5 Tips to Help Women Build Credit and Access Capital

Like all businesses, women-owned businesses face unique challenges, and in today’s economic environment acquiring capital to operate and grow their businesses can be one of them. The latest Census data shows women-owned businesses increased by more than 20 percent from 2002 to 2007. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, women-owned firms make up almost a third (29 percent) of all nonfarm businesses across the country, generating a total of $1.2 trillion annually, and employing 7.6 million people.

At Wells Fargo, we have the opportunity to work with women entrepreneurs on a daily basis. We know the important role women-run businesses play in our local communities and economy, and we want to make sure that women business owners have the financial guidance and tools they need to succeed financially, including access to capital.

Here are five key financial tips to help women entrepreneurs build their credit profiles and obtain the financing they need to grow their businesses:

1) GET TO KNOW YOUR LENDER

Establishing a relationship with a banker is the first step to helping you get credit-ready because a banker can help identify financial solutions that meet your business needs and work with you to determine your long-term business goals. Bankers have experience working with a variety of businesses, so they can be your best resource when it comes to business financing. Once you have established a working relationship with a banker, it’s important to keep them informed as your business and financing needs change.

2) BUILD A STRONG CREDIT PROFILE

Good credit is one of a business owner’s most valuable assets. As more women follow the path of entrepreneurship, it’s important that good personal financial habits transfer over to their businesses. When applying for financing, lenders will look beyond just the credit score to understand if your business is thriving; they’ll also review your debt-to-income ratio, and whether you have a history of on-time payments.

3) EXPLORE FINANCING OPTIONS

According to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), the major sources of funding that women business owners rely on are personal savings, reinvested business earnings, lines of credit, equity financing and venture capital. Business owners have many financing options to consider these days. If a conventional business loan or government-guaranteed loan doesn’t meet your specific needs, you may want to

explore a SBA 7(a) loan. Talk with your banker about which credit option is best for your business.

4) MAINTAIN A POSITIVE CASH FLOW

Profitability and cash flow are essential components of credit capacity, and showing that your business has enough cash on hand to meet both short- and long-term commitments demonstrates to lenders that you have the ability to repay a loan. Achieving and maintaining positive cash flow takes hard work. Set aside time for regular cash flow analyses, and keep your financial information up-to-date so it can be easily referenced.

5) SEPARATE BUSINESS AND PERSONAL ACCOUNTS

Your business credit profile begins when you establish dedicated business accounts. While many small business owners use personal finances to pay for business expenses, it’s important to establish separate business accounts. Having separate business accounts is one of the first steps to show your business is sound and well-managed when applying for business credit, and helps you maintain accurate and complete records of all business-related income and expenses.

As the number of women-owned businesses grows and the economy improves every day, the opportunity for women entrepreneurs to succeed in business ventures continues to grow. There are many resources that provide mentoring, professional, and financial guidance to women business owners, such as the U.S. Small Business Administration, NAWBO or the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC). From building your network of women mentors and financial experts who will

help you gain new skills and knowledge for your business, to learning about the steps needed to build a good credit profile, be sure to take the time to put yourself in the best position to access capital to help start, run or grow your business when you’re ready.

ABOUT ALMA ORTEGA JOHNSON

Alma Ortega Johnson is an Area President for Wells Fargo in McAllen. Originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, she joined Wells Fargo in 1999. She leads a team of 640 team members, and 38 store locations in 20 communities. She currently serves on the boards of the United Way of South Texas, COSTEP, and the International Women’s Board. She also serves on the advisory boards of Quinta Mazatlan, McAllen Education Foundation and ENCORE. She can be reached at 956-992-7371 or alma.ortegajohnson@wellsfargo.com

What was your first job?

I was in the second semester of college when I got a job in accounting in Banamex, the largest Mexican bank at that time. It was in 1982, when the government nationalized the Mexico’s private banking sector system, and the industry went through a tremendous amount of change. My first positions were back office jobs because I was attending college at the same time and needed a job that had flexibility.

Who was an early role model for you and why?

Early in career when I was still living in Mexico, all the leadership positions at the bank were held by men and all my customers that were business owners were men. However, I remember my aunt Socorro who owned a hardware store with my uncle Rafael in Chihuahua. She was a hard worker, always dressed professionally, and served every customer with a smile. She had a tireless work ethic and her focus on customer service made a lasting impression on me.

What is your leadership motto?

“Have clear objectives and stay focused until you achieve your goals.” While there may be obstacles in life, you need to be able to overcome them and just keep going. You learn a lot through the journey of achieving goals. You can capitalize them and do better next time.

What advice do you have for others seeking to move ahead in their careers?

Have a clear idea which position you want, identify what the career path is and the leadership competencies that are needed for that position. Be honest with yourself, identify gaps or development needs that you may have, and find a great mentor. A mentor can help you to improve your weak spots as well as help you leverage your strengths. A mentor will be honest with you and advocate for you. I have been fortunate to have some great mentors in my career, and by getting to know each other and investing time in one another, my career has prospered as a result of these relationships.

ABOUT YOLANDA GONZALEZ

Yolanda Gonzalez is a District Manager for Wells Fargo in McAllen. Yolanda is a graduate from the University of Texas Pan American with a degree in business administration. She joined Wells Fargo in 2006 and leads a team of more than 240 team members in 11 store locations. She serves on the boards of the United Way Laredo, University of Texas Pan American Athletics Fund, Teach for America RGV, Food Bank, Southwest Community Investment Corporation-WBC, and RGV Regional Partnership Chamber of Commerce. She can be reached at 956-992-7390 or yolanda.gonzalez@wellsfargo.com

What was your first job?

When I was 16, I participated in a work study program at a local credit union and was hired as a clerk. Upon graduation from high school, I stayed at the credit union as a full time employee and worked in a variety of roles — teller, banker, loan officer and collector – it was a fantastic learning opportunity to serve many customers in different capacities.

Who was an early role model for you and why?

My greatest source of inspiration is my beloved mother. My mom diligently and courageously helped by father build a business from scratch, and I admire the courage she displayed in the face of adversity. My mom’s experience and reaction to challenging situations made her my greatest role model. She continues to be a great source of inspiration.

What is your leadership motto?

My leadership motto is reflected as a transformational leader. I feel that I have the ability to inspire and motivate my team beyond their job description. I try to help anticipate problems before they arise and challenge my team to embrace change.

What advice do you have for others seeking to move ahead in their careers?

My advice for others seeking to move ahead in their careers is to not be afraid of failing. I’ve seen too many people let one single failure completely redefine their career path. Yet challenges can create growth opportunities, and even failure can be required in order to move ahead and achieve a goal, but that’s really hard to remember when you’re feeling defeated. Handling failure, rejection, or disappointment in a productive way can be as beneficial to career development as a huge accomplishment.

To help more small businesses achieve financial success, in 2014 Wells Fargo introduced Wells Fargo Works for Small BusinessSM – a broad initiative to deliver resources, guidance and services for business owners. For more information about Wells Fargo Works for Small Business, visit: WellsFargoWorks.com. Follow us on Twitter @WellsFargoWorks.

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