Las Vegas businesswomen ‘don’t slouch around,’ report finds

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Steve Marcus

Abingdon Mullin, CEO and founder of Abingdon Co., poses with a WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) watch during an interview at the Abingdon watch store Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024. WASP was a civilian women pilots organization founded during World War II.

Mon, Feb 12, 2024 (2 a.m.)

Abingdon Mullin always wanted to be a pilot. So, when she completed flight training, she wanted to buy herself something nice—a pilot’s watch. That’s when she learned what a gap in the market there was for pilot watches designed with women in mind.

She realized she wasn’t alone, Mullin said, while hanging out with a group of girlfriends who were also pilots.

“One of the women said, ‘I’ve always wanted a pilot’s watch,’” she recalled. “‘That’s always been on my wish list, (but) nobody will ever make anything.’”

As a result, Mullin made it her goal to learn how to make watches and create a pilot’s watch for women. They only represented 6% of the market, she said, so nobody believed a watch company would bother with them.

By 2007, she had created her first watch and launched her brand, Abingdon Co., which at the time went by a different name and solely offered pilot watches.

In the nearly 20 years since then, during which time she moved to Las Vegas and appeared on Shark Tank, Mullin has expanded her store to create not just pilot watches for women, but also watches for women in a variety of other spaces—from the automotive industry to diving.

Eventually, its range of watches and their uses led Abingdon Co. to coin the motto, “watches for women who do more.”

“It’s strange that the watch industry has really considered women an afterthought,” Mullin said. “They’ll make a men’s watch, and then they’ll say, ‘Oh, hey, let’s make it pink, make it small, and we’ll call it a lady’s watch.’ ”

Abingdon Co. has about a dozen employees and grew 68% from 2022 to 2023, servicing thousands of customers in about 20 countries, said Mullin, who emphasized her support for other women-owned businesses seeing similar growth.

“We’re a driving force,” Mullin said. “I mean, women in this city, they don’t slouch around.”

A new study looking at the economic impact of women-owned businesses overall seems to prove her point.

The 2024 Wells Fargo Impact of Women-Owned Business Report showed that the latter represent nearly 40%, or over 14 million, of businesses in the economy—employing more than 12 million workers and generating $2.7 trillion in revenue.

Women-owned businesses are also increasing at nearly double the rate of male-owned businesses, which was particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, when women-owned businesses added 1.4 million jobs and almost $580 billion in revenue, according to the report.

Val Jones, women’s segment lead for small business at Wells Fargo, said she wasn’t surprised by the number of women-owned businesses that were formed during the pandemic, but rather by the amount of revenue they generated and their ability to hire employees—a marked difference from what women-owned businesses went through during the Great Recession.

One of the biggest differences between the Great Recession and the pandemic, she said, was the number of government, corporate and philanthropic programs aimed at keeping small businesses afloat.

“And so we also saw special programs just for women during that time, as well,” Jones said. “Acknowledging that they had faced systemic barriers to capital and didn’t have quite the same network that we would see in our male counterparts —and those interventions also made a difference. So the takeaway is that we should not stop doing those things. We proved that they’re effective.”

The report also broke down the impact of women-owned businesses by different demographics—finding that Black women and Latina entrepreneurs emerged stronger than all women-owned employers—and by geography. The latter ranked Las Vegas 28th for “economic clout,” when it comes to supportive environments for women-owned businesses.

Women influence 80 cents of every dollar spent in the U.S., not to mention other factors that may affect spending like their health, age, active lifestyles and more, Mullin said from her new storefront in Downtown Las Vegas.

“If we are living longer, and we’re inheriting more and we’re spending more money, and we’re starting more businesses, and we’re influencing the men around us to go spend money,” Mullin said, “well, you add all of those things together, and it would be silly for companies to ignore the female market.”

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This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.

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