Woman washing hands

Capital for women business owners who need it

Grameen America’s microloans nurture the spirit of enterprise for women striving to get out of poverty

Today, there are more than 11.6 million women-owned small businesses in the United States, employing nearly 9 million people. And while these businesses generate an estimated $1.7 trillion in salesfoot note1, when it comes to securing traditional financing, many women face an uphill battle. Take, for example, Patricia, a seamstress in Brooklyn, New York, who has been making dresses by hand for more than 15 years. Ten years ago, the shop she worked in as a tailor had to close its doors. Patricia saw an opportunity to start her own business and continue her trade. However, with very limited access to traditional loans, she struggled to secure the $1,500 needed for materials to create her one-of-a-kind pieces. All of that changed when a friend introduced Patricia to Grameen America.

In the video above, Grameen America Chief Executive Officer Andrea Jung discusses why women entrepreneurs often struggle to find funding for their ideas, and how Grameen is stepping in to provide opportunity, particularly for women living in poverty. “We give women – those who have been traditionally unbanked or underbanked—the opportunity to get fair and equal access to capital,” says Jung. “We believe funding women-owned businesses is fundamental to a healthy economy—and will be instrumental in helping the US. economy recover from the coronavirus.” A Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), Grameen America makes business loans and provides training and support to women from low- and moderate-income communities—since 2008, the organization has helped thousands of entrepreneurial women living in poverty build small businesses. Bank of America has worked with Grameen America for many years, providing grants of $1,150,000 since 2010 and a $10 million loan in December 2019.

In Patricia’s case, Grameen provided an initial $1,500 loan, allowing her to buy fabric, thread and her own sewing machine. A decade into their relationship, the organization has invested more than $70,000 in Patricia’s growing enterprise—and she is just one of 132,000+ women who have received nearly $1.6 billion in lending from Grameen America, creating almost 140,000 jobs since the organization’s founding in 2008foot note2.

Despite the progress they’ve made, Grameen America’s clients were particularly hard-hit by the health crisis, as they are primarily small businesses with limited resources in low-income communities. In fact, 25% of its nearly 50,000 members reported that they, or at least one family member, contracted the coronavirus, and l 85% were concerned their business would not survive into the fall of 2020. Recognizing the need for additional assistance, Bank of America stepped in with a $250,000 grant to support the Grameen America Economic Relief and Recovery Package.

In the wake of the coronavirus, Grameen America adjusted to provide virtual support to its members. Jung notes that the opportunity to connect with other business owners has been critical, both emotionally and professionally. “Right now, we have 2,458 online meetings going on each week,” Jung says. “Our members are able to share their challenges, provide advice to each other and, maybe most important, remind each other that they’re not alone.”

Learn more about how Bank of America is working alongside community lenders such as Grameen America to help support small businesses through the health crisis—and create economic and career opportunities for historically underserved communities across the country. 

Updated on 01/04/2021.
Originally published on 11/06/2020.