Women Entrepreneurs Find Greater Success Raising Capital

As women continue to start businesses at a rate that far exceeds the national average, they are also raising capital much more successfully than in years past, according to new research.

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Since launching its Women’s Business Services program in 1995, Wells Fargo (WFC), the nation's largest small-business lender, has given out loans of more than $25 billion. The San Francisco-based bank announced the news Tuesday at the 12th annual executive roundtable hosted by the Center for Women's Business Research in New York.

In total, the bank has awarded some 600,000 loans, with an average size of $40,000.

Of 767 women business owners polled earlier this year by the Center for Women's Business Research, a Washington think tank, a full 70 percent said they were satisfied in their efforts to get credit, compared to just 50 percent a decade ago.

While 57 percent reported successfully obtaining credit and 41 percent received bank loans, well over half said they approached other sources, rather than abandoning the search altogether, when their loan applications were turned down, the survey found.

Rebecca Macieira-Kaufman, the head of Wells Fargo's small business segment who co-chaired this year's event, said that's a big change from the mid-1990s, when some banks still required women entrepreneurs to have loan agreements co-signed by their husbands or fathers.

"These barriers are all being broken down," Macieira-Kaufman said.

According to the latest Census data, the number of women-owned businesses grew by 20 percent between 1997 and 2002, nearly twice the rate of all privately held firms.

Beyond accessing capital, other studies released at the roundtable show the surge in women-owned businesses is also creating new patterns of behavior in the small-business sector.

For instance, while women are just as likely as men to aim for the best price when selling their businesses, they're far more concerned with the future of the business and their former employees under the new owner, a joint study by the Center for Women's Business Research and Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company showed.

Of 800 women and men business owners polled, 72 percent of women said they took into account a potential buyer's identity, personality, and background, compared to just 30 percent of men, the study found.

Still, women and men were equally likely to plan to maintain ownership, sell, pass their businesses onto family, or have no exit strategy, according to the study.

The annual roundtable is a series of panel discussions on issues and policies about women-owned businesses by corporate executives, business owners, nonprofit groups, and policymakers.

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