Last summer, New York City was named the “Best City in the World for Women Entrepreneurs.” Now, the city’s initiative, WE NYC, is further validating the title with WE Fund: Crowd, a crowdfunding program designed to champion women business owners.
Through Kiva, a not-for-profit crowdfunding platform, any female can apply for a zero-interest loan of up to $10,000, and the city will contribute the first 10% towards their goal. The $3 million program plans to help 500 women launch their businesses over the next three years.
“70% of women entrepreneurs in New York City cite access to capital as a major challenge as they launch and grow companies,” said the mayor’s office. About half of female entrepreneurs in New York City need less than $10,000 to launch their business, but poor traditional loan options and steep interest rates make this money hard to come by.
While women own nearly 30% of small businesses, they only receive 4.4% of the money in conventional small business loans made. Research shows this could be because women tend to be more reluctant than men to ask for money. To bypass this uncomfortable process, WE Fund: Crowd uses Kiva to connect entrepreneurs with strangers already looking to invest.
Supporting women on their entrepreneurial journeys has an impact on more than just one life. “Leveling the playing field for women entrepreneurs will help grow and diversify our economy, and strengthen our families and neighborhoods,” said Mayor de Blasio. “With Kiva, we will help launch small businesses that might otherwise never get off the ground.” Since starting the WE Fund: Crowd program in November, 80% of the city’s loans were given to women of color and 35% to immigrants.
Although conditions for female entrepreneurs are still far from ideal, WE NYC’s initiatives are helping the city take big steps in the right direction. “At the end of the day, it’s finance, construction, and those [industries] are still dominated by men,” said Leon-Soon, a member of WE NYC. “We’re doing something about it. The city’s making moves.”
To get involved with events, mentorship, or the WE Fund: Crowd program, visit WE NYC’s website.