By: Amanda Brown, NWBC Executive Director
While scrolling through my Instagram feed one night last week, I stumbled across this gem:
Kourtney Kardashian sharing the timeless wisdom of Socrates.
(Yes – I absolutely follow @KourtneyKardash.)
I immediately stopped scrolling. I even pulled a Power + Circle button move to save the image to my camera roll. And I’m writing about this instagram post now – because we need to build the new! It is time to change the reality that is too many women entrepreneurs trying to access the capital and rarely getting to the “yes.” We’ve been on this path for the last two decades, but the window for change is more open now than it’s ever been. It is time.
Traditional paths like pitching for venture capital funding or even asking your bank for a loan prove to be more often negative experiences for women, than for men. And using credit cards, dipping into your own personal savings are not always, or simply are less likely to be, options for women entrepreneurs – especially in the case of new, first-time and young women entrepreneurs with little to no credit history and (allegedly) little business acumen. The data proves that the struggle is real and uniquely challenging for women entrepreneurs, but it also highlights the positive that women overcome and that we succeed, even when the odds are not in our favor: Female entrepreneurs start their ventures with about 1/8th of the funding of their male counterparts. BUT women-owned businesses are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. small business economy?! Note: you can find this data and more online at http://www.nwbc.gov/issues-and-research.
I’ve been talking to women across the country and the #1 gripe or question is about access to capital. Let me first acknowledge that I know there’s a lot that needs to be done to really move the needle on women entrepreneurship, a lot that is outside of our control. But there is something that we – meaning women – can do. And that we can even do for each other, and do now … to make accessing capital a little less of a challenge for us.
This is, not surprisingly, the very conversation we had during the NWBC’s Public Meeting last month. We made it a point to present three other, outside-of-the-box, some might say untraditional, we say innovative, opportunities for women entrepreneurs. (FYI, we only covered three because we only had 90 minutes. What did we miss? If you know of another great funding opportunity, share with us!) We invited guest speakers from Kabbage, an online alternative credit scorer providing small businesses with ready cash for working capital, and particularly helpful for women with the credit history dilemma; Golden Seeds, an angel investing network with the specific mission of helping and funding companies that have women in management roles; and Plum Alley, a crowdfunding platform “where women can raise capital” and that focuses on the sectors that matter to women.
Perhaps channeling Socrates, one of our own Magdalah Racine-Silva prefaced the conversation with this line: “If current financing models are not working for us, we will create and support those institutions that innovate.” In this spirit, the Council has specifically identified the need to 1) encourage and support increased lending by credit unions and smaller community banks; 2) educate and develop programs on alternative ﬁnancing strategies, such as crowdfunding and private equity, and 3) explore and recommend new ways to assess creditworthiness and credit scoring. This is what “building the new” looks like to us. Look out for our Council Members taking action to support these initiatives this year.
I must also say that what made that strategy conversation extra special for me was hearing from the women behind these opportunities. Each speaker – Kathryn Petralia, Loretta McCarthy, and Jane Applegate – shared a clear and passionate personal commitment to supporting more women. Let me reiterate: We can help open doors for one another. We can help create opportunities for our fellow women. We can support, we can mentor, we can write and find checks for one another.
Take Plum Alley for example, and bear with me on this aside. Plum Alley was founded in 2012 by Deborah Jackson. Deborah Jackson is a former finance executive who spent over 20 years raising money for companies and non-profits, including Golden Seeds, and she left and invested her own money to build and create Plum Alley. She did this because she is committed to the advancement of women entrepreneurs. Deborah is walking the walk; she is “building the new.” Lucky for us all, she is one of many paving the way and reinvesting in women.
The secret to change is to focus all of [our] energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new. It is creating our own paths to “yes,” opening new doors, taking alternative routes, and leveraging the many new and innovative funding opportunities that do exist. It is letting go of the no’s that we have gotten, moving on from the bank loan that was rejected, and not letting any of the bad weigh on us. This is the challenge for all of us.
Let me close with an introduction, since this is also my inaugural post – I’m the Executive Director of the NWBC, and I am in this role because I want to do my part to make sure that women are getting the $$$ and support they need to pursue their business dreams, and then nurture and grow them into sustainable and successful enterprises too. My mother is an entrepreneur. My friends are entrepreneurs. I have witnessed the highs and the lows with them, trying to get that scathingly brilliant idea for a business off the ground. I have seen so many try and fail; a handful try and get lucky – until they run out of money a few months in; and only a few make it to the point of seeing success over time. This is real for me. This is personal to me. And I deeply committed to the cause. I’m ready to build the new, and look forward to working with all of you to build the new together.
P.S. I never thought this day would come – referring to a Kourtney Kardashian Instagram post in my professional capacity; Alas!