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Four out of every ten businesses – totaling over 12 million in the U.S. – are owned by women, and the number of women-owned businesses has increased 114% over the past two decades. In fact, women are now starting businesses at a rate of more than 1,800 per day. These women-owned businesses employ 9.4 million Americans – 8% of the total private sector workforce – and generate over $1.9 trillion in revenue.

Women-owned businesses, including those firms owned equally by men and women, now account for 49% of all businesses, employ over 14% of the workforce, and account for over $3.1 trillion in sales. By all accounts, these numbers are terrific and trending upward. That’s the good news.

Here’s the bad.

Female entrepreneurs surveyed state that their most pressing challenge in starting and running a small business continues to be funding related – lack of capital and cash flow. Only 6% of women reported that they were able to use an SBA loan to fund their business, which is 24% less than men. This figure is consistent with nationwide statistics, which report that business loan approval rates for women are considerably lower than those for men – 15 to 20% lower, in fact.

Without access to traditional sources, women are often left with less capital to start their businesses, which is a clear obstacle to achieving business success. Many women are forced to use cash as their primary funding source for starting their businesses and often must rely on investments from family and friends.

In spite of these capital access challenges, female entrepreneurs are still reporting high levels of happiness – similar to men – as business owners, and most appear to be thriving. In fact, a recent study showed a 12% increase in year-over-year revenue for women-owned businesses, and an analysis by Fortune had similar favorable results; women-led companies had higher overall returns than the S&P 500.

Anyone familiar with small business knows the daily challenges that entrepreneurs face, and it’s a shame that funding continues to be of primary concern. However, in New Mexico, there are three SBA approved micro-lenders that offer financing to those that might not otherwise meet the criteria of banks and other traditional lenders.

WESST: With 6 locations statewide, including Albuquerque and Rio Rancho, the WESST loan program focuses on providing critical business consulting, training, and technical assistance for our loan recipients, to maximize their chances for success. (wesst.org)

The Loan Fund: The Loan Fund was founded in 1989 to help alleviate poverty by creating and preserving job opportunities throughout New

Mexico, particularly in low-income and underserved communities. (loanfund.org)

DreamSpring: Their diverse team of lending officers help new and seasoned entrepreneurs from various backgrounds. Each loan is designed to meet the unique needs of each client. (dreamspring.org)

(Brad Crowson is the Regional Manager for WESST, a nonprofit small business development and training organization dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs in Rio Rancho and throughout New Mexico.

For more information, visit wesst.org or call 505-892-1238.)