March is Women's History Month – commemorating the important role of women in American history. At SmartBiz Loans, we’re honored to work with women entrepreneurs every day who contribute to the overall U.S. economy through small business ownership.
Women now own more than nine and a half million businesses, employing almost 8 million people and generating one and a half trillion in sales. They are truly making history every day.
Women who own businesses face unique challenges. In fact, up until 1988, women needed a man to co-sign their business loan! Although that’s not the case anymore, women still come up against roadblocks when trying to access business-building funds.
As an example, women account for only 14% of 7 (a) SBA loans granted.
Known as the “gold standard” in small business funding, these low-cost loans help businesses expand in many ways and women are missing out. At SmartBiz Loans, we’re proud that more than 30% of the 7(a) SBA loans we’ve facilitated through our bank partners were granted to women-owned businesses, a number significantly higher than the national average.
We often have the pleasure of speaking with our customers who have SBA loans to learn more about their unique entrepreneurial journey. One successful female business owner we had the pleasure of interviewing is K.T. Korngold, CEO and owner of the Center for Montessori Education, NY Inc.
She’s a second-generation female entrepreneur, taking over the business from her mother, a trail blazing leader in the Montessori world.
Since receiving a low-cost SBA loan in early 2018, K.T. has signed a contract for her business to train teachers in Vietnam and has expanded the Montessori Children’s Center, adding classrooms to accommodate more families in the community.
We spoke with K.T. about being a modern female entrepreneur.
SmartBiz: What challenges did you face starting a business as a woman?
K.T. Korngold: The biggest challenge was getting funding. I had taken the helm of a successful business that has been a leader in the field of education for a quarter of a century. I had demonstrated my skills and expertise by stabilizing the company, reducing debt, and by creating new income streams and new programs, including one overseas in Vietnam.
Yet, when I needed a loan to help move and renovate a new location for our center, I found most banks required my husband to guarantee the loan.
I am president and owner of my company. My husband has his own company. During the past 25 years of marriage, whenever he went for a business loan, not a single bank asked me to guarantee it.
Yet when I originally went for a business loan, they asked for my husband to guarantee the loan for me! Why is that kind of gender discrimination still allowed? I’m grateful to SmartBiz because they connected me with a bank that didn’t require that.
SB: What challenges do you face today as a woman running a business?
K.T.: As is the case for many working women, balancing work and family is a major challenge. I work hard, I work long hours, I don’t take a lot of vacation time, and I work many weekends.
SB: How do you find the right balance between work and family?
K.T.: Thankfully, my husband is supportive of my career and he does the grocery shopping for our family, which is a big help. My oldest daughter is away at college. My youngest is a teenager who is busy with school, friends and she is very independent.
She and I always do something special together once a week, though, to keep connected — see a movie, get our nails done, go for a hike.
I think my leadership as a CEO is great role modeling for her, demonstrating that a woman can be at the helm. We have dinner as a family together every evening— but it’s often very late. We take turns cooking for each other and then we always have meal time without cell phones. This helps family time be family time.
SB: Do you have advice for other female business owners?
K.T.: Don’t be afraid to enjoy working hard: it’s good to focus on your work and to build something that makes a positive difference in the world. Find a mentor or two and depend on them. Be a mentor to a woman or girl who is younger. There’s nothing more rewarding than helping someone find her voice, skills or talent. Acknowledge the women who have come before you to bring you where you are today and publicly recognize the people on your team.
Celebrate the successes of others. Apologize when you make a mistake. Be grateful that you are able to work for yourself — or as I always like to say: “I am grateful and honored to be able to work in the service of all the folks in my company!”
To learn more about K.T., read her business story featured on the SmartBiz Small Business Blog: New York’s Center for Montessori Education. Looking for more inspiration? We’ve rounded up quotes from creative business owners: 10 Successful Female Entrepreneurs and Their Secrets.
If you’re a female entrepreneur in need of low-cost funds for working capital or refinance of high interest debt, check out this article: SBA Loans for Women Owned Businesses.