Invest in women survey

“What Do Women Want in Growth Capital?”

Survey of Financing Needs of Women Business Enterprises Conducted by Invest in Women Entrepreneurs Initiative and WBEC-Pacific November 2018

Background & Rationale

Today there are 12.3 million women owned businesses and yet women receive only 4% of commercial loans and 18% of SBA- backed loans. This demonstrates a market failure, a lost opportunity to increase wealth and economic value in the US and particularly in local economies. While nonprofit CDFIs have stepped up to fill this gap by providing small and micro business loans under $200K, there is a “missing middle” of women owned businesses between $250K and $5 million in revenues who struggle to finance their business growth. Women owned businesses are local: they hire, spend and donate locally. It follows that, by creating financing products that support women business growth, there will be a direct and measurable benefit to the regional economy where her business is located.

In order to determine just what women want in terms of financing that will serve to grow their future revenues, The Invest in Women Entrepreneurs Initiative joined with WBEC-Pacific to survey established Women Business Enterprises (WBEs), who self-identified as poised for growth. The survey results are intended to show lenders what financing products are needed, and open up market opportunities for banks and CDFIs to reach qualified women-owned businesses.

Survey Methods

405 WBEs located in Washington, Oregon and Northern California, who are certified through WBEC- Pacific, were emailed a short survey asking if they were looking for financing and, if so, what type and size of loan. One third of those surveyed were businesses of less than $1million in revenues, one third had revenues between $1 and $5 million and one third had revenues in excess of $5 million. The average owner had been in business 8 years. These are mature businesses and business owners who conceivably could be considered good customer prospects by lenders.

The categories were: Term Loan, Line of Credit, Purchase Order Financing, Equity, Other. The categories for size of loans were: under $50K, $50-100K, $100-250K, $250-500K and over $500K. Respondents could indicate need for more than one type of loan, e.g. term loan and line of credit.

Of all WBEs surveyed, 134, or 33%, responded to the survey. 60, or 45%, of respondents indicated their interest in obtaining business growth financing. While 37% of respondents indicated need for Equity financing, we did not extrapolate from this finding because the industries represented by most of these businesses are not prospects for venture-type financing. We did not ask whether the WBE had considered crowdfunding as a strategy for raising Equity.

Also, this survey should have asked why WBEs were not seeking financing, in order to understand if they had what they needed or were discouraged/fearful of seeking outside financing.

We consider this a sample survey that indicates needs for additional data and directions for possible actions and policies.

Key Findings

  • A majority (55%) of WBEs reporting are looking for Line of Credit and/or Purchase Order financing, most seeking between $250K- $500K in financing and a significant segment needing over $500K.

  • 37% are seeking Equity financing, most indicating more than $500,000.

  • 30% seek Term Loans, with the greatest number needing either less than $100K (39%) or more than $500K (33%), including one who indicated need for a real estate loan.

Economic Impact from Increased Capital Access

The 405 WBEC-Pacific certified WBEs represent 13,200 jobs – an average of 33 jobs per business.

If the 44 businesses seeking debt financing were able to access these funds, the total amount of financing = $17million

Estimated jobs created (@$50K/job) = 340 jobs

* * *

Profile of Potential Borrower

A majority of women business owners with between $1 million to $5 million in business revenues are seeking between $250K to $500K in Lines of Credit and/or Purchase Order financing.

Thirty percent of WBEs with less than $1 million in business revenues need term loans of under $100K.

Thirty percent of WBEs with revenues exceeding $5 million need $500K or more in term loans, which could include real estate acquisition.

Funding amount.png
Financing type.png


99designs recently published the results of their survey of 3,000 entrepreneurs around the world. Their research lays out the challenges women entrepreneurs face in raising capital, with women being nearly half as likely as men to raise $100,000 in funding. While women and men face similar challenges, fundraise in similar ways, and have businesses distributed relatively equally across industries, women are far more likely to have fewer employees and less capital. "Studies in the US have also shown that women-led companies perform twice as well as those led by men and that female-founded companies create more than 60 percent more value for investors than those founded by men. Having more women entrepreneurs is also a vital part of tackling the pay gap and the funding gap that we are seeing between men and women.


Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 11.43.43 AM.png

The National Women's Business Council's study, Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and their Service of Women Entrepreneurs, evaluates small business opportunity through an "entrepreneurial ecosystem" framework. This approach is effective in enabling stakeholders to understand the overall environment of their local economy, including everything from capital access to underserved populations to availability of resource centers and support.

Evaluating the overall environment for women entrepreneurs is imperative to finding the right combination of resources to support women business owners.

The California State Assembly is currently considering legislation to support small business development in the state. AB 2463, the "Small Business Assistance Act of 2018." This bill would create the California Small Business Assistance Program under the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), with the goal of assisting small businesses by forging partnerships with existing federal small business technical assistance centers, providing grants to them to maximize collaboration and impact. AB 2463 makes specific mention of the Women’s Business Center Program and its successful track record. 


The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) released a paper recognizing the 30th anniversary of H.R. 5050 "Women's Business Ownership Act," a bill that NAWBO helped pass in 1988 to give women more rights as business owners. Until that point, women were required to have husbands, brothers, or other male relatives co-sign on loans, and had little access to business assistance programs. Aside from requiring banks to end discriminatory lending against women, H.R. 5050 established the Women's Business Center Program and the National Women's Business Council. Now, more than 100 Women's Business Centers stretch across the United States, providing services to the more than 2 million women who have started and expanded their own businesses. Despite these successes, women still have difficulty getting the financing they need, with only 4% of commercial lending dollars going to women, and women start businesses with half as much capital as men.