Women Entrepreneurs Pave Path to Success

Date: September 15, 2014

Women-owned businesses are a powerful economic driver—even during tough times

A special guest column by Maria
Coyne, a KeyBank executive vice president and member of the bank’s Executive

As founder of Key4Women, KeyBank’s program for
women entrepreneurs, it’s been my privilege to work with hundreds of women
business owners who tapped Key4Women for access to capital, insight and
networking opportunities. Since 2005, Key4Women has loaned more than $6 billion
to women-owned businesses.

It’s no secret that women business owners are an
economic force. As of this year, there are an estimated 9.1 million women-owned
businesses in the United States that generate nearly $1.4 trillion in revenue
and employ 7.9 million people. Between 1997 and 2013, the number of women-owned
businesses grew at 1.5 times the national average. Only publicly traded firms
have done more for job creation than women business owners.

I was not the least bit surprised to learn that
women-owned businesses did more than just survive the recession—they thrived.
According to the National Women’s Business Council, despite significant
economic challenges—and when the recession was at its peak—women-owned
businesses either expanded employment or remained steady.

My years of working with women business owners gives
me perspective on the characteristics that likely helped women business owners
throughout the recession—and are helping them thrive today:

  • Bootstrapping.
    Most women business owners excel at this, and the recession merely magnified
    the need to have a laser focus on cash flow. Our Key4Women relationship
    managers help women-owned businesses with cash-flow challenges, suggesting
    solutions like digital payment services that can save time and money.
  • Connecting.
    It’s important for women business owners to exchange ideas. Key4Women helps
    women build their businesses by creating ways for women business owners to
    connect with each other. The women connect daily—sometimes hourly—through
    Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The program hosts monthly conference call
    presentations featuring experts discussing everything from the next hot
    industries to ways to engage employees.
  • Mentoring.
    I am a strong believer in the power of mentoring. Finding a mentor—someone to
    encourage and coach you—can make a huge difference. The same is true for being
    someone’s mentor. It’s not just a way to pay it forward; being a mentor helps
    develop leadership skills such as active listening. On a larger scale, research
    indicates women-owned firms that achieve more than $1 million in revenue use a
    board of advisors either formally or informally.
  • Knowing
    the bottom line
    . Many women become business owners to follow a passion—not
    because they adore reading financials. Leading a business means knowing all
    there is to know about that business, down to the last cent. Women who run
    their business by the numbers tend to be the most successful. There are big
    challenges ahead of us. I don’t know exactly what they will be. But I do know
    women business owners will do as they have always done—size up the problem and
    bootstrap their way to a solution.

Coyne is a KeyBank executive vice president and member of the bank’s Executive
Council. Coyne founded Key4Women, a program that supports women entrepreneurs.

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