By Guest commentary Friday, September 22nd, 2023
By Midge Campbell-Thomas
By Women’s Economic Ventures
Women-owned businesses comprised nearly half of all new businesses created last year, compared to 29% in 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today, there are more than 12 million women-owned businesses nationally that employ more than 10 million people.
Collectively, these female entrepreneurs generate nearly $1.8 trillion in revenue annually — more than the entire state of Florida.
Despite this progress, women-led businesses and start-ups still face systemic capital and other resource challenges.
According to a new Bank of America report “Women and Minority Business Owner Spotlight” coming out in early October, women business owners’ revenue outlook and confidence levels around their business and broader economic trends are more tempered compared to their male counterparts.
As National Women’s Small Business Month approaches, it’s important to consider how investing in women goes beyond equal pay and equal opportunities.
Based in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) is a leader in providing female entrepreneurs with access to expertise, resources and capital necessary to achieve their financial goals, and in doing so helps address historic inequalities in business ownership.
By providing a full range of small business support — in both English and Spanish — including classes, consulting, funding and financial literacy programs, our economy flourishes.
But it takes a larger village to support the mission and impact of nonprofit small business development organizations like WEV.
This is where corporate partners like Bank of America come in, which has had a longstanding financial empowerment partnership with WEV to help put women on a path towards economic stability and success, help remove barriers in access to capital and secure additional educational resources.
Because many of WEV’s clients are small businesses and new start-ups that may not yet qualify for traditional bank lending, Bank of America provides capital and philanthropic support to CDFIs and nonprofit micro-lenders like WEV to help these entrepreneurs grow responsibly and, eventually, be ready for larger bank funding.
Bank of America’s support has assisted WEV’s work to broaden access to services through:
• developing alternative business funding models;
• providing online multi-language learning hubs with expanded content and client reach within the Latinx community;
• supporting WEV’s micro-grant and entrepreneurial training program for women small business owners who are Hispanic-Latino, Black, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC); and
• launching WEV’s Emprendimiento Program to support underrepresented and marginalized individuals who face significant barriers to employment.
The continued resilience and success of women small business owners remains foundational to our Tri-County region. For example, every $1 invested in WEV generates $15 for the local economy through increased income for business owners, higher wages paid to employees, and local tax revenue.
kIn the last five years, business started or expanded through WEV, have generated hundreds of new jobs and millions in local community revenues — approximately $200,000 in annual revenue per business and $15.5 million in local tax dollars.
Additionally, businesses that work with WEV stay in business 2.5 times longer than the national average and 3% of women-owned businesses within the WEV community have annual revenues of over $1 million — higher than the national average.
Much of this tremendous momentum wouldn’t be possible without the support, capital and advisement from partners like Bank of America, which is the nation’s number one small business lender. Bank of America also works locally with the Pacific Coast Business Times sponsoring its “Charting Her Course” podcast highlighting women entrepreneurs in the area; Mission Community Service Corporation’s Women’s Business Center; and even the Girl Scouts.
Nationally, Bank of America helps women-owned businesses through partnerships such as the Tory Burch Foundation’s Capital Program that has provided more than $95 million in low-cost capital to over 5,000 U.S. female entrepreneurs to help grow their businesses. The bank also partners with Cornell University to provide women access to the only online Ivy League program offering a certificate in women’s entrepreneurship at no cost. And in partnership with Seneca Women, the Bank of America Access to Capital Directory features hundreds of organizations providing funding for women-owned businesses across the U.S.
Another unique way Bank of America is helping to close the capital gap for female entrepreneurs is through its half-billion dollars in equity investments into women- and minority-led Venture Capital and Private Equity funds. So far, Bank of America has committed equity to more than 150 funds – 40 in California alone — which collectively to date have invested in over 1,000 companies led by 1,500 diverse entrepreneurs, including nearly 60% women-led businesses.
Supporting women-owned businesses not only helps nurture the rich diversity of our community, but more importantly, it helps strengthen our local economy as these businesses continue to grow, creating job opportunities and business owners who give back to our community.
Midge Campbell-Thomas is the president of Bank of America Ventura – Santa Barbara. She wrote this piece in collaboration with Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV).