Capital & Confidence | NAWBO


Capital & Confidence


A Q&A with Jill Calabrese Bain, Bank of America

Jill Calabrese Bain is the General Manager and Head of Small Business Sales for Bank of America Merchant Services. In this role, she is responsible for managing Small Business from an end-to-end perspective, leading sales and the oversight, development and delivery of critical business priorities. Jill joined Bank of America in 1992, and has been in the financial services industry for 24 years. Prior to her current role, Jill was the head of Bank of America Small Business sales, responsible for delivering banking, credit and cash management solutions, to small business clients, through a national team of small business bankers. Here, Jill answers four key questions about women, capital and confidence:

1) Why is it important to invest in women—both as small business owners and employees?

Women are fueling growth. By being bold and taking risks, women-owned businesses have made great strides in achieving equality—both in the workforce and in business—and we now play a vital role in driving U.S. economic growth. There are also no signs of women slowing down as they look to the future—according to the Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight, women entrepreneurs believe that in the next 20 years women will match or exceed men in a number of areas, including pay equity (61 percent), executive leadership (68 percent) and small business ownership (66 percent). To help women achieve these goals and to continue to empower women to be optimistic about their future, we need to continue to invest in them by providing better access to capital, mentorship and resources. It is our goal to support women as they break down the barriers they often face.

2) What is the most important tip you would offer to women seeking capital for their business?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are a variety of available resources you can turn to for lending advice, guidance and support—family members, friends, your professional network, financial experts, small business advocates, online content and more. Take advantage of this vast well of knowledge. If you are unsure where to turn, I encourage you to start by talking with your local small business banker. At Bank of America, our small business bankers provide solutions to meet the short- and long-term needs of individual small business owners. They take the time to learn about each small business, in order to best consult them to meet their business needs. I believe this is an invaluable resource available to small business owners as they plan for future growth.

However, sometimes a conventional loan is not always available. Remember that there are other options out there to help you grow your business. For instance, Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs, are private-sector local loan centers that provide affordable credit and financial services to underserved markets and populations, including women entrepreneurs.

What advice do you have for women entrepreneurs to achieve their financial goals?

Create a plan of action and don’t give up. I believe it is critical to create of a plan of action to reach the financial goals you have set for your business. Ask yourself, how will I achieve my goals? What steps do I need to take? Who do I need help from? When do I want to achieve my goals by? If you fail to ask yourself these questions and do not develop a plan of attack, you run the risk of not achieving the goals you have set—both for yourself and your business. When creating your action plan, make sure it is flexible.  If “plan A” doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean you can’t reach your goal—it just means that a different course of action is needed.

How can women entrepreneurs find confidence when applying for financing?

Confidence is key. A flaw many of us women have is that we lack confidence, which can impact our lives and careers in the long-term. This lack of confidence can often be the result of an inequality that we feel we may face. For example, the Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight found that nearly one in three women business owners feel they have less access to capital than their male counterparts. To gain the confidence needed to apply for and secure capital—and for other areas of business—women entrepreneurs should take advantage of the resources around them, including organizations such as NAWBO, an organization that understands, encourages and actively helps women business owners. Business owners can also turn to peers, mentors and online forums for advice.

Knowing what you want and possessing the knowledge needed to achieve it will empower you to have the confidence you need to walk into a room and ask for the financing you require, and deserve, to help your business succeed.