Over the last six months, WBENC hosted three panel discussions in partnership with the Bridge built by Citi® platform called “Access to Capital Fridays.” In these webinars, woman lenders talked about what businesses can expect from the loan process. The discussions covered everything from preparing financial documentation to timelines, to types of business loan products, and more.

Four of them have come back to answer one more question to recap the highlights:

In your opinion, what is the most important piece of information a woman-owned business should keep in mind regarding the business loan process?

“The most important thing is to tell the story about your business. What I mean by that is telling the story about the business with your numbers, of course, but also telling the story of the soul of your business. As bankers, we have to base loan decisions on sound financial information, and it needs to be presented in an orderly and business-like fashion. But as a woman and a banker, I can tell you that when I can get passionate about the business and its soul, its purpose, and how it serves for the business owner, or the community, then I can really get behind it to see what Agility Bank can do. Tell the whole story, both the numbers and the real “why” and “who.”

– Lauren Sparks, CEO, Agility Bank

“First, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of your business’s financials, including your revenue, expenses, and cash flow. This will help lenders assess your ability to repay the loan. Additionally, it’s important to research and identify lenders who are supportive of women-owned businesses. Many financial institutions and organizations offer similar loan programs but at First Women’s Bank we created a loan process with women’s preferences in mind. While we have a strategic focus on the women’s economy, we provide an information rich experience, consultative approach, and community of resources that benefits all small business owners. Lastly, seeking guidance from trusted advisors such as your banker, CPA, mentor, or attorney can provide valuable insights and assistance throughout the loan process.”

– Emily Mattes, Senior Vice President Business Banking, First Women’s Bank

“Each woman-owned business is different and has a unique situation so deciding when the right time to access capital can be an individual decision. However, people typically look to access capital when they are in need of a cash infusion whether it is to buy new equipment that can help improve sales or to help with day-to-day expenses.

However, Accion Opportunity Fund business coaches advise applying BEFORE you need the money. If you need capital right away, it might be too late. The financially safest capital options take time to apply for and be approved, you want to be ahead of the curve whenever possible. Use cash flow statements and projections to spot the need ahead of time.

Before you seek funding for your small business, you should perform a complete analysis of your business’s financial health and an assessment of your business plans and future needs. You’ll need to know your business credit score and have a clear business plan that details where the financing will go and how you’re planning to pay it back.

It’s important to understand how cash flows into and out of your business on a regular basis. Knowing your cash flow will help you anticipate a future cash crunch, which can inform when you apply for capital and how much you ask for. You really want to ask for the right amount — lenders assess your application based on your ability to repay the amount you asked for, so don’t ask for too much, but also make sure to ask for enough to achieve your business goal.”

– Adriana Eiriz, Vice President, Sales and Partnerships, Accion Opportunity Fund

“The process for applying a new loan can be very thorough. Make sure that you can tell the lender the purpose for the loan (i.e. working capital, equipment purchase, acquisition). Endeavor to have all of the financial information for your business and for you personally in an organized and accessible manner. This Includes financial statements, tax returns, bank statements, accounts payable aging reports and accounts receivable aging reports.”

– Mary Ellen Bianco, Senior Vice President Business Banking Market Manager, Flushing Bank 

More About the Bridge built by Citi platform

Bridge built by Citi’s mission is to democratize lending by making it easier and faster for small and medium sized businesses to access competitive banking products. It is a digital meeting place that efficiently connects SMBs to a diverse group of over 75 lenders – including those featured in this article – by filling out one user-friendly loan request form (RFP). Lenders on the platform can facilitate business loans between $100,000 and $10 million. To learn more or start your RFP, click here.

Terms of use apply.  Bridge built by Citi (Bridge), does not guarantee that you will receive any loan offer from any lender, or that any offer you receive will meet your needs or be suitable for your business. This does not constitute a solicitation for a loan or any other financial product or service from Citibank, N.A. (Citi) or any of its affiliates. All loans made available through Bridge are offered by participating lenders only. You are responsible for conducting your own due diligence prior to requesting, negotiating for or acquiring any loan, or otherwise engaging with a lender. Bridge does not offer credit, lending or other professional advice and is a provider only of a technology platform to facilitate your establishment of an independent relationship with one or more lenders. You should seek the assistance of a professional acquainted with your circumstances (which neither Citi nor Bridge provides) for advice on loans, law, or other professional matters.

About WBENC LIFT Financial Center of Excellence

WBENC LIFT is an integrated education and funding program for women entrepreneurs to provide comprehensive financial support and resources, including education, coaching, networking and funding opportunities.