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Trailblazing Women Business Owners Achieve Rapid Growth Despite Challenging EconomyAmerican Express OPEN and the Women Presidents' Organization Name Top 50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies
FT. LAUDERDALE FL,  April 23, 2010 -- 

American Express OPEN, the small business division of American Express, in partnership with Women Presidents' Organization (WPO), today released the third ranking of the 50 fastest growing women-led companies in North America. The Top 50 generated a combined $2.3 billion in gross revenues (2009) and averaged 128 employees (2009).  

Argent Associates, Inc., a New Jersey-based Supply Chain company providing managed services in warehousing, logistics and product life cycle management, topped the list and illustrates the vigor of women-led businesses across the continent. Beatriz Manetta, President and CEO, saw her 12-year old company gross revenue grow more than 12 times in two years from $9,238,850 in 2007 to $115,000,000 in 2009.

BrightStar, a home healthcare and medical staffing company based in Illinois, came in second on the list. Shelly Sun, the company's CEO plans to take her business public. Artech Information Systems LLC is the third fastest growing company reported. The New Jersey-based business more than doubled its number of jobs from 1,560 in 2007 to 3,500 in 2009.

"The Top 50 list exemplifies the vital role women business owners have on boosting the economy and enhancing job growth overall," says Marsha Firestone, Ph. D., president and founder of the WPO. "We are pleased to partner with American Express OPEN to honor these powerful women and recognize their triumphs."

"There are 10 million women-owned businesses in the US that employee over 13 million people and generate nearly $2 trillion in annual sales," says Nancy Hood, Vice President at American Express OPEN. "We at OPEN are honored to support this group of women business leaders that thrived in a challenging economic climate."

All eligible companies were ranked according to a sales growth formula that combines percentage and absolute growth. From this list, the 50 Fastest are selected. To be qualified for the ranking, businesses are required to be privately held, woman-owned/led companies in the U.S. or Canada and have reached revenue of at least $500,000 by the first week of 2005 and $2 million in 2009.

In order to help the Top 50 continue to seize even more business opportunities, each of the honored business owners will be offered a Business Platinum Card(1) from American Express OPEN. The card will include 100,000 Membership Rewards® points, which may be used on capital investments including: the funding of employee recognition programs, business travel or the purchase of office equipment and supplies.

Forty-six of the Top 50 women were polled to examine what makes them tick and uncover how they were able to grow their businesses at breakneck speed and in such a difficult economic environment. The survey touched on key themes including: overcoming business growth challenges, reexamining business strategies despite the current economic condition and prioritizing the important characteristics for being a successful woman leader.

The key findings include:

Reasons for success

  • A commitment to high growth -- 71% agreed or strongly agreed that their goal from the very beginning of their leadership of the company was to build a large company
  • Inspiring leaders -- 64% believe their "ability to motivate employees" is the most important characteristic for being a successful woman entrepreneur
  • Surrounding yourself with a skilled team - 78% say "Hiring the right people" was the most important action that contributed to their company's growth
  • Adapting to a changing environment - The strategy most frequently chosen (64%) to meet the challenge of the current economy is to "enter new markets". Sixty-one percent admitted current economic conditions caused them to change their business strategies

Toughest challenges

  • Lower sales -- 56% say their biggest challenge in our current economy is "existing customers reducing purchases."

Positive Outlook

  • Doubling their workforce -- Nearly all (96%) plan on adding employees this year.
  • Boosting the economy and their communities -- Their ability to create much needed jobs is the greatest benefit of being a successful woman entrepreneur

All 50 companies will be honored at a special event hosted by American Express OPEN at the WPO annual conference in Ft. Lauderdale on April 23, 2010. The awards reception will take place from 6:30PM to 8:30PM at the Ritz-Carlton Ft. Lauderdale.

About the Women Presidents' Organization
The Women Presidents' Organization (WPO) is the premier peer advisory organization which internationally connects top women entrepreneurs at the multimillion-dollar level ($2 million in gross annual sales or $1 million for service-based business) for greater professional success. In monthly meetings across four continents, chapters composed of 20 accomplished women presidents from diverse industries and backgrounds invest time and energy in themselves and their businesses to drive their corporations to the next level. For more information, call 212-688-4114 or visit http://www.womenpresidentsorg.com.

About American Express OPEN
American Express OPEN is the leading payment card issuer for small businesses in the United States and supports business owners with products and services to help them run and grow their businesses. This includes business charge and credit cards that deliver purchasing power, flexibility, rewards, savings on business services from an expanded lineup of partners and online tools and services designed to help improve profitability. Learn more at OPEN.com and connect with us at openforum.com and twitter.com/openforum.

American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at americanexpress.com and connect with us on facebook.com/americanexpress, twitter.com/americanexpress and youtube.com/americanexpress.


1) Based on approvals


Contacts

Rosa Alfonso212.640.1712rosa.m.alfonso@aexp.com

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