This week I sat down with Lori Thexton, wife and mother of two, cross-fit enthusiast, and expert loan portfolio manager with Alberta Women Entrepreneurs. Lori came to AWE from the credit industry, having previously worked for Ford Credit Canada Ltd., and has now been with us for 3 years, lending money to women who are helping to build the Albertan economy. I asked Lori a few questions about our loan program to give entrepreneurs considering taking out a business loan a better picture of how we can help them at AWE.
Why would someone come to AWE for a loan as opposed to going to a traditional lender?
“One of the major reasons is because there’s no penalty for early payment with us, whereas with a bank you get penalized. In terms of competition with the banks, our interest rates are practically the same. However, with us the rates are the same for everyone, regardless of varying risk. We’re a not-for-profit, we’re not trying to make money from our loans program so there’s no incentive for us to charge additional fees. AWE is doing this strictly to help women grow their businesses. We care – not that the banks don’t – but we have a vested interest in seeing women succeed.”
What would you say to someone who is hesitant to apply for a loan?
“In general, it seems women don’t like to borrow money. It makes them proud to self-fund. I think it’s in the genetic make-up of women that they feel they should try to do everything themselves. But I say, why? Why use your own money instead of somebody else’s? The cost of interest on your loan is nothing compared to having to compromise your personal finances. Applying for a loan can get you much more money than self-funding, so it will get you places faster and limit the sacrifices in your personal life. It can also lend credibility to your business because it shows future investors that someone besides friends and family believed your business was worth the risk.”
What is the biggest misconception people have about our loan program?
“There are a few, but the biggest is that just because you’re female, it doesn’t mean we’re going to give you the money. You still need to qualify – we need to manage the risk of our portfolio just like any other institution. Another misconception is that you won’t be asked to provide security. We secure up to 100% of our loans and sometimes that’s surprising to women who think that because we’re a not-for-profit, they will just be given the money. That goes hand-in-hand with all of our loan clients having to contribute 25%, while we provide them the remaining 75%. We want to know you have some ‘skin in the game.’”
Who should apply for a loan with AWE?
“Any business seeking a loan between $30,000 and $150,000, and has a minimum of 51% female ownership can apply. As I mentioned though, meeting that criteria is not the only criteria determining whether or not you will get the loan. The majority of our loans go to clients who are growing and are applying because they need the money to get to the next stage, for example, a business needing the money to hire more staff.”
What’s the best part about your job?
“My favorite part of my job is once I have all of the information for a loan application in front of me and I get to analyze the pieces of the puzzle to decide if it is worth the risk or not. My job is also very rewarding because of the relief it provides to women building their dreams. Women need money in order to run successful businesses, and once I can give them that money, their shoulders can finally drop and they can breathe. Getting the money into their hands allows them to focus on what they actually need to be doing to grow their business. It’s emotional to me because it’s interpreted as being harder for a female to get proper funding, so when I help them have that opportunity it just touches my heart.”