Women-owned businesses in the U.S. are currently experiencing unprecedented growth. In fact, the recent State of Women-Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express OPEN estimated that more than 8.3 million women-owned businesses exist in the country, generating nearly $1.3 trillion in revenues and employing 7.7 million people. Over the past five years, businesses owned by women have increased at a rate well over the national average and show no signs of slowing down.

Sounds promising, right?

Only problem is, Iowa came in last on this list. According to the report, Iowa ranked 51 out of 51 (Washington, D.C., is included) when it comes to growth and economic impact of women-owned businesses.

As a woman business owner, this finding both surprised and troubled me. I was initially surprised, because many of the women business owners with whom I’m connected are celebrating stellar success: record revenue growth, expansion of teams and increased influence.

But it appears this is the exception, not the rule. And of course we all know someone who, despite incredible expertise and savvy, had to close her doors and explore new options.

Though ranking last in the nation stings, we have a wonderful opportunity here. We – as a state, as a business community and as consumers – can shift our practices to provide greater support to our locally owned organizations. Because small businesses are creating more jobs than ever, supporting them means we increase Iowa’s economic clout, attract talent and encourage a stronger entrepreneurial spirit in our great state.

One of my company’s guiding principles comes from Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see.” I’m committed to the following actions and invite you to join me:

1. Buy Local: Although big-box stores and events provide certain advantages, we also need to tap into the abundant talent right here in our own back yard. I’ve sought out local providers since starting my business 10 years ago and am challenging myself to do this even more in 2013.

2. Learn: Entrepreneurs must take advantage of the many learning opportunities available and explore innovative ways to strengthen and grow our businesses. For example, the local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners frequently hosts events to impact public policy as well as educate and grow local businesses.

3. Connect: As members of the business community, we have a beautiful opportunity to support, encourage and simply enjoy one another. Not only do these connections reduce isolation and build a cooperative spirit; they boost our economy and make Iowa even more attractive as a place to live, work and start a business.

While other initiatives, such as legislative changes, also need addressing, we can each take action right now, today. My hope is that when the next State of Women-Owned Businesses report is released, Iowa has not only moved up the ranks but has won the “Biggest Leap Up The Ladder” award. I invite you to join me in doing what it takes to get us there, and I welcome your ideas as well.

Christi Hegstad is a certified business and executive coach and is the owner of MAP Professional Development Inc. She can be reached at christi@meaning-and-purpose.com or on her website, www.meaning-and-purpose.com.