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Correction: SmallBiz-Small Talk

Friday - 8/22/2014, 4:30pm  ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- In a story Aug. 20 about lending to women-owned businesses, Maria Coyne, head of small business banking at KeyBank, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. examines banks' lending records and makes a judgment about whether they're being prudent lenders. The Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency actually have those responsibilities.

The story also quoted Frank Gallo, senior commercial lending officer at Tropical Financial Credit Union, as saying women small business owners are less prepared than men when they apply for a loan. The story should have made clear that Gallo said that both men and women have a hard time getting approved for business loans. Gallo says that women are organized and come in well-prepared with financial documents and are able to clearly explain their intent for loans.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Women small business owners struggle to get loans

Rejected and dejected -- women small business owners still struggle to get loans from banks

By JOYCE M. ROSENBERG

AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Women are a growing force in the business world, but if they own a company, they may still struggle to get a loan from a bank.

Carrie Charlick and Marcia Cubitt have $4 million in sales but have been rejected for $500,000 credit lines since 2012. Their 11-year-old company, Essential Body Wear, sells women's underwear at parties at customers' homes. That's a problem for bankers, Charlick says. Because the business, based in the Detroit suburb of Commerce Township, doesn't have a traditional structure and sells directly to the public rather than retailers, banks keep saying no.

"We don't have receivables and we don't own a building," she says. "We don't have collateral."

Male loan officers have also made inappropriate comments about the fact the company sells lingerie. Charlick is convinced that they have a problem with women-owned businesses.

Women owners have long been at a disadvantage getting loans. Some states required husbands or other male relatives to co-sign business loans until the practice was outlawed by the Women's Business Ownership Act of 1988. But women's business loan approval rates are between 15 percent and 20 percent below men's, according to the online lending marketplace Biz2Credit.com.

Several factors contribute to the problem. Banks historically have been gun-shy about small businesses, and that caution increased due to stricter government regulations after the 2008 credit crisis. Often, women-owned businesses are young, making them look risky to lenders.

They don't look as creditworthy as men. Their credit scores in 2013 were on average 20 points below men's, an improvement from 40 points in 2012, but still a significant difference, according to Biz2Credit.

But women owners may also hurt their chances for approval.

"Women don't ask, 'what do I need to do to get ready to borrow?'" says Maria Coyne, head of small business banking at KeyBank.

Many women-owned businesses don't have enough revenue and cash flow to convince bankers they have the ability to handle their debts, says Lisa Stevens, head of small business banking at Wells Fargo & Co. More than two-thirds of women-owned businesses have less than $25,000 in revenue, Stevens says.

The problems may come from a lack of confidence that would allow them to be aggressive about their companies, including getting a loan, says Barbara Kasoff, president of Women Impacting Public Policy, an advocacy group. They shy away from approaching a loan like any other business deal.

"You need to let the bank know you're a good bet and they can invest in you and they can get their money back," she says.

Regulations the government imposed on banks after the 2008 financial crisis have forced them to be wary, KeyBank's Coyne says. Federal regulators examine banks' credit policies and whether they've deviated from them, then makes a judgment about whether they're being prudent lenders, Coyne says.

Members of the Senate Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee introduced legislation in July that would make more Small Business Administration loans of up to $200,000 available to women owners. The bill would also allow lenders to give women owners more flexible loan terms.

Stringent terms demanded by one lender forced Alicia Hill to look elsewhere. She needed money for a second Workout Anytime fitness club in suburban Atlanta. Hill applied to her current bank three months ago, expecting her three years of successfully running a club to make approval easy. Instead, the bank emailed her two months later saying she needed to use her savings as collateral.

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