I spent the final few days of Women’s Small Business Month out in sunny California. After hosting a panel discussion on hiring and business growth, in partnership with Thumbtack, in San Francisco; I jetted down to Long Beach for the first-ever annual conference of the National Association of Women in Real Estate Businesses.

The National Association of Women in Real Estate Businesses (NAWRB) “is dedicated to providing women the tools and opportunities for economic growth and expansion, while advocating and promoting women-owned businesses specializing in the housing economy. NAWRB is the only third-party industry-specific certifier of Women-Owned Business (WOB) and Minority Women-Owned Business (MWOB) certifications specializing in the housing economy.”
I spoke on the afternoon of day one – following a luncheon keynote by Erin Andrew, the Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, about the programs and services of the Office of Women’s Business Ownership, and a morning keynote by Congresswoman Maxine Waters regarding Dodd-Frank Section 342 and the role of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion – on a panel called “Untapped Opportunities for Capital and Support.” Moderated by Ingrid Beckles, the panel featured: Erin Andrew – to speak about the SBA and its capital access initiatives for women-owned businesses; and Deidra Porche, Senior Vice President & Market Manager, LA Central, JP Morgan Chase, and Irene Escardo, Vice President and Business Banking Manager, Wells Fargo – to share how their banks’ approach to supporting women as they pursue capital to start and grow their businesses. It was my job to present the latest research findings on women’s access to capital and preview the recommendations to increase access and opportunity.
Though some of this is hard to hear or even surprising, it’s important to share the numbers. The reality is that men are starting businesses with nearly twice as much capital as women: $135,000 vs. $75,000.  This disparity is larger among firms with high-growth potential: $320,000 vs. $150,000, and much larger in the top 25 firms largest firms for each gender: $1.3 million vs. $210,000. That’s 6x as much! Further, women received only 2% of total funding from outside equity, compared to 18% for men. But – the good news is that 42% of women-owned firms exceeded their growth expectations from 2008 to 2011, compared to 29% of men-owned firms. This final point received some audience cheer, as it should.
At the end of the panel, we were each asked to answer this question: What are the three things you want to share with the women in the audience? The top recommendations were obvious, but necessary to reiterate – focus on determination, never give up and how to get to a yes in the pursuit of capital. There were other important gems like “take advantage of the many resources available “right under your nose” and “be smart, flexible, and confident in yourself and your business” and “the no is really just a ‘not yet.’” All things that are doable and promising!
I must say that my personal highlight was hearing both of the bank representatives say that the banks DO want to give women loans, confirming that it’s their job to do that.  If I were a woman in that room and looking for $$, I’d definitely be following up with Irene and Deidre – and the folks from the local SBA District Office that were in the room too. And if I was just a woman reading this blog, I’d still reach out.
A special shout out to Laura Yamanaka, LA-local Council Member extraordinaire, who participated in a fireside chat, joining Barbara Kasoff, the President of Women Impacting Public Policy, on day two of the conference. This session was called “Learn and Leverage” – and discussed the tireless efforts of WIPP and the NWBC to impact legislation, educate and advocate on behalf of the women-owned businesses. While Barbara set the stage for the policy landscape – Laura shared “best practices” of business ownership and growth.
Kudos to Desiree Patno for putting together such a star-studded line-up for the conference! We’re honored to have been a part of this inaugural event.
P.S. For a comprehensive recap of the two panels noted, follow Samhita’s coverage on the @NWBC twitter account.