a strong business leader and mother.

Lisa Hess, owner of Lucy’s Coffee Co., worked alongside her employees on Friday, October 6 at her newly opened coffee shop in the Laurel Lane shopping plaza in San Luis Obispo.“It was never my intention to open up a coffee shop. It started out with baked goods, then it turned into catering, and then it was just honestly the location,” said Hess. Hess previously was the owner of SLO Coast Coffee, a mobile coffee truck, before beginning renovations on this 1,500 square-foot building in the Laurel Lane plaza in San Luis Obispo. After dropping her daughter off at school nearby she “would always drive by and wish there was something in here, like a coffee shop to come hang out,” said Hess. Lucy’s Coffee Co., San Luis Obispo, is modeled after a vintage industrial diner. “I just wanted to do something different,” said Hess. She did not want to do something that would go out of style soon, she wanted a timeless design. “I don’t know the diner vibe, I just love it,” said Hess. Hess wanted to create a mix between a coffee shop and cafe, “we have the baked goods and the coffee, but then we have the toasts which are huge,” said Hess. Hess enjoys a cup of coffee with her 11-year-old daughter, Lucy, who Lucy’s Coffee Co. is named in honor of. Lucy Hess sips on an “iced chai tea latte, her favorite drink besides the seasonal pumpkin steamer,” said Hess. Photo Courtsey: Lisa Hess Two San Luis Obispo locals Barry Floyd, a Information Systems & Management Professor at Cal Poly, and Solina Lindahl, a Economics Professor at Cal Poly, enjoyed a cup of coffee together at Lucy’s on October 6, 2017. “I like it in here, it has a great environment,” said Floyd.
Owner Lisa Hess comments “it’s seriously just neighborhood people, it’s not just all college kids or all older people, we are just a neighborhood coffee shop and I love it.” Lucy’s Coffee Co. employs 5 part-time employees currently including Alex Manzanares, a psychology student at Cal Poly. “I wanted to work here because I loved the people, and I loved the environment. I had four espresso shots alone this morning, I guess you can say I love coffee,” said Manzanares. Lisa Hess, owner, is brewing a fresh cafe latte for a local customer on October 6, 2017. “The best part of opening a coffee shop was meeting all the local people and hearing their stories because everything we use it local and we try to use everything organic,” said Hess. Lisa Hess, owner, purchases all of Lucy’s Coffee Co. beans from local businesses across the Central Coast. “I want to do a wall of vendors so customers can hear their stories because it is actually really cool to hear where it all comes from,” said Hess. Coffee did not become a major part of everyday life for Lisa Hess until later in life. “I didn’t start drinking coffee until I was in my 30’s. I drink it because I enjoy it, not because I need it to wake
me up. It really has changed my life,” said Hess. Lisa Hess has struggled at times building Lucy’s Coffee Co. from the ground up. “You know there are moments however when it is really hard, after 2 months of being open I was driving home crying like what was I thinking. It is hard having kids, a husband, and trying to have a life,” said Hess. Lisa Hess, owner of Lucy’s Coffee Co., proudly holds up a open sign in front of her new business on October 6, 2017. Even despite some bumps in the road, Lisa says “I truly love it, like I come in and I just feel really happy and proud.”

What is the hardest part of being a female in business?

Denise Hensley, Stefanie Lee and Anagha Vinayak are all female business majors at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. They provide insight on some of the biggest challenges they face as women entering the business world. They shared how their personal experiences in college, internships and work have affected their view on what makes becoming a succesful female in business so difficult.

Spotlight: One Woman's Journey

Sharon Dobson, Executive Director of OperaSLO, shares her story of what it is like being a female executive. She is responsible for the planning, managing and oversight of a nationall recognized regional opera company. Dobson balances this role along with being a finance and marketing professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Dobson decided to take on teaching more finance classes at Cal Poly this year because she could see the "lack of female mentorship" avaliable to women finance students in a predominantly male major.


This is a visual representation of some key statistics to keep in mind when trying to understand how far women have come in the business world, but also the steep obstacles they face in a largely male dominated industry. It provides infomation on how much of the workforce are women, and how many of those women go on to own some of the best performing companies in the nation.

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