Women meet challenges in business

Published: Monday, Sept. 3 2012 6:00 p.m. MDT

Candace Klein speaks to local entrepreneurs in Salt Lake City last month.

Bad Girl Ventures, Bad Girl Ventures

SALT LAKE CITY — Candace Klein is an Ohio-based entrepreneur who has won more than 14 business competitions.

Though Klein has been able to enjoy a fair amount of success, it has not been without challenges.

Having started out as a corporate and securities lawyer in 2008, she saw firsthand the difficulties facing women entrepreneurs and business owners.

Most of her clients were start-ups and banks, she said, and one of the main themes she heard and experienced herself was how tough it was to obtain funding.

"In 2008, the economy fell apart, and my start-up clients were telling me they couldn’t get financing and they were going to have to close their doors," said Klein, a featured speaker during a recent mentor and strategy session targeting female entrepreneurs in Salt Lake City.

Upon seeing the potentially devastating impacts, she became obsessed with finding alternative financing options for her clients and others in similar circumstances "to try to find a way to get money into the hands of my legal clients.”

Klein studied the various kinds of alternative options and eventually launched her own resource firm called Bad Girl Ventures, a nonprofit micro-finance company that invests in women-owned businesses and start-ups.

"The company was just born out of a need I found in my law practice," she explained.

Klein also founded SoMoLend, a technology platform that connects business borrowers seeking loans with lenders looking to make a return on investment. In Utah, SoMoLend has partnered with KeyBank — which is lending a minimum of $50 million.

"The No. 1 challenge to start with was finding financing, (and) continues to be one," said Marian Rivkind, president and CEO of Yolka Chocolates of Salt Lake City.

The 33-year old working mother and wife initially worked in marketing, then started a hairstyling business before launching her latest venture — an ornamental chocolate producer.

Rivkind described the concern of obtaining adequate funding and running a full-time home-based business as "a constant struggle."

Citing an experience she had at a local bank where a male banker referred to her as "the hairstylist mom," she said, "I knew that it was all about (being a woman) and not what my capabilities are."

Rivkind said that being a woman has definitely added to the challenge of being an entrepreneur.

"It absolutely is harder for women in business,” she said.

While many women have found accessing resources difficult, Pam Schulte, founder of Lucky Spoon Bakery — a purveyor of gluten free products, said her experience has been quite different.

"If anything, there seem to be more opportunity," Schulte said. "People want to support businesses owned by women."

She noted the numerous entities dedicated to aiding in the development and financial viability of women owned firms, such as Bad Girl Ventures.

According to the Women's Funding Network, females make up half of the professional workforce. Fortune 500 companies with a higher percentage of women officers enjoy an average of a 35 percent higher return on equity and a 35 percent higher total return to shareholders than companies with a low percentage of women in corporate office, a Women's Funding Network report stated.

The number of women entrepreneurs is also growing. Over the past decade, the number of women-owned start-ups has increased twice as fast as the number owned by men. Today one in four businesses are owned by women.

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