Microlending for US women

If you're female and need a loan, here's an idea that goes beyond tapping the government's Small Business Association: Contact Count-Me-In (www.count-me-in.org 888-856-9806).

The nonprofit organization has asked millions of American women to contribute $5 to create a national fund for women and girls who need small-business loans. The loans will range from $500 to $10,000.

According to research by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners, women own 38 percent of all businesses in America (9.1 million businesses) yet have less access to financing than men.

Moreover, women business owners contribute more than $3.6 trillion to the marketplace and account for 70 percent of consumer spending. But some contend women are still overlooked.

"Women hear 'no' a lot when looking for working capital. We're prejudged as a bad financial risk because we're women ...," says Iris Burnett, co-founder of Count-Me-In.

When considering applicants, Count-Me-In will use a credit scorecard that analyzes a woman's business potential, rather than earnings history and hard assets.

The loans will have fixed rates at 2 percent to 4 percent over the prime lending rate, with repayment terms from 12 to 36 months, depending on the size of the loan. Loan applications will be available in June.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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