If you think it's hard getting a loan for your new business because you only need a few thousand dollars, try doing it with an employment gap due to family responsibilities or bad credit caused by a spouse. These are the types of problems women business owners face every day, but a new organization has big plans to change the microloan landscape for women entrepreneurs.
Count Me In for Women's Financial Independencejust launched a high-profile campaign to collect $5 donations to fund an online microloan program for women entrepreneurs. Created by Take Your Daughter to Work Day founder Nell Merlano and former chief of staff of the United States Information Agency Iris Burnett, Count Me In will use a nontraditional credit scoring system to provide loans to women who may not be eligible for traditional loans.
"There are numbers that speculate that up to 6 million women want to start businesses, so we know there's a need [for these microloans,]" says Burnett. "We also know, based on the White House Women's Economic Summit, that women are perceived as consumers of products, not producers of wealth and jobs. We want to change that."
The first-year goal for the program is to raise $25 million by bringing in donations of $5-though larger donations are accepted of course. Donations will be accepted online, and a kit for organizing community fundraising drives is also available at the Count Me In site.
The money will be used to provide loans of $500 to $10,000 with rates fixed at 2- to 4-percent over prime and repayment terms ranging between 12 and 36 months. Loan applications will be available on the site later this month; the first loan recipients will be announced the week of July 4.
"Most women entrepreneurs I know started their businesses on a credit card or a family loan. I don't know a lot of women who started by just going to a bank and getting a loan. That doesn't happen frequently," says Burnett. "We want all the people who've had any problems [finding funding] to give other women the opportunity to start a business without those problems and with the kind of dignity and respect they deserve."