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NCUA Board Member Rodney E. Hood Remarks at the FundHER Conference: Unlocking Capital for Women in Business

October 2023
NCUA Board Member Rodney E. Hood Remarks at the FundHER Conference: Unlocking Capital for Women in Business

As Prepared for Delivery on October 26, 2023

Thank you very much for the warm welcome. It’s my pleasure to be here, and I’d like to thank Cadence Cash, along with the Duke University Innovation & Entrepreneurship and the North Carolina Central University Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, for making today’s event possible.

I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this event for several reasons. First, October is National Women’s Small Business Month, and it’s important that we honor the valuable impact women entrepreneurs have on our economy, and to consider how we can help them meet the unique challenges they face in getting access to capital.

According to statistics from the Small Business Administration, as of 2018, the United States was home to more than 12 million women-owned businesses, employing more than 10 million Americans and generating some $2.1 trillion in annual sales. Those are impressive numbers – but when you consider that women make up about half of the U.S. population, it’s clearly an area where there’s room for growth.

Second, I have a longstanding appreciation of the role small businesses and start-ups play in not only our economy, but also in our communities. I’ve seen that first-hand starting with my first job in the financial services industry, working as a Community Reinvestment Act officer with a bank in Raleigh, where I grew up and where I went back to start my career after I graduated from UNC Chapel Hill. That job brought me into close contact with a great many small business owners, teaching me a lot of valuable lessons about the importance of entrepreneurship.

It was excellent training for my job as a regulator, as it helped me to better understand both the importance of small businesses within those communities and what they needed to thrive. I came to understand that if we want a strong, resilient society with strong, resilient communities, we need a vibrant small business sector. So when we’re talking about credit unions and expanding access to capital, small business is always at the front of my mind. This is an issue I hold deeply, and I don’t just view it as one of my responsibilities as a regulator, but also as a fundamental noble cause that we need to work collectively on.

And third, we need a thriving small business sector because it’s a critical component of our commitment to financial inclusion, which I’ve described as the “civil rights challenge of our generation.” When we talk about financial inclusion, we’re talking in part about providing access to affordable, quality financial services to marginalized and under-served communities. But I also like to think of that as a broader commitment to helping people climb the economic ladder, so it should also include education, housing, and, bringing us back to the theme of today’s event, entrepreneurship.

Fundamentally, when we talk about financial inclusion, we’re talking about empowerment, giving people the tools they need to build wealth and flourish, and working to bridge the dividing lines in our economy and society. And when we think of financial inclusion as a form of empowerment, it becomes much clearer why support for entrepreneurship and small business, and for women and minority entrepreneurs in particular, is essential.

While on the subject of empowerment, I am proud of the role that credit unions have been playing to provide support to small businesses, by offering loans, deposit products, and other tools to assist entrepreneurs to achieve success and growth. I want to especially acknowledge those credit unions that have are designated as minority depository institutions and community development financial institutions, which I encourage small businesses to seek and work with because of their particular focus on serving their communities, and on minority individuals.

In addition to the great work credit unions have been doing, there are also other resources are out there for small businesses that provide access to capital and educational tools, including the Small Business Administration, United States Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Commerce.

The NCUA has also been doing its part to encourage the growth of small businesses and success of entrepreneurs. Just recently, I championed the introduction of a new FinTech and Access Office at the NCUA, which has been tasked with exploring ways to allow credit unions the ability to participate in financial innovation and ways to improve access to capital.  We also just recently chartered a new credit union for the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, which will be led by a group of highly accomplished African American females.

Starting a business is a difficult undertaking for anyone. Just go down the list of challenges and you can see how daunting it is: developing business plans; getting access to capital; acquiring and retaining customers to generate revenue and, hopefully, profit; navigating a complex regulatory environment, which is particularly challenging for small enterprises; taxes; health insurance; and all the other realities that come with running your own business.

Those are all tough obstacles for anyone, and they can be particularly daunting for women and minority entrepreneurs. But on the other hand, most obstacles can be overcome, right? Here I’ll borrow an idea from another notable Tar Heel, Michael Jordan, who said that “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” So our task here today, as we talk about the obstacles that women entrepreneurs face, is to look at some of the remedies we have at our disposal to overcome those challenges.

Think about all the great female entrepreneurs that came before you and how they navigated those obstacles. Great leaders like Madam CJ Walker, who rose from poverty to build a beauty empire and become the first self-made female millionaire; Ms. Sheila Johnson, who co-founded BET and went on to Chair a hospitality empire and a WNBA team; or Ms. Janice Bryant Howroyd, who became one of the most successful female entrepreneurs and whose company became the first African American-led company to bring in more than $1 billion in annual review. All these great female leaders overcame obstacles when times were tough and opportunities were hard to come by, so think about what you can all achieve during this day and age, that is ripe with opportunity for female businessowners to become the next titans of industry.

So I look forward to talking with you today about some of the things that are happening in the financial services industry and particularly credit unions, as well as some things we’ve been doing at the NCUA to encourage more women entrepreneurs and to nurture the next generation of small business leaders. Thank you very much, and now I’ll turn it over to our moderator to guide our discussion.

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