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Sorenson Impact Institute: Women- and Women-of-Color-Owned Businesses in Utah Need Access to New Financial Products to Scale

New Study Examines Barriers to Capital Access From Traditional Lenders

SALT LAKE CITY – The Sorenson Impact Institute at the University of Utah, a multidisciplinary organization focused on connecting capital to impact to help solve complex global challenges, today released a research report “Unlocking Potential: Financing Women- and Women-of-Color-Owned Businesses in Utah.” The report, funded by JPMorgan Chase Foundation as part of Project DEEP (Developing Equitable Economies Program), explores the critical issue of capital access for women- and women-of-color-owned businesses.

The report makes the case for creating a new, dedicated growth loan product which would directly address the primary obstacles to accessing business loans from traditional financial institutions. Access to such growth loans could enable businesses to scale beyond the start-up phase, support revenue growth and expansion, improve fiscal stability, and contribute to community development.

The newly released report showcases Phase 2 of Project DEEP, a multi-pronged initiative designed to accelerate the growth of underrepresented entrepreneurs. The project aims to disrupt the status quo around entrepreneurship and investing by accelerating the growth of women and people of color entrepreneurs. The effort also equips stakeholders with the knowledge to better support the success of diverse entrepreneurs. Phase 1 established access to capital as a major barrier to growth for these entrepreneurs, while Phase 2 focused on understanding the capital needs, financing landscape, and challenges in accessing capital for Utah’s women and women of color entrepreneurs.

Interviews with financial institutions detailed in the report, including three Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), identified challenges and effective solutions for supporting underserved entrepreneurs in Utah. Despite not specifically targeting women, more than 50% of loans offered by the CDFIs interviewed were given to women entrepreneurs. While these and other financial institutions have increasingly extended support to these entrepreneurs, there is still a gap in access to larger capital loans.

The report also found several notable differences between women-owned businesses and men-owned businesses in Utah. Women-owned businesses tend to have shorter operational histories, employ fewer workers, and operate in different industries than men-owned businesses. Additionally, businesses owned by women of color typically have larger workforces, shorter business tenures, and operate in slightly different industries than other women-owned businesses in the State.

These differences in women- and men-owned business in Utah noted throughout the report contribute to challenges in accessing capital, even when accounting for factors like financial literacy, mistrust of financial institutions, and business sophistication. Key characteristics include years of operation, loan size, business revenue, operating expenses, and profit margins— all of which are influenced by the choice of industry.

Dr. Nzinga Broussard, Director of Impact Measurement at the Sorenson Impact Institute, expounded, “Understanding the varied factors that influence banks’ willingness to lend is crucial in addressing the significant challenge of capital access for women and women of color entrepreneurs.”

Financial institutions targeting underserved entrepreneurs rely on alternative underwriting practices to help counteract the limitations for accessing capital. They often provide technical assistance services to their clients, sometimes requiring the services as a condition for receiving financing. CDFIs were specifically included in the research because of their focus on expanding economic opportunity in low-income communities by providing access to financial products and services. Danielle (Danni) Wright, Head of J.P. Morgan Private Bank in Utah and Idaho, emphasized the role of these financial institutions in addressing capital-access inequities,

“We’ve invested over $2 billion in [CDFIs], including support of Suazo business center’s CDFI certification and the Utah Microloan Fund’s loan loss reserve fund right here in Utah. CDFIs help extend our reach into underserved communities and affect change through supporting development of housing, community facilities, and small businesses that contribute to thriving neighborhoods, such as grocery stores, day care centers, schools and health clinics. This financing also incentivizes and drives funding, helping to create jobs and address important economic and social inequities in under-resourced areas,” said Wright.

The findings and recommendations of the report demonstrate the potential for CDFIs and other financial institutions to drive continuous, larger economic growth by utilizing new growth loan products to bridge the growth gap for women and women-of-color entrepreneurs in Utah.

Read the full report here.

 

About Sorenson Impact Institute

The Sorenson Impact Institute helps organizations achieve their impact vision by connecting capital to impact through innovative finance structuring, impact measurement and management, impact strategy, and storytelling. The Institute is proudly housed at the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business where the program helps train future leaders in impact through internships and academic programming. Learn more at sorensonimpactinstitute.com.