In my personal life, I have witnessed firsthand the profound impact that access to credit can have for individuals, families and businesses.
As an immigrant from the Soviet Union, I saw the way that credit helped my father build his small business from a dream to a reality in America. That is why I am so passionate about providing access to credit for all, regardless of gender, race or background.
Identifying the need
Women continue to experience more difficulty obtaining credit, when compared to equally qualified males, and these issues are of particular relevance to Ohio.
In the 2013 State of Women Owned Business report, we, as a state, ranked last in the nation in terms of the “growth of the numbers, revenues and employment of women-owned firms.”
Nationally, research has found that more women than men report having no formal organization to turn to for help with their business.
But, in my professional life at the Economic and Community Development Institute, I actively work toward empowering women business owners to overcome the systemic barriers that have prevented us from accessing credit.
Resources to fill in the gaps
At ECDI, we operate the only Small Business Administration-approved Women’s Business Center in the state of Ohio, with our Cleveland office having just opened this past year. Our experience has provided us with the knowledge we need to execute a proven model for supporting women entrepreneurs.
In working with banks and other funders, sheer persistence is often helpful.
When that is not enough, WBCs provide a powerful resource for women entrepreneurs seeking capital. At our WBCs, we offer women’s-centric classes and programming on a wide variety of topics, including marketing, finances, accounting, pitching, obtaining capital and more.
I can also personally attest to the importance of strong female mentors in a woman’s life — that is why I have ensured that all WBC members are given access to our Professional Advisory Network.
Women entrepreneurs can connect with successful female business owners and executives through PAN, and receive the critical advice and mentorship opportunities that help bring success and knowledge.
I am very pleased to report, as of the close of our last fiscal year, ECDI has provided more than $8.4 million in loans to 280 female entrepreneurs since its inception in 2004. Through ECDI and its WBC program, I hope to continue to provide access to credit for women throughout Ohio.
The path has been difficult, but I believe the tide is beginning to change. So long as we, as women, do not falter and continue to persevere and grow, I am confident that Ohio will become a site of growth for women-owned businesses.
Inna Kinney is the founder and CEO of the Economic and Community Development Institute. ECDI’s mission is to invest in people to create measurable and enduring social and economic change.