This Bank Aims to Help Female Entrepreneurs Build Strong Shoe Businesses

Women-founded footwear brands are continuing to face business challenges on several fronts, from securing funding to training gaps. But one bank wants to help more female entrepreneurs meet them head-on.

Investment bank CIT, in partnership with nonprofit Operation Hope, rolled out its Launch and Grow program as part of National Small Business Week. The initiative aims to support female-owned small businesses through a series of workshops, classes, coaching and online resources.

“The Launch and Grow Hope Inside program is designed to provide small-business owners with the training and coaching they need to bring their ideas to fruition,” said CIT chairwoman and CEO Ellen Alemany.

The program will run for 18 months and serve 400 women across various markets, with one cohort based in New York and a second in Los Angeles. Supported by a network of partners, such as Mastercard and Strive, the no-cost initiative will culminate in a business plan competition. The contest will be moderated by a panel of judges, with CIT awarding three winners seed money for their businesses.

“Our goal with the Launch and Grow program is to provide the next generation of female entrepreneurs the opportunity to build a strong foundation of knowledge and cultivate their passions,” said Darrah Feldman, VP of corporate social responsibility at CIT.

Operation Hope Financial Dignity Project
Operation Hope runs a number of initiatives, from small-business development to employee financial wellness.
CREDIT: Erik S Lesser/Shutterstock

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, women own approximately 20 percent of employer businesses, in addition to women-owned businesses with no employees. Operation Hope, which aims to provide community uplift by supporting the underserved in business and capitalist endeavors, built the Launch and Grow program with CIT out of the company’s commitment to small-business development.

“Small-business development is a core focus of our Hope Inside programming model,” said John Hope Bryant, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation Hope. “Our collaborative efforts [with CIT] are empowering entrepreneurs and arming them with the tools they need to thrive, fuel innovation and job creation, and achieve sustainable success. Building and maintaining good credit is an absolute essential in this process so that the ‘woman behind the business’ is truly empowered.”

Watch the video below to see Keds CMO Emily Culp explain how to effect change as a leader.

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