Orange County’s largest women-owned businesses are proving their resilience, with growth this year after managing to stave off major losses during the pandemic.
While meaningful sales growth last year remained elusive for the broader group, the 42 companies comprising the largest businesses owned by women locally generated a collective $3.8 billion in 2020 revenue, remaining about flat from the prior year, according to this week’s Business Journal list.
Employment among this same group of companies is growing this year, with headcounts locally totaling 5,011 for the 12 months through June, up 1.5% from the year-ago period, suggesting business is coming back for the companies on the list.
Elmore Toyota in Westminster, which ranked No. 5, is a good example.
The auto dealership owned by President Judy Elmore reported an 18.2% decline in revenue to $94.1 million last year as a result of COVID-19. Local employment, however, for Elmore totaled 103 as of June, up 39.2% from the prior year as business bounced back and operating restrictions lifted.
“Like most businesses, we saw a decline due to COVID and the mandatory government shutdowns,” said Controller Shannon Curran. “Our showrooms were closed at one point and we were only able to service vehicles and provide parts for customers. We are expecting to see an increase in business this year. However, our current challenge is a low supply of new vehicles.”
Foothill Ranch-based SeneGence International, ranked No. 2 on this year’s list, saw its workforce jump over 21% for the 12 months through June to 170 in OC. Founder and CEO Joni Rogers-Kante said she expects more of that hiring trend this year.
“The company continues to work on innovative initiatives and are in search of the individuals who can fulfill those roles,” she told the Business Journal.
The direct-selling cosmetics and skincare company declined to provide revenue, but is estimated to have sales of $1 billion.
Orange County’s landscape of female-owned businesses is diverse. This year’s ranking encompasses companies operating in industries such as restaurants, automotive, beauty, information technology, legal and design.
Eleven companies reported revenue gains for last year. Fourteen saw declines, with many citing COVID as the reason for the drop. The remaining 17 on the list declined to provide sales results and are Business Journal estimates.
It’s difficult to get a read on how OC’s group of women-owned businesses did in comparison to their peers nationally.
American Express typically releases an annual report on the state of women-owned businesses, but chose not to for 2020 due to COVID. The National Women’s Business Council said the number of female-owned U.S. businesses fell 25% between February and April of last year, which is slightly higher than the overall 22% decline in overall U.S. business owners during that same period.
The Business Journal’s ranking of female-owned companies saw few drop off the list, with the exception of those making less than $10 million in revenue—the designated floor to make the ranking this year.
Newcomers to the list totaled two: Costa Mesa advertising agency Casanova//McCann, ranked No. 21, and Newport Beach wealth manager Pence Wealth Management, ranked No. 38.
Food for Thought
Some movement among the five largest companies on the list occurred, most notably the unseating of SeneGence from No. 1 by Irvine-based In-N-Out Burger Inc. in a nod to the strength of the restaurant and food services industry last year as many consumers relied on delivery and takeout in lieu of going into a grocery store or preparing their own meals.
In-N-Out surpassed the $1 billion revenue marker with a 9.5% gain in 2020 revenue to $1.1 billion as the company entered Colorado and announced plans to expand into Idaho last year.
“We really just kind of banded together,” owner and President Lynsi Snyder told the Business Journal in a late December interview in reflecting on the year. “We’ve had a great team from the get-go, but I believe that this year  pulled us together to really take care of our associates and make sure we could serve our customers.”
There’s also Irvine-based Galardi Group Inc. of Irvine, which moved up two spots to No. 15, with an estimated $41 million in 2020 revenue. The owner of Wienerschnitzel said same-store sales last year increased 16.8% and the trajectory has continued this year. The chain also announced new franchising deals struck this year in places such as Louisiana and Houston as it eyes expansion internationally.
Los Alamitos specialty produce supplier Frieda’s Inc. jumped up three spots on the list to fill out the top 10 with a 19.2% jump in revenue to $62 million, making good on a target CEO Karen Caplan told the Business Journal last July when she said the company refined its offering to customers—such as Whole Foods, Costco and Sprouts—to top-selling items, going from 500 to 130 products.
“The pandemic has forced me and others to be more focused and disciplined,” she said at the time.