April 24, 2014

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Female Business Leaders Share Funding Secrets

By Rachel Madison

April 24, 2014

Female leaders from some of Utah’s financial and funding organizations gathered together Wednesday at a Salt Lake City chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners’ event to discuss different types of funding available to female business owners, the top issues female business owners face, and the resources and advice available to them.

Mickey Grames, programs manager of Utah Micro-Enterprise Loan Fund, said one of the top issues women face when they need to discuss funding is cash flow.

“Everyone needs working capital for their business, whether they are brand new or expanding and growing,” she said. “It’s always a question of ‘where am I going to get those funds to pay the bills until I get sales?’ The second thing I see is a lack of focus on marketing. Cash may be king in the business, but the king’s not going to make it to the throne unless you’re out there marketing.”

Grames said she also sees a lot of younger women struggling with the balancing act between family and business. She’s learned there is no such thing as balance.

“There are times when you have to devote the majority of time to your family, and there are times when you need to make sure they are taken care of so you can focus on business,” she said.

Angela Ramirez, co-founding partner of Zerimar Ventures, said not having a clear idea of how much money is needed for the business or a clear road map for the business’ future are two big issues that should be determined before asking for funding.

Catherine Arik, vice president and commercial relationship manager for the Women’s Financial Group at Zions Bank, said she sees far too often women who wait too long before asking for help and end up in a cash crunch.

“A lot of women are also guilty of letting their emotional decisions guide rather than their business decisions,” she said. “We tend to take on everything ourselves rather than surrounding ourselves with partners who can help.”

Although women can face many hurdles when it comes to starting a business, panel members agreed Utah has several resources for business owners. Grames said some of the resources, such as the numerous Small Business Development Centers around the state or SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated to educating entrepreneurs and helping small businesses, are funded by the Small Business Administration and available for free.

“Those are your tax dollars, ladies,” Grames said.

Beth Stauffer, vice president and principal industry specialist at Wells Fargo Business Banking, said it’s a good idea to look at an accountant or banker as a resource.

“It’s a good idea to have your financials in order from an accountant’s perspective,” she said. “Grow your relationship with your banker as your company grows. A lot of lending comes down to that relationship.”

Each of the panelists also had some advice for women with plans to start their own companies. Grames said women should always put their own money into their company if they are able. Arik said she likes to see people invest in their own business, because it means they believe in what they’re doing and are willing to take a risk.

The next step women should take is to ask family and friends for assistance, Grames said.

“Family and friends will often give you terms far more advantageous than a traditional lender,” she said. “But if you are approaching a family member or friend, approach them just as professionally as if you were coming to [a traditional lender].”

However, Arik cautioned against using funds from family and friends. Even though it is more flexible, it can also cause problems within personal relationships, she said.

Grames said women need to be prepared before asking for financial assistance.

“Come into the process by doing a little research,” she said. “Know what’s going to be expected of you. And don’t wait until the last minute, because nobody can fund on a dime.”

Overall, Arik said women should never be afraid to ask questions when it comes to acquiring funds.

“Be prepared to sell your business to [the lender],” she said. “What is your experience and what will make your business successful? First impressions are important.”

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