Turning Stigma into Strength: Why Women Entrepreneurs Should Embrace Business Financing 


By BHG Financial, a proud Forum Sponsor of the 2024 WPO Entrepreneurial Excellence Forum

BHG Financial has had the fortunate opportunity to work with many women-owned businesses. We sat down with a few owners separately and learned how they felt about reaching success, overcoming challenges, and the role financing plays.   

As stated by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), women in business face an ongoing gender cap in the pursuit of financing. It reported, “Gender inequalities between women and men in access to capital and markets persist across sectors and types of financing. Women entrepreneurs face barriers to capital—in raising debt, equity, or supplying goods and services to global value chains—and they are underrepresented at all levels of the financial system.” [1]

One successful entrepreneur familiar with overcoming stigma and financial challenges is Jackie Ferrari, Founder and CEO of American Fashion Network (AFN). AFN is a highly successful manufacturing business that crafts uniforms, workwear, and corporate apparel.  

For Jackie, she saw the apparent divide. "I feel like men can say, hey, I need ten grand so I can make payroll…women can't do that because that, to us, feels like a failure."   

Whether your business is a startup or established for years, the choices for funding should be a tool to help, not hinder.  

That perspective of averting failure is likely not uncommon. An article [2] on the topic of closing the gender gap in startup funding described a psychological construct when it looked at the difference between male and female entrepreneur startup pitches. Those initial interviews by VC firms found that male business owners looking for funds were asked more questions about how they would make their businesses succeed versus asking women how they would prevent failure. The questions to men were more positive than the questions to women, assuming failure could be more likely an option.   

But that is not to say these stigmas are not being overcome. For Jackie, there came a point when her perspective shifted, seeing funding as a chance for success instead of a signal of failure. “Maybe there is a product that will help me scale and grow this business for this pivotal point that I'm at. And I made the phone call, and the rest is history,” she stated.   

The rest was history or perhaps history in the making, as her business is thriving, having been awarded the first federal government contract with the United States Marine Corps, a Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) federal contract for the U.S. Air Force, and was mentioned in the White House's "Buy American" press release.   

[1] IFC, Closing the Gender Finance Gap Through the Use of Blended Finance. Oct. 2022. Closing the Gender Finance Gap Through the Use of Blended Finance (ifc.org) 

[2] Kanze, D., Huang, L., Conley, M. A., & Higgins, E. T. (2018). We ask men to win and women not to lose: Closing the gender gap in startup funding. Academy of Management Journal, 61(2), 586-614. 


About the Author

BHG Financial (BHG) is a national leader in providing financial solutions to professionals and financial institutions. Since 2001, BHG has provided $17 billion in loan solutions, helping customers achieve greater financial flexibility in their business and personal lives. With flexible financial solutions, a simplified process, some of the longest loan terms, and personalized service, BHG Financial's approach to lending sets it apart in the market.  

BHG Financial also provides high-quality assets to small- to mid-sized banks via its Institutional Network. One of the largest bank networks in the country, it has over 1,600 members. The network supports financial institutions nationwide by helping with asset growth via access to BHG Financial’s top-performing loans through its state-of-the-art loan delivery platform and by offering premium regulatory services.   

BHG Financial is partially owned by Pinnacle Bank (PNFP) and has headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and Syracuse, NY. To represent the company's growth and dedication to continuously expanding its services, Bankers Healthcare Group became BHG Financial in 2021. For more information, visit https://bhgfinancial.com.