Connecting women entrepreneurs with opportunity
For two days in October 2019, at the Moody’s Analytics Learning Solutions office in Toronto, 25 women business owners joined market-specific educators, credit advisors and financial experts to roll up their sleeves and tackle their biggest business challenges.
The intensive boot camp was the second in a series of three pilots for Financing Your Growing Business, a global training program for women entrepreneurs developed in partnership with WEConnect International. In addition to the in-person boot camps, the program includes an online curriculum to reach even more women around the world.
A partner in Moody’s Reshape Tomorrow™ initiative, WEConnect International links women-owned businesses to qualified buyers around the world. Together, Moody’s and WEConnect aim to empower women in business with the resources, knowledge and connections they need to access capital and scale their enterprises so that they can strengthen their economies and communities.
Fighting the credit gap, fueling the economy
Organizations across the globe agree that investing in women can boost economic growth. Yet less than 1% of the money that large global buyers spend on vendors goes to women-owned businesses. And with an estimated $1.5 trillion annual credit gap worldwide, those businesses are not getting the funding they need.
Less than 1%
Money spent by large global buyers that goes to women-owned businesses
Estimated annual credit gap for women worldwide
Through Financing Your Growing Business, Moody’s and WEConnect International are giving women business owners the information and tools they need to face some of the most critical challenges to growth: access to markets and capital.
Prior to developing the program curriculum, Moody’s and WEConnect held listening sessions to ensure that the education we delivered would meet the business owners’ needs. The Moody’s Analytics Learning Solutions team also reviewed the content and offered input based on their expertise.
The Financing Your Growing Business program began with pilots in Lagos, Nigeria; Toronto, Canada; and Frankfurt, Germany. The program provided each boot camp free of charge and featured expert education as well as networking and mentorship opportunities for women business owners. These pilot locations allowed Moody’s and WEConnect to test the effectiveness of the program in both mature and emerging markets and will provide a baseline for future expansion.
The two-day course included classroom-style sessions, group work and case studies specifically developed to educate women on creditworthiness and financing and give them the tools to develop a capital plan. Members of the Moody’s Analytics team helped create videos based on the session topics, which are available online to WEConnect’s network of more than 10,000 women business owners.
“The boot camp was designed for women entrepreneurs to help them finance and grow their business while contributing to the well-being of their families and the economy,” says Marie Muldowney, managing director at Moody’s Analytics. “For the women, we promoted prosperity and independence, encouraging the development of new ideas.”
Women helping women: Sharing stories and collaborating
On day one of the Toronto boot camp, participants received a crash course on credit: why it matters for entrepreneurs and how to use it to secure financing to grow a business. Day two built on the first day’s lessons with workshops about sources of financing and how to secure the right funding. Participants could then bring what they had learned to life by developing their own capital plans.
Moody’s volunteers — as well as members of the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Business Development Bank of Canada and TD Bank — helped the business owners define their goals and determine their capacity for reaching them.
Number of women business owners who participated in the Toronto boot camp
Number of Moody’s volunteers at the Toronto boot camp
Having experts on-site to facilitate training sessions was critical to the event’s success. It provided participants with entrepreneurial support and a valuable network of connections to which they otherwise would not have had access.
“The energy in the room was contagious. It was really rewarding to see the impactful connections that were created.”
ELIZABETH A. VAZQUEZ
CEO AND CO-FOUNDER, WECONNECT INTERNATIONAL
“The energy in the room was contagious,” says Elizabeth A. Vazquez, CEO and co-founder of WEConnect. “It was really rewarding to see the impactful connections that were created throughout the two days. All of the volunteers brought so much of their own expertise and passion into the curriculum.”
Perhaps even more important were the connections that the women made with each other.
“The women were so honest and open,” says Heidi Stephenson, assistant director and program manager of financial services training and certification at Moody’s Analytics and a CSR impact leader. “It’s easy to share your successes, but not so much to share your failures. The WEConnect events provide a safe space for women to learn from each other.”
“The WEConnect events provide a safe space for women to learn from each other.”
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR AND PROGRAM MANAGER OF FINANCIAL SERVICES AND CERTIFICATION, MOODY’S ANALYTICS
Extending our support for women entrepreneurs
Following the pilot boot camps, Moody’s employees have found new ways to support WEConnect at other conferences, further strengthening our commitment to helping women entrepreneurs succeed.
In addition, WEConnect International’s Council on Scaling Women-Owned Businesses, chaired by Arlene Isaacs-Lowe, Moody’s global head of CSR, pioneered research on the connection between access to capital and access to markets, and explored how the link between these two issues can support the holistic growth of women-owned businesses. The research, underwritten by Moody’s, will culminate with the release of a white paper in 2020.
Together, Moody’s and WEConnect will continue to work toward a world where these women have the same access to resources and opportunities as their male counterparts. This starts with connecting these women to each other, and we plan to extend more opportunities for them to do that by expanding Financing Your Growing Business boot camps to more regions in 2020.
“It’s wonderful to know that there are other women in the same position as I am,” shared one participant from the Toronto boot camp. “I can speak to them and hear that they face the same challenges, and then we can work through them together.”