"The resources need to be there to empower women-owned businesses to grow, and that is what we have focused on at the U.S. Small Business Administration," said Erin Andrew, the SBA's assistant administrator for the Office of Women's Business Ownership.
Female entrepreneurs, said Andrew, tend to rely heavily on personal savings to fund their ventures, which can hamper their ability to hire employees and invest in critical assets. Men, she added, are much more inclined to use bank loans and unconventional capital sources, such as loans from family and friends.
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The capital gender gap is partly due to the fact that many women-owned businesses are relatively new and small, and bankers aren't always eager to lend to such companies, regardless of whether the firms are owned by men or women, according to an SBA report. In addition, female entrepreneurs rarely network with executives from venture capital firms, which tend to be male-dominated, and are underrepresented in fast-growth and high-tech sectors.
For its part, the SBA is striving to put more capital in the hands of women business owners. Earlier this year, the agency launched an online tool, called LINC, which connects entrepreneurs with SBA lenders around the country.
Users fill out a simple online form, and any interested lenders contact them within 48 hours. Applicants also receive information about local SBA partners that offer free business consulting and low-cost training programs.