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  • What Women Want: WBEC Pacific Survey

  • Truth in Lending Act in California

  • National Worker-Owned Cooperative Conference

  • "Fund and Fuel Your Dreams" Event

  • Op-Ed: It Makes Economic Sense to Invest in Women, HR5050 Anniversary


The I-WE partnered with WBEC Pacific to survey women business owners about their credit needs. Based on the responses from 134 women entrepreneurs, banks are still failing to meet the needs of women who want to grow their businesses. Of those in search of financing, one-third said that they are looking for lines of credit, term loans, or equity investments in the range of $500,000 or more. The I-WE Initiative will be publishing a report soon outlining the results of this survey in greater detail. 


Last month we spotlighted proposed legislation, SB 1235, requiring lenders to lay out loan terms in ways that new business owners can understand. On September 30 Governor Brown signed this bipartisan bill into law, requiring those providing commercial loans to clearly disclose the borrower's total costs of financing. While the federal Truth in Lending Act similarly protects consumers, this is the first law to apply similar protections to small business owners. 

Congratulations to CAMEO's Carolina Martinez and Small Business Majority's Bianca Blomquist who championed this legislation, and wishing them continued success as they push for similar legislation at the federal level


In September Claudia attended the National Worker-Owned Cooperative Conference in LA. Out of the 500+ attendees, a majority were women and many women of color, a sign that traditionally underserved communities are exploring new ways to become business owners

Recent legislation in DC allows the SBA to finance and provide technical assistance through SBDCs to cooperatives and small businesses that are transitioning to employee ownership cooperatives. This strategy allows lower income entrepreneurs to explore ownership opportunities, and for retiring business owners to see their businesses endure. Here in the Bay Area we have Prospera which trains and supports Latina entrepreneurs who wish to start cooperatives. WBCs could embrace cooperative ventures and approach SBA for funding support for this purpose. Prospera is also is a great resource for all SBA Resource Partners, (WBCs, SBDC, etc) who would like to use their training curriculum.


Claudia also participated as a sponsor in Jenny Kassan’s Fund and Fuel Your Dream conference where 50 women business owners gathered in Baltimore to learn how to successfully seek growth capital through crowdfunding. Jenny and her team offer a new platform, Crowd Fund Main Street, that both supports the funding campaign and directs investors to qualified businesses. Through this initiative they have helped clients raise millions of dollars from values-aligned investors. Thanks in part to Jenny’s pioneering work and that of Kathleen Minogue of Crowd Fund Better, a movement is gaining momentum that will fill the gap between traditional debt financing and venture capital. I-WE is proud to have both Jenny and Kathleen participating actively in the I-WE Network and fulfilling one of our goals – more funding to more women!


I-WE Founder Claudia and CAMEO CEO Carolina Martinez wrote the following op-ed in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the Women's Business Ownership Act of 1988. 

October 25 marks the 30th anniversary of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, the landmark legislation which eliminated state laws requiring women to have a male relative co-sign a business loan, in addition to other benefits. We remember Esther Orioli, owner of Essi Systems, a successful local corporate training business in San Francisco. In 1987 she was turned down by 13 banks as she sought growth capital to meet demand for her services. Not one of them would give her the capital she needed because she was unmarried with no male relatives. She was forced to “play bank,” taking loans from friends and colleagues at 20 percent interest. She pulled it off and Essi Systems operated for another 28 years, creating dozens of jobs in San Francisco.

Thirty years later, women-owned businesses number 12.3 million, according to the 2018 American Express Report on the Status of Women Owned Business. That’s 40 percent of all businesses, and 49 percent of all self-employed. Furthermore, the growth rate of women businesses has surged over the past 10 years – 58 percent as compared to 12 percent of businesses overall.  

These businesses create significant economic impact – 9.2 million jobs and $1.8 trillion in revenues. Yet these women entrepreneurs receive only 4 percent of bank loans and only 18 percent of Small Business Administration-guaranteed loans. As a result, an estimated 26 percent of these borrowers have migrated to online alternative lenders, who are viewed as less discriminatory. However, this is a mostly unregulated marketplace where even the most cautious business owner can get into trouble with high-cost, opaque financing deals.

Let’s face it, this is a market failure which needs to be addressed.

First, women need coaching and small amounts of capital in order to grow. California’s new governor should continue the current investment in Women’s Business Centers and set a new goal of doubling it. Governor Jerry Brown’s budget for this year allocated $2.4 million in funding for Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) that matches and expands funding from the SBA to provide technical assistance services. These 14 WBCs served 9,000 women entrepreneurs last year, out of a pool of approximately 1.5 million. While we’re moving in the right direction, that’s still less than 1 percent of all California women business owners. Considering the growth trends and economic value generated, California’s new governor should embrace the opportunity and set a new goal of at least double this amount.

Second, we need to create new avenues to capital that will encourage growth and sustainability. This means invest in innovative firms that are targeting women businesses, such as the following:

  • CNote: offers a savings account with impact. The company takes deposits at 2.5 percent, and then invests them in nonprofit Community Development Financial Institutions, such as CDC Small Business Finance in California, which then makes loans to small businesses in low- and moderate-income communities. (myCNote.com)

  • MEDA’s Adelante Fund: makes loans to Latino-owned and immigrant-owned businesses in the Bay Area, from $10,000 to $150,000, providing intensive business consulting and ongoing support. Two thirds of their borrowers are women. (medasf.org)

  • Opportunity Fund: one of the nation’s leading nonprofit lender, headquartered in San Francisco, makes small business loans throughout California and the nation and is targeting women businesses. (opportunityfund.org)

These are only examples of many organizations throughout California serving women business owners, which, just as the lenders cited above, are looking for investors and donors who see the potential in the women’s business market for strengthening our communities and local economies.  

Third, banks should recognize this market opportunity and step up with products and services that women entrepreneurs want and need. Traditional banks, such as Key Bank in Ohio, have created targeted programs for women. California is a leader in so many areas—we should lead on this issue, too.

Women entrepreneurs are the Sleeping Goddesses of our economy. When a woman business owner is successful, she buys a house, invests in her kids’ education, and her purchases, donations and taxes circulate locally.   

As we watch the wealth gap widen, instead of wringing our hands, let’s invest in women entrepreneurs. It is in our self-interest to do so.

In gratitude,