Businesswomen offered Internet link to investors Equality: The U.S. Small Business Administration is designing two new Internet programs that should help level the playing field for women business owners.

March 07, 1997|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Women business owners can now hook up with hard-to-find private investors in a whole new way -- by logging onto the Internet. And eventually, they'll be surfing the World Wide Web to compete for government contracts, too.

In a public-private alliance, the U.S. Small Business Administration is designing the two new Internet programs for all businesses. But the programs should especially help eliminate barriers and level the playing field for women business owners, SBA officials told Baltimore-area business owners yesterday.

Through ACE-Net, or the Angel Capital Electronic Network, private investors can get information on small, growing businesses seeking $250,000 to $5 million in equity financing. Another program still in the preliminary stages will give Internet exposure to businesses that qualify as government contractors.

"We are determined that women are not going to be left out anymore," said Sherrye Henry, SBA assistant administrator of the Office of Women's Business Ownership. "We hope this will be able to change things."

Henry's comments came during the kickoff in Baltimore of a new Women's Business Roundtable, sponsored by the SBA; SCORE, a mentoring program run by retired executives; and the new Baltimore-based Women's Business Institute, which offers women training, counseling and technical assistance.

The round table, a community mentoring program for owners of new and growing small businesses, is to meet four times a year in various locations. Yesterday's event at the Bell Atlantic Knowledge Center on Pratt Street focused on customer service and drew more than 100 business owners.

"Men have been networking for years, and women have gotten smarter," said Beatrice A. Checket, executive director of the Women's Business Institute.

The round table grew out of a one-on-one mentoring program, said Martha S. Brown, women's business ownership coordinator for SBA in Maryland.

"As more women enter the work force, more opportunities need to be given to them," she said. "There's a need for a place to go and network."

SBA officials from Washington used the round table to tout the new Internet programs.

ACE-Net, first announced by the Clinton administration in October, pairs companies looking for growth capital with "angel" investors, typically wealthy individuals with significant business experience. It is the first nationwide, centralized listing service identifying small growing companies for investors and run by a network of universities.

Investors, who typically offer more financing than banks but less than venture capital firms, can search by business specialization, by region or specifically for a women-owned business. They must be accredited investors, by U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's definition.

"They can be specific about what they want to invest in," Henry said. "The reason it is so advantageous to women is typically women have been left out of the equity capital market."

Business people can get information through the ACE-Net Internet site, through http: //ace-net.unh.edu or through http: //www.sba.gov.

The second program, still in the early stages, will be set up similarly to ACE-Net but will list companies that qualify as government contractors. The SBA plans to test that program in the Baltimore area by putting together a database of 1,000 qualified businesses.

Women-owned firms number 8 million in the United States

Pub Date: 3/07/97

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