Trade Tuesday For Women In Business: Financing Growth

Women entrepreneurs often start businesses using less capital than men due to limitations in income and reserves as well as lack of knowledge about the availability of institutional funding. They are less likely to use bank loans to fund the commencement of operations and more likely to borrow from family and friends and use non-traditional/non-institutional lenders. This manifests in the relatively smaller sizes of the businesses that they run.

On Tues 2nd April, OWIT Nairobi hosted a seminar – ‘Financing Growth’ – in partnership with Gulf Africa Bank.  It was an insightful conversation.  In addition to the presentation made by GAB, the OWIT members & guests took it as an opportunity to ask everything & anything about raising capital to finance growth.

The key takeaways for me were;

  1. Build a relationship with your Banker.  An Account Manager who has a relationship with you – who almost has a ‘vested interest’ in the success of your business, is more likely to push for your behind the scenes.  Yes, it’s true – banks have processes & procedures, but there are often times when exceptions can be made.  These exceptions are more likely to be made when you & your business are more than just another number.
  2. Don’t assume your banker knows & understands your business.  You must be able to tell your story.  Not only that, your numbers must tell the same story!  Your banker will make decisions based on the story that the numbers tell, so make sure that what you are saying – the story you are selling (and entrepreneurs are great at selling stories), matches the story your books tell.
  3. Maintain good records.  Sorry ladies – there is no getting around this one.  Regardless of the relationship you have with your banker, there are some documents that are a mandatory requirement.  As you prepare to approach your banker for financing – so that you can grow your business, get your stuff in order.  Identify the documentation that banks typically require & make sure that you are compliant.  The great thing about getting your books in order is this – not only will it help you secure the financing, it is actually good for your business!

We often find ourselves working in our business’ – running around like headless chickens, worrying about operational issues.  We need to move to a place where we are working on our business’ – looking at ways that we can implement our strategic plans & tracking how well we are achieving the long term goals that we have set.  Access to finance is an integral part of this.  At some point or another – in order to grow, you will need an influx of cash.  If you plan to borrow, start preparing for it now, so that when the time comes, the process is less of a hassle!

Mucha Mlingo is the current President of OWIT, The Organisation of Women In International Trade, the Nairobi Chapter.  OWIT Nairobi has a vision to empower women to transform communities through global trade. To learn more about OWIT Nairobi & how you can be a member, visit

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