It’s a sobering statistic: Men start their businesses with nearly twice as much capital as women, and lack of access to capital is blamed for preventing the growth of women-owned small businesses, according to a study by the National Women’s Business Council.
In addition, the report found that too many women underestimate themselves and their business’ growth potential even though the data confirms that they are more likely than their male counterparts to see growth.
So how can we educate women to give them both the confidence and the financial backing they need to grow their business and keep our economy moving forward? Fortunately, there are myriad resources in our community dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs.
Preparation is Key
The first step in gaining access to capital is preparation. Women need to approach lenders fully prepared and educated on their goals, with a genuine business plan that is well-researched and thoroughly written. For new entrepreneurs in need of assistance with this step, a wealth of resources are available:
- Your local U.S. Small Business Administration office may offer business counseling services and related programs. Visit www.sba.gov to learn more.
- The Salt Lake Chamber’s Women’s Business Center offers online tools, networking events and other resources at WBCUtah.com’s Training Portal.
- You can also find out how to tap into the expertise from SCORE – Service Corps of Retired Executives by visiting SCORE.org.
- Zions Bank’s online Business Resource Center has a wealth of information available for free at utahsmallbusiness.com.
SBA Programs Available
A development that has improved access to capital for women entrepreneurs is the U.S. Small Business Administration’s elimination of the personal resource test for 7(a) loans. Previously, the personal resource test adversely affected legitimate small businesses who had received outside support from venture capital, an angel investor or a family member.
Many times, the personal resource test stood in the way of a local business getting access to capital to start to expand their business. Take the woman entrepreneur who owns a large drilling and excavation company but was declined for an SBA loan because her investor’s personal net worth was too high. With the rule change, the investor’s personal resources no longer play into the SBA’s criteria, and she has obtained an SBA loan with her investor as a guarantor.
These improvements apply to SBA Export loans as well as Patriot loans for veterans and military families. The change also eliminates a time-consuming step in the application process, enabling lenders of all sizes to improve the efficiency of their SBA loan product delivery.
Women entrepreneurs should also consider the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program, which helps small, disadvantaged businesses compete in the marketplace. One woman-owned specialized construction company in the Intermountain West has benefited from the program, which allows participants to receive sole-source federal government contracts, up to $4 million for goods and services and $6.5 million for manufacturing.
Let’s close with a more encouraging statistic: Women-owned firms in Utah have grown 36 percent since 2007 and sales have increased almost 39 percent during the same period, according to the American Express OPEN 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. The same study ranks Utah as No. 9 for economic clout, which averages together the rankings of growth in the number, revenues and employment of women-owned firms.
But our work isn’t done. With support of community business partners, government programs and lenders, women can continue to grow their businesses and create jobs and economic prosperity in the Beehive State.
Vice President | Division Operations Manager
Business Banking Loan Center
Chantel Chase is Vice President and Operations Division Manager for Zions Bank’s Business Banking Lending Center.