According to the US Small Business Administration, women own and operate approximately 42% of the approximately 1.2 million small businesses in Illinois. Additionally, the Chicago area — a booming hub for tech and startups — is home to the highest concentration of female founders in the nation.
Yet, according to Bank of America’s 2019 Women-Owned Business Spotlight, approximately 60% of women entrepreneurs nationwide say they don’t have the same access to capital as their male counterparts. Additionally, nearly 25% of female business owners believe that men and women will never have equal access to capital.
Recognizing the number of challenges women business owners face and the importance of strong financing for any growing business, Bank of America recently partnered with Seneca Women, a global leadership platform focused on advancement of women and girls to create a more equitable society, to launch a one-of-a-kind platform to help women understand and navigate capital funding options to start or grow their businesses.
The Bank of America Access to Capital Directory is a comprehensive database designed to help women entrepreneurs learn about various sources of financing, including equity, debt, loans and grants, as well as alternative resources . Armed with this knowledge, women entrepreneurs can then connect with institutions and organizations that meet their capital needs and are committed to their success.
The platform offers more than 350 sources of capital across six key funding sources: Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Venture Capital Firms and Angel Investors, Grants, Loan Funds and Funds. participatory. The directory brings these sources together in one easy-to-navigate platform, allowing women to search and sort by keywords, area of interest, type of fund or range of capital needed. Additionally, the platform features news, success stories, and other resources to help women business owners thrive.
Bank of America expects the directory to grow and evolve over time, expanding its range of resources, education, tools and funding sources to meet women entrepreneurs wherever they are in their business growth journey.
This initiative builds on Bank of America’s long tradition of supporting women entrepreneurs and small business owners. Since 2014, Bank of America has committed $100 million to the Tory Burch and Bank of America Capital program, which has helped nearly 4,000 women access more than $65 million in affordable loans through our partners CDFI. And in 2020, we welcomed 50,000 more women to the Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell, the world’s only online Ivy League certificate program for women entrepreneurs.
Locally, Bank of America has a strong network of small business bankers who are dedicated to helping our small business customers succeed. Working one-on-one with clients, we help clients plan and execute their financial and business goals while navigating everything from payroll and vendor management to point-of-sale systems and capital requirements. This level of support is essential and can often make the difference for a small business owner trying to take their business to the next level.
Bank of America is committed to supporting women entrepreneurs. In line with our five-year, $1.25 billion commitment to advance racial equity and economic opportunity, the bank has committed more than $300 million to investments in underrepresented minorities and women entrepreneurs. We firmly believe this is the way forward to building stronger, healthier local economies and setting the stage for the next generation of women business owners and leaders.
• Sadia Naveed is Vice President and Small Business Banker for Bank of America in the Chicago area.