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Access to business capital often a barrier for women

Alicia Wilson

Alicia Wilson

According to a report by the National Women’s Business Council, access to capital remains one of the greatest barriers for women to launch, scale and grow their businesses. Research has shown that men tend to start their own businesses with nearly twice as much financial capital than women — $135,000 versus $75,000 — the report notes.

Alicia Wilson, senior vice president of Impact Investments and senior legal counsel to the Port Covington development team, thinks that women-owned businesses can gain access to capital beyond loans and external funds. The key, she said, is to access funding through more contracts and customers.

“We always think of capital as just a loan product. Your access to capital is also access to contracts and customers. For women, we have to be strategic about removing those barriers that prevent them from getting contracts, and gaining access to customers,” she said.

Wilson will explore the topic of gaining access to capital at The Daily Record’s third annual Women’s Leadership Summit at Coppin State University on March 20. She will moderate a panel including Natasha Wainwright, Natasha’s Just Brittle; Audrey Johnson, Kaiser Permanente’s Mid-Atlantic regional senior program manager for strategy and supplier diversity; Takia Ross, Accessmatized Make-Up Artistry; and Debra Williamson, Campus Canopies.

Wilson points out that business owners typically must have significant collateral to get loans. Women, she said, tend not to have that collateral. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, men are more likely to receive start-up funding from venture capitalists, angel investors and financial institutions, while women are more likely to use their own credit, take out home equity loans in their own names, or rely on family and friends.

The Institute also notes that women entrepreneurs are less likely than men to receive the full amount they requested.

Reports have also shown that women are generally evaluated for promotions based on their past track record and performance. Men are typically promoted based on their potential. In combination with the fact that female investors prefer to work with male business owners, the odds are stacked against most women business owners.

That’s why Wilson sees her role as breaking down barriers for women-owned businesses. She oversees how the Port Covington development can give more access to minority and women-owned businesses.

“There are literally millions of dollars of services and products that are purchased by the development team that allow for the development to come to fruition. It’s my job to ensure we are giving women-owned and minority-owned businesses access to entry into the market,” Wilson said.

Doing so also opens up opportunities for women-owned businesses to win contracts and gain customers. Wilson argues that the likelihood of gaining capital is higher when a business can demonstrate a customer base.

“It’s a much more equitable way for women to be infused with capital. If the test is — do you have customers to necessitate you needing a loan to grow, and you could demonstrate that — it’s a guarantee that your loan is worthwhile,” she said.

Wilson is also looking to develop a women- and minority-owned investment fund to give women businesses a boost.

“If we, as women, want to disrupt or remedy past inequities, it’s important for us to become bold and courageous in supporting women businesses,” she said.

Meet the presenters

Alicia Wilson

Sr. VP of impact investments & senior legal counsel, Port Covington Impact Investments.

wilson-alicia-300Alicia Wilson is the Senior Vice President of Impact Investments and Senior Legal Counsel to the Port Covington Development Team. Wilson is responsible for shaping, advancing and promoting the interests of all of the investors in the Port Covington Development Project by developing strategic initiatives that enhance its philanthropic and investment impact. She is also responsible for cultivating and building key stakeholder relationships and collaborative relationships regionally, nationally and internationally for the Port Covington Development Team.

During the 2016 Baltimore City Council legislative session, Wilson drafted key pieces of legislation and served as the principal negotiator of the two largest Community Benefit Agreements in the history of Baltimore associated with the passage of a $660 million public financing project. The negotiations of the community benefit agreements involved over 200 stakeholder groups representing tens of thousands of residents from across the City of Baltimore. Wilson now leads and oversees a team charged with implementing the letter and spirit of the community benefits agreements focused on workforce development, supplier diversity, and inclusionary housing, and youth enrichment matters.

Prior to joining the Port Covington Development Team, Wilson was partner at the law firm of Gordon Feinblatt, a full-service law firm located in downtown Baltimore. Wilson is actively involved in civic and charitable organizations. She currently serves as Chair of the CollegeBound Foundation, on the board of the Center for Urban Families, the University of Maryland Foundation at Baltimore, Associated Black Charities, the University of Maryland School of Law Board of Visitors, Baltimore Corps, the National Diverse Attorney Pipeline Program, and the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

For her accomplishments, Wilson has received numerous awards and honors including being named by the Baltimore Sun as one of Baltimore’s 25 Women to Watch and most recently, munity Advocate of the Year by the Baltimore City Chamber of Commerce.

Natasha Wainwright

Natasha’s Just Brittle

natasha-wainwrightNatasha Wainwright is a Baltimore-based entrepreneur who previously founded and ran an eco-friendly daycare, Progress Place Learning Center. Natasha’s Just Brittle was conceived in summer 2009 as part of a business fundamentals learning project for the children at her daycare. PPLC Sweet Treats, the daycare’s made-to-order sweet shop, sold over $500 in confections that summer. The brittle was the most popular item and was in high demand from parents long after, sparking the creation of Natasha’s Just Brittle.

Since 2009, Natasha has created a website and a storefront at Bel-Garden Bi-Rite Supermarket in Baltimore and is a mainstay at Baltimore local business pop-up shops. In August 2016, Natasha closed her daycare after 21 years to focus full-time on her brittle company. Three days after closing the doors on her life’s work up until then, Natasha received a call inquiring if she would sell her brittle on QVC. The first order was a huge success, quickly selling out. In May 2017, the company closed its Bel-Garden Bi-Rite Supermarket storefront and moved to a full-size production facility, increasing capacity to produce seven times more brittle than before.

In February 2017, Natasha appeared as one of 18 finalists, selected from over 1000 contestants, on Centric TV’s Queen Boss, a television series competition that features fast-rising female entrepreneurs pitching their products and company to a judges’ panel for a $25,000 prize. In addition to appearing on Centric’s Queen Boss and QVC, Natasha’s Just Brittle has been profiled by Baltimore Style magazine. In 2018, she is the winner of a $10,000 “Pitch Room” grant hosted by Samuel Adams Brewery and $20,000 winner of the “New Voice Fund.” She was also chosen to audition on the Shark Tank and asked to send in a sample of her Brittle to be considered by the Oprah Magazine for their Holiday Gift Guide Fall edition. We are proud to announce that The Production Facility also serves as a commissary/ commercial kitchen- hence B’More Made with Pride Commercial Kitchen, so that other food entrepreneurs can grow their culinary businesses. Natasha’s Just Brittle is available at Whole Foods in Riverdale, Mount Washington, and Annapolis and Gourmet Shops throughout Maryland. She will be expanding its shelf presence in hospitals and universities in the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Audrey L. Johnson


Audrey L. Johnson is an Executive Director-level strategic and tactical consultant with a MBA and 17 years business management expertise, now leading Kaiser Permanente’s Mid-Atlantic States regional strategy and supplier diversity portfolio as senior program manager. Specializes in change management that drives market-based competitiveness through inclusive business practices aligned with corporate priorities and organizational values.  She became the regional lead and senior program manager of supplier diversity initiatives for Kaiser Permanente in 2017 and leads a robust economic impact strategy for the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia  areas, serving as a strategic adviser on community investments that address health equity disparities in communities Kaiser Permanente serves through initiatives including the Inner City Capital Connections program to build small business capacity and provide them access to capital.  Similar initiatives champion Kaiser’s national goals to activate assets towards community health and wealth building by driving economic inclusion through job creation, small business development, and collective procurement with anchor network partners.

Audrey is a thought partner with experience leading all aspects of business improvements and project implementations that successfully achieve challenging high-priority objectives and operational effectiveness, such as shifting portions of Kaiser Permanente’s national procurement spend to local, small, minority-owned suppliers for direct effect on the local ecosystem. In addition to facilitating strategy development processes, she leverages data, persuasive analysis, and stakeholder expertise to achieve consensus across all levels and boundaries of organizational leadership to scale and drive measurable impact.  In support of Kaiser Permanente’s economic inclusion strategies and identifying collaborative opportunities, Audrey happily serves as a Member of the Port Covington Diversity Advisory Group and a Local Purchasing / Small Business Development Workgroup Member of the Baltimore Integration Partnership in Baltimore, Maryland; an Advisory Board Member of the District of Columbia Community Anchor Partnership in Washington, D.C.; and a member and active participant of the Healthcare Anchor Network.   She supports education and youth mentor programs, and sits on the Board of Trustees of National Collegiate Preparatory Public Charter High School located in Southeast Washington, D.C.  Audrey received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Howard University, and a Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Finance from The George Washington University.

Takia Ross

Accessmatized Make-Up Artistry

takia-ross-headshotTakia Ross is a professional make-up artist and owner of Accessmatized Make-Up Artistry, home of Pretty Mobile Baltimore, DMV’s First Mobile Make-Up Studio. In an effort to grow her business, she decided to take a non-traditional route to raise the capital she needed.  She began pitching her business in business pitch competitions where she raised over $65,000 in cash and prizes.  Takia’s artistry has gone on to be featured in over 50 publications to include Essence Magazine and has been seen on both local and national television including Dr. Oz. She has been featured in Forbes, The Afro, and The Baltimore Business Journal for her advocacy and commitment to assisting other women in business obtain the resources they need to grow their businesses.  She is a mother of three, a speaker, published author, teacher, writer, and photographer.

Women Who Lead This article is featured in The Daily Record’s Women Who Lead: A Woman’s Guide To Business. The mission of the Women Who Lead (formerly Path to Excellence) magazine is to give our readers the opportunity to meet successful women of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs and learn how they define success. Read more from Women Who Lead.