finding financingAs we are in the thick of National Women’s Small Business month, it made sense to highlight the opportunities and challenges that women face.

Women are starting businesses at twice the rate of their male counterparts, and Bank of America’s recent Women Business Owner Spotlight report highlights that women are even more optimistic than the men surveyed on their 12-month revenue and overall 5-year growth rates.

However, around 28 percent of the women surveyed believed that they had more challenges than men in gaining access to capital for their businesses, and even more believed there was a glass ceiling.

I recently moderated a Small Business Social Series panel presented by Bank of America*, which included NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) NYC President Elect, Maisha Walker, The SBA’s Erin Andrew and Bank of America Small Business Sales Executive, Elizabeth Romero, and we generated fantastic tips and strategies on resources to help women small business owners take their business to the next level.

You can watch the full event here, but some of the key takeaways included:

Focus on Your Numbers Before You Think You Need Capital. Many business owners don’t spend enough time learning key financial metrics, reviewing their financial statements and understanding what drives profitability—or lack thereof—in their own business.  This leads to questionable operational decision making and often results in entrepreneurs attempting to secure financing only when they really need it—which is often the most difficult time to get it!  Numbers aren’t the scary beasts they are portrayed to be when you take the time to learn how to approach them.  Doing so may allow you to do things like set up a line of credit with your bank before you even think you need it, so when you do need it, it is there for you.

Engage Your Small Business Banker. Creating a relationship with a small business banker is key.  Many entrepreneurs don’t do this at all, while others wait too long. Creating the relationship early (aka before you think you need to) helps your banker understand your business trajectory and shape your decision making. They can also connect you with other resources, from alternative sources of capital to key service providers and more.

Seek Out New Markets. Several of our panelists work with organizations that help secure government contracts and teach businesses how to export. A staggering statistic shows that women who had employees and exported had businesses about 14 times as large on average than one that didn’t. Looking to expand in new ways can have a major business impact for all entrepreneurs, but especially for women.

Leverage Resources. Our panel shared all kinds of resources available. Bank of America has a Global Ambassadors program that connects women to mentoring and also supports the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program, which helps find affordable loans. NAWBO provides support and masterminds. The SBA partners with SBICs to provide funding and works with SCORE to provide free mentoring. There is an almost endless amount of support and help available to you if you are willing to seek it out and take advantage of it.

You can get more details on these tips and some additional tactics to help gain even more momentum in your business by watching the short discussion.  If you take the time to invest in your business and seek out these resources, it can help pay great dividends in your business.

* Disclosure: this company has a client relationship with or its affiliated entities