WBENC is proud to introduce the WBENC LIFT Financial Center of Excellence, a new integrated education and funding program for women entrepreneurs.

WBENC LIFT will provide comprehensive financial support and resources, including education, coaching, networking and funding opportunities.

For several years, WBENC has been partnering with Corporate Member leaders in the financial services industry to bring forward education and resources for WBEs, including workshops and coaching on access to capital, business plans, small business banking, and cash flow management. Earlier this year, we launched the Financial Center of Excellence to coincide with our national events, with the goal of providing WBEs with access to small business bankers and financial experts, as well as additional learning opportunities on key financial topics, including funding alternatives and being bankable.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the opportunity to reimagine and expand the Financial Center of Excellence model and tackle the broader needs and challenges facing women-business owners in today’s challenging business environment.

WBENC LIFT is a product of that reimagining, with a comprehensive model designed to support WBEs year-round.

The program will be focused on four core pillars of support:

  • LEARN: Delivery of targeted education, including virtual and in-person programs, digital resources, whitepapers and more on topics specifically relevant to women business owners, including creating a funding pitch, financial sustainability, and business continuity planning.
  • INTERCONNECT: Exclusive networking opportunities including pitch and outreach programs designed to help WBEs make connections with financial institutions and other funding sources that will help them grow and sustain their business.
  • FUEL: Establishment of a fund, in partnership with corporate financial institutions and others, that will include direct grants for WBEs, as well as partnerships with other national funding sources.
  • THRIVE: Facilitation of one-on-one and group coaching, counseling, and mentorship programs, focused on financial support, business plan development, and strategic growth.

Why WBENC LIFT

As the nation’s largest certifier of women-owned businesses and a leading advocate for women business owners and entrepreneurs, WBENC understands the challenges women business owners face, particularly when it comes to access to capital and financing. A 2018 report from the National Women’s Business Council underscores this need, identifying these key findings:

  • Compared with men, women business owners raise smaller amounts of capital to finance their firms and are more reliant on personal, rather than external, sources of financing.
  • Initial disparities in the levels of startup capital in women-owned businesses as compared with men-owned businesses do not disappear in the years following startup.
  • A key difference between men and women regarding bootstrapping (i.e., financing a business without external capital) is that “women choose bootstrapping instead of overdrafts and men choose bootstrap finance to supplement overdrafts.”
  • Women’s networks have fewer viable economic resources compared with men’s.
  • Women’s networks have fewer connections with ties to resources like financial capital, but even when they do have networks with weak connections, these are not necessarily beneficial in the way that men’s networks are likely to be.
  • Women in business are often tied to an unconscious association with less credibility and a lack of legitimacy.
  • Women investors demonstrate a bias toward men business owners, so the gender gap in funding is not likely to narrow simply by having more women become venture capitalists.
  • Some research has identified the desire for control and higher levels of risk aversion among women as explanations of why women business owners are more likely to keep their firms small and manageable. Women are also more likely to avoid external sources of financing because it leads them to give up control or take on higher levels of risk.

The economic impact of COVID-19 has only deepened the divide and heightened the urgent need for greater access to capital for women entrepreneurs. WBENC, along with our network of Regional Partner Organizations and Corporate Members supporters, is dedicated to helping meet this growing need head-on with the establishment of the WBENC LIFT Financial Center of Excellence.

Interested in learning more about WBENC LIFT? Sign up to be the first to know as we further develop this program and launch new programming and resources.


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