Women in Business Find Allies at PNC
By Beth Marcello
It seems incomprehensible that just 30 years ago, our mothers and grandmothers were denied simple acts of financial independence like obtaining business credit under their own names. Women fought to remove barriers like this, and the Women’s Business Ownership Act established policies and programs to support their business pursuits. As we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act this year, it is difficult to imagine the nation’s economy and culture without women-owned businesses and the goods, services, jobs and other advancements that women have created since 1988.
Women-owned businesses are among the fastest-growing business segments in the United States, and the number of wealthy women is growing faster than that of wealthy men.
We also know that women who make financial decisions can benefit from having a financial advocate who understands them. However, many women still feel invisible in conversations with their financial institutions.
PNC’s Women’s Business Advocate program aims to understand how we can help women financial decision makers succeed. Nearly 1,700 PNC-Certified Women’s Business Advocates – 30 percent of whom are men – bring financial insights and services to women, and PNC’s status as a Small Business Administration Preferred Lender has enabled us to extend credit to more qualified women-owned companies.
We’re fully committed to supporting women who own and run businesses and to working with organizations like the National Association of Women Business Owners and C200 to help overcome the barriers that remain.
As we continue to advocate for and serve the financial needs of women, we also celebrate the successes women have already earned. Enjoy these stories of achievement and be inspired to find new ideas and avenues for success in your own life and business.
At the height of her success with a large IT consulting firm, Peggy Gionta made the bold decision to trade in her executive sales position for entrepreneurship. As her daughter turned 3, Gionta craved more flexibility.
“I built my company around the principle that professional women shouldn’t have to give up their careers when they have families — that they deserve opportunities to raise their children and advance in their careers simultaneously,” Peggy explains. “I started by bringing together similarly minded women, yet even as we’ve grown into a more gender-diverse staff, our commitment to work-life balance continues.”
Gionta looks back on her relationship with PNC as a pivotal building block for her multimillion-dollar enterprise. Early on, when her previous bank didn't share her vision for an expanding company requiring an expanding line of credit, PNC came to the rescue.
We had already invested our savings and put our house on the line for the company, but ours is a cash-intensive business. PNC understood that.
"Our banker took the time to review our finances, learn about our business and understand our goals. PNC’s support has enabled us to continue growing organically.”
While Fortune 500 executives may enjoy the salary, benefits and backing of their large corporations, they are sometimes disappointed at the pace of innovation, especially when they compare it to the agility of startups. After experiencing this “startup envy” herself, Melissa Kennedy decided to do something about it.
With 15 years of corporate experience behind her, Kennedy left her executive position and established 48 Innovate, a consulting company that leads corporate clients from idea to action within 48 hours through a process called Smart Speed™.
Within three years of inception, 48 Innovate has facilitated $1 billion in revenue-generating projects for clients. Signing new clients can be challenging, though. Executives are sometimes skeptical of the “48 hour” premise. Gender bias can also be a drawback. To counter these challenges, Kennedy is thoughtfully building her credibility. She’s also careful about selecting supportive business partners and advisors, and counts PNC among them.
“Before I ran my own business, I was more of a transactional customer: an ATM gal,” Kennedy says. “But now when I have business questions — Am I thinking about this the right way? When is the right time to make this move? — I’m grateful to have meaningful face-to-face conversations with my banker. My PNC banking team has been especially instrumental in helping me understand the complexities of growing a business. Our relationship is invaluable to me as an entrepreneur.”
Mikki Paradis didn’t expect an easy path when she established PDI Drywall in Raleigh in 2005. She realized that the male-dominated construction industry might not be ready for a 23-year-old female entrepreneur. She also knew that it was within her power to leverage this situation to work in her favor.
“Sometimes people would meet with me about projects just to see if I was for real,” she shares. “What they didn’t know was that I had worked my way through college with a drywall contractor who taught me all about the construction industry. If shock value was what it took to get in the door, then so be it.”
Women have to be more strategic than men in industries like hers, says Paradis. “People were looking for me not to know. I knew I had to be better than that.” Paradis doesn’t do much of the hands-on work herself anymore, instead focusing on strategic growth and leadership. She has led her business well beyond the million-dollar mark.
PNC also is committed to helping Paradis grow her business. “PNC understands how important it is to support businesses of all sizes. They provide an unbelievable number of tools and teach you how to use them,” says Paradis.
With my previous bank, I would spend an entire day trying to resolve problems. With PNC, I simply text my banker when I have an issue, and she takes care of it. She also shares ideas for improving my finances and my access to cash. Knowing that PNC is there for me any time I need something gives me true peace of mind.
Beth Marcello is director of Women’s Business Development at PNC Bank