Currently, 40% of businesses in the US are owned by women.* As this number continues to grow, gaining adequate financial support and financial education remain issues facing female entrepreneurs. Key Bank’s program, Key4Women, aims to address these concerns through a network of resources directed specifically towards women in business.
The program was launched back in 2005 in an effort to support female entrepreneurs and increase their access to capital. This past October, the program was revamped in response to the 1,821 women-owned businesses that are opened each day.*
The goal of the program — which is nationwide in scope, but has already made an impact here in Westchester — “is to advocate, connect, and empower women and help them overcome their financial challenges and really build financial confidence,” says Barb Smith, Director of Key4Women. Support is offered at no cost through financial advisors, networking events, and access to knowledge to increase women’s financial confidence. There is no membership fee to join, nor is having an account with KeyBank a requirement to participate in the program.
Barb Smith believes that the number one challenge for female entrepreneurs is access to capital. In order to improve this problem, $6 billion has been loaned to women owned businesses since the creation of the Key4Women program in 2005.
Gloria Foster, who owns A Rising Star Children’s Center in Cortlandt Manor, is one of the members of the program who struggled to finance her children center which will be celebrating its 15th year of business this July. In order to grow her business, she needed the proper space to do so. “Getting a bank to approve a loan like this was no easy feat,” Foster states. After being turned down by other banks, a representative from KeyBank helped her analyze her financial plans and guided her through the process of obtaining a small business loan. “After my experience, I reached out to join the Key4Women program so that I could spread the word to the community about these resources available,” she says.
Another female Westchester entrepreneur, Mary Agnes Vetell Antonopoulos, finds the program’s sense of community and business coaching especially impactful. She attended her first Key4Women event April 3, with speaker and success coach Ivy Slater, at Manhattanville College in Purchase. Antonopoulos has acted as the CEO of her digital marketing agency, ViralMark, for the past 14 years. Balance has been her biggest issue managing her business thus far. “My biggest roadblock is time; I work 90 hours a week,” Antonopoulos says. “After listening to Ivy Slater and the experience of the other female entrepreneurs, I made a call to fire my biggest client, which will save me 25 hours a week.” Antonopoulos attributes her decision to the guidance she received to prioritize living a balanced life. Her enthusiasm for the event was amplified by the plans made to keep the community strong even after the event. A Facebook group as well as a scheduled monthly Zoom call were created in order to make it easy for the attendees to stay connected. Antonopoulos says, “I admire Key4Women for continually casting the net of support so people can reach out when they’re ready.”
*Statistics via she-conomy.com