From home-based startups to expanding international companies, women-owned businesses are on the rise in Utah. In fact, Utah ranks among the 10 fastest-growing states since the recession in terms of combined economic clout — combining growth in the number, employment and revenues of women-owned businesses over the past nine years — according to the 2016 State of Women-Owned Business Report commissioned by American Express OPEN.

Since 2012, women-owned businesses in Utah increased by 36.3 percent and sales increased 38.8 percent, according to the same report. But this exciting trajectory is checked by a sobering statistic: Men start their businesses with nearly twice as much capital as women — and lack of access to capital is blamed for preventing the growth of women-owned small businesses, according to a study by the National Women’s Business Council.

In addition, the report found that too many women underestimate themselves and their business’ growth potential even though the data confirms that they are more likely than their male counterparts to see growth. So how can we educate women to give them both the confidence and the financial backing they need to grow their business and keep our economy moving forward? Fortunately, there are myriad resources in our community that provide tangible and intangible assistance.

Preparation is key. The first step in gaining access to capital is preparation. Women need to approach lenders fully prepared and educated on their goals, with a genuine business plan that is wellresearched and thoroughly written. For new entrepreneurs in need of assistance with this step, a wealth of resources is available.

Here are eight key steps women should consider when preparing for a small-business loan:

1. Have a Vision. For your business to be successful, you must start and operate it with a clear understanding of your customers, your strengths, your competitive environment and your vision for the future.

2. Take Advantage of Resources. Contact your local U.S. Small Business Administration office to find out about business counseling services and related programs. You can start with www.sba.gov. The Salt Lake Chamber’s Women’s Business Center offers online tools, networking events and other resources. More information is available at www.wbcutah.com. You can also find out how to tap into the expertise from SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) by visiting SCORE.org.

3. Write a Business Plan. Ben Franklin said it best: “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Every business needs a well-written plan to grow and succeed. A good business plan tells your investors and employees how your revenues are turned into income. By expending the effort to develop a comprehensive business plan, you will have a powerful tool for attracting investors. Your business plan is the roadmap for your company. Every well-thought-out business plan includes a description of products and services, a competitive analysis, a marketing plan, a management plan and a financial plan. Business plans are vital instruments for raising capital from bank lenders or potential investors.

4. Remember, Cash is King. Preparing regular cash flow statements is essential for running your business. Without cash on hand, you’ll have a difficult time keeping daily operations moving, especially since cash flow is considered the lifeblood of any company. The cash flow statement may be the most important financial document you prepare. It traces the flow of funds for working capital into and out of your business during an accounting period. For a small business, a cash flow statement should probably be prepared as frequently as possible, either monthly or quarterly since an annual statement is a must for any business.

5. Find the Right Lender. Choose a safe, sound lending institution that has expertise in small-business lending. Then, make sure your lender is knowledgeable about your type of business.

6. Make a Plan Before You Start. Don’t wait until you’re desperate for capital before you start looking for a lender. Plan ahead for all the capital you will need rather than making multiple loans to cover unforeseen events. Even when the events are positive ones, your working capital should cover the whole of your enterprise.

7. Meet Expectations. Be assertive in obtaining information from you banker. Ask when decisions are expected, then call at the designated time to avoid unpleasant surprises.

8. Sell Your Vision. It’s your job to tell the great story of your company. Keep a continuous scorecard of your business’ achievements. Be prepared to show off your game plan, creations and your contacts to potential lenders. Chantel Chase is a vice president and business banker at Zions Bank, based at Zions Bank’s Kaysville Financial Center. She will receive the 2017 Athena Award from the Davis Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Committee in February.

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