Cathy Bass, BFS Capital

What inspired you to start your own company and what was the most difficult part about making this leap?

I had always known that I would have my own company one day. Growing up, I worked in factories for my father and saw how hard the factory workers had it employees work. They had no choices regarding their futures. I was determined to start my own business so that I could do what I enjoyed and build a career instead of supporting someone else’s career. My children were young when I started my company and I was the major bread winner for the family. I was working over 60 hours a week for someone else and had to sacrifice watching my children grow up. I knew if I stayed where I was that my life would never change. I had to cut down on spending at first, as I couldn’t make the income I had been making at the time. But I knew in the long run, my hard work would pay off.

How have your experiences being a woman in business affected the way you lead your current business?

When I first entered the lending business, I realized that women in the industry were few and far between. This was a male dominated industry and there was no room for women at the top. I had a lot to prove, and I did so with knowledge and passion. Today, I look for women that have the drive and passion it takes to succeed. Women in management can multitask; we are born with that trait and it is evident in the women that I have surrounded myself. They have drive and passion.

What is your message for women and girls looking to get involved in the financial industry?

Know your product, know the industry, have a great passion for your position and what you can contribute. Don’t let anyone tell you what your limits are, you decide. Follow that passion and create a path for yourself and never waiver even if you experience hard times because they will occur. Keep your head up and always continue to learn and grow and teach others.

Women-owned businesses are one of the fastest growing segments of the small business community. That community is what the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), a federal government agency, is here to serve: our nation’s small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Women in business

More women are taking risks and launching businesses of their own and every woman knows that it isn’t easy. Despite that, they are becoming an economic powerhouse. There are ten million woman-owned businesses in this country. They employ 8.4 million people and contribute $1.4 trillion to our economy. This is why it is so important to foster female business ownership. The good thing is that with more female entrepreneurs, there’s now a larger community to tap into for knowledge, expertise and more.

One of the SBA’s many impactful efforts for women came from the passage of H.R. 5050 in 1998. It launched the Women’s Business Centers’ initiative under our Office of Women’s Business Ownership to better help women overcome barriers to business ownership. Now the SBA has approximately 110 Women’s Business Centers across the nation that foster natural mentoring and educational networks for women while encourageing the sharing of what they’ve learned. In total, they’ve guided more than 1.5 million female entrepreneurs in starting and running their businesses.

Helping entrepreneurs

While access to capital can be especially challenging for female business owners, the SBA’s lending numbers reflect the SBA’s ongoing commitment to help businesses that have faced greater challenges with financing. Nationally, the agency has seen loan dollar amounts to women grow over the last five years. More than $165 million of SBA-guaranteed loans went to women-owned small businesses in the U.S. last year, surpassing FY 2016’s amount by nearly 26 percent.

The SBA’s 68 district offices throughout the nation are ready to serve female entrepreneurs and its website is a great place to begin research. The Business Guide online covers just about every area of concern for someone who wants to start or grow a business. For those looking for capital, SBA’s online Lender Match connects small business owners with banks interested in providing funding. And, the SBA website offers dozens of free, online trainings that can be accessed around the clock.

There’s only one way for female entrepreneurs to go: up. The SBA recognizes it isn’t just about the agency’s support that makes the difference. It is about women showing up and taking the steps to use the tools available to help them start, grow and succeed with their own business.