enterprising Women 33 ACCESS TO CREDIT FOR WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESSES BY JULIE CRIPE S mall businesses account for most of the new job growth in this country. The number of small businesses owned by women has been growing even more rapidly. At year end 2008, there were 10.1 million firms owned by women, employing 13 million peo- ple. As incredible as the numbers seem, the fact is that women-owned businesses have an extremely high success rate as well. No matter what shape the economy is in, opportunities to start new businesses or to grow existing ones abound. This often requires capital. So how do you find it? BUILDING A BUSINESS PLAN In order to access capital or to obtain a loan, every smart business owner must have a clear and well thought-out business plan. If you have never owned a business, many free resources exist to help you with this impor- tant first phase. Check out your local com- munity for a Small Business Development Center, or SBDC, usually housed at universi- ties or community colleges in conjunction with the Small Business Administration. One- on-one counseling, resources for certain businesses and even actual templates for a business plan can be found there. These same tools also can be found at the SBA’s web site at sba.gov. A good idea is to visit a business similar to the one you own or the one you are starting. Networking with other small business own- ers will help you gain valuable knowledge. Joining trade groups is another smart option for learning about your specific business or business in general. Once your plan is complete – it should include a description of the business, a pro- forma financial statement and a list of uses for the funds requested – you are ready to find an investor or lender. FINDING A RESOURCE Investor The first place to start is family and friends, especially with a start-up business. All loans, conventional or via the SBA, will require that you have some equity in your business. Invite your targeted group to a meeting, preferably in an office-type setting, and provide a copy of your business plan. If you are asking for an investment, explain how and when it will be repaid. Assure family and friends that you will provide legal documentation of any loan or investment they might make. Loans The traditional place to obtain a loan is a commercial bank. Many banks, like mine, specialize in small business. The SBDC will have lists of area banks and can provide information critical to your search: Which banks specialize in small business, which ones have special programs and which ones are SBA lenders. By doing some research on the front end, you can avoid a lot of frustra- tion. If you are not in the market for a loan right now, still make the effort to establish a rela- No matter what shape the economy is in, opportunities to start new businesses or to grow existing ones abound. This often requires capital. So how do you find it?