KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Women-owned businesses are the fastest growing in the United Sates but a new study says many of those women face tough hurdles when taking their businesses to the next level. New research done by Lead Bank in Kansas City says women own nearly 8.6 million businesses and generate $1.3 trillion in sales in the U.S. In that study, 35 percent of women businesses owners surveyed in the Kansas City area want to grow their business but 75 percent can’t get the funding they need. For start-up businesses it’s especially difficult.
Four months ago, Laura Norris opened up Ragazza, an Italian restaurant in Westport.
“I had a 20-year dream and it feels really great to be able to do,” Norris said.
But getting the money to fund her dream was the biggest challenge. Norris said almost every bank turned down her request for a loan.
"One of the weirdest questions that I got was whether I was married or not. I am not and that is seen as a negative in terms of borrowing money. That was difficult to hear because I’m pretty independent and I don’t need to be married to start my own business,” she said.
Bankers say that question is common and it often shoots at the confidence of women entrepreneurs.
"It's often been true that women have felt excluded from or underserved by or condescended to by traditional banking institutions," Vice Chairman of Lead Bank Josh Rowland said.
That was true for Norris.
"It's one of those things where you walk in and you're asking for a chunk of money and it's frightening," she said.
Norris contacted Rowland who connected her with the Women’s Employment Network in Kansas City. She was able to tap into financial resources to get her business off the ground. But bankers say more research needs to be done and women should continue to push for funding.
"If women are making money and growing their business, they have every right to go be powerful and ask or funding,” Rowland said.