February 17, 2015; The Ledger (Nashville, TN)

Pathway Lending, a nonprofit in Tennessee, is partnering with the Tennessee Small Business Development Center in the launch of the Ready.Fund.Grow! program and the new Women’s Business Center. The purpose of the program and center is to provide “small business owners and female business owners with greater access to lines of credit.”

In addition to helping business owners access capital up to $100,000, Pathway Lending will also connect owners with training, consulting, and resources to develop and support companies.

“When the SBA [Small Business Advice] put out a notification asking if there were any nonprofit organizations that wanted to participate in the Women’s Business Center program, we did a very quick proposal and not even 60 days later were provided notification that we would receive the designation,” Amy Bunton, Pathway Lending’s senior vice president, said.

As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported this month, Tennessee is not the only state to be helping guide female business owners. Propelle is “a networking organization dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs connect” and run a successful business:

“Women-owned businesses are the fastest-growing segment of the economy, but access to capital and entrepreneurial support is still lacking across many sectors, according to a 2014 report from the National Association for Women Business Owners.”

The company conducts many events as well as coaching workshops to help women “achieve their goals and dreams” as well as “train and inspire women to reach their fullest potential.”

“At each [Propelle] meeting, you talk about what you’re going to work on in the next month. And that accountability helps make you do things, even if you’re waiting until the day before the next meeting to do them,” said Erin Szymanski, who has gone through Propelle’s program. “It’s not about hand-holding, but the encouragement and the direction they offered was so important.”

According to Forbes, startup incubator Y Combinator in San Francisco has maintained a 4 percent female clientele. The reason? Most of the applicants to Y Combinator are favored if they have a technical cofounder. Other programs that do not focus on technology have been more successful in fostering women entrepreneurs.

So, how can the climate of women entrepreneurs be changed across the board? Much like Propelle, startup business owners need networks and mentors. As Anne Doyle mentioned in her book Powering Up!, women should not be afraid to help one another become successful. Instead of ignoring or sabotaging female colleagues, the more women stand up and help one another, the more success women will begin to have, regardless of sector. –Erin Lamb