NEW YORK (CNNfn) - When Diahann Lassus started her financial planning practice 15 years ago, her first client was a friend, recently widowed, who needed help managing her money. Today, the more typical client is a young entrepreneur who wants help managing her company's growth.|
"For many of the young women (in business), that's where they start -- 'I want to build a $20 million company, and this is how I want to do it,' " said Lassus (pronounced la-SEUSS), president of New Jersey-based planning firm Lassus Wherley & Associates. "It's tremendously exciting."
More women are launching businesses with goals of fast growth, says a researcher who suggests an upcoming study could open up venture financing to a broader spectrum of entrepreneurs.
"There's been this evolution in entrepreneurism among women," said Julie Weeks, director of research at the National Foundation for Women Business Owners in Washington, D.C. Today's startups "have much higher aspirations that women business owners a generation ago."
'More to high growth than high tech'
The foundation is launching a survey to look especially at the issue of high-growth companies headed by women. And although final results probably won't be available until next year, Weeks said, "I think this study is going to show there's a lot more to high growth than high tech."
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To be sure, the dot.com boom has spawned an explosion of venture capital financing for startups, but to date, the vast majority of that money has gone into Internet companies, usually in Silicon Valley or the Northeast.
Weeks thinks the study will show that a wider group of industries can participate in the kind of fast growth that venture capitalists look for. "It may help these equity investors broaden their horizons a little bit."
The report also will look at what motivates women to become fast track entrepreneurs, and whether those factors are different from what motivates men. "There's a lot that we don't know here, and I think this is going to help enlighten a lot of folks," she said.
Stepping up her plans
For Lassus, the changing economic environment has inspired her to step up her own growth plans.
"We started out growing one client at a time," she recalled, noting that the concept of fee-only financial planning was something of a novelty when she and partner Clare Wherley, started the company in 1985. Today, the firm has some $150 million under management for about 200 clients -- "so we're still pretty small," she said.
But she wants to double the amount of assets under management in the next 12 months and to double the staff from the current 25 employees in the next two to three years.
And as past president of the National Association of Women Business Owners, Lassus finds it stimulating that more female entrepreneurs are raising their sights.
"Many women who hadn't really thought about it are realizing that they can," she said. "The opportunities are growing and women are identifying those opportunities."