Relationships Matter When Confidence Falls

December Monthly Meeting- Health & Wellness with Debbie Penzone
November 12, 2020
December 2, 2020

By: Erin Ressa, KeyBank Branch Manager and Key4Women Columbus Chapter Member

It’s tough to be optimistic right now for many business owners. The pandemic has brought about changes and pressures that are taking a major toll on women-owned businesses, according to the latest Key4Women Confidence Survey. The survey, conducted annually by KeyBank, asks women business owners about their business outlook over the next year, their plans for growth, the barriers they’re facing, and new strategies they’re taking to succeed.

Overall Confidence Takes a Hit

It’s no surprise that the pandemic has created setbacks for many women-owned businesses. In two years, survey respondents report a 22% drop in confidence about their personal finances in the future, and a 23% drop in confidence in the financial health of their business. Many businesses are putting their plans for growth on hold for now as well. In 2019, 90% of respondents said they planned to expand within the next two years. That number has now dropped to approximately 75%.

Survey results show that one in three women business owners say they have low optimism that they will achieve their business goals over the next year. Six in ten report the pandemic directly impacted their business negatively. Among all survey respondents, the three top challenges posed by the pandemic include adjusting to a new operating model, having trouble attracting customers, and having trouble maintaining staff productivity. Furthermore, confidence in the ability to handle finances is down 11%; confidence in the ability to obtain credit is down 13%; and confidence to conduct negotiations is down 10%.

Financial guidance still key

Building financial confidence and planning for future growth is exactly where banks and financial institutions can help offer their support right now. Certainly, these times are difficult for business owners, but having a relationship with a trusted banker who knows your business and can help you navigate current pitfalls with an eye to the future is key towards business recovery.

Since the pandemic began, 70% of women business owners say they have relied on their primary bank to some degree for financial guidance. More than half of respondents say their primary bank proactively reached out to them when the pandemic struck. Furthermore, one in three women small business owners worked with their banks to apply for and receive Paycheck Protection Program funding.

Interestingly, the survey showed that women under 35 are more likely to get help from their primary bank, while women over 50 are less likely to do so. About 32% of all women in business report relying heavily on their primary bank for financial advice during the pandemic.

Opportunities from adversity

While we can’t underestimate the difficulties of running a business in these times, women business leaders continue to look to the future. Three-quarters are still planning on growing and expanding their business over the next two years.
Taking steps to get access to additional support and opportunities is a great way for women to protect the future of their businesses. Becoming a certified Women-Owned Small Business can secure insights and chances to help expand business possibilities. For businesses that are facing economic setbacks, getting the special certification, Economically Disadvantaged Woman Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) can help open doors to the future. Visit to learn more.

The importance of strengthening and reaching out to your network in these times cannot be overstated. Organizations like Key4Women, National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) can help connect women with other members who have resources or expertise that can help advance their business plans.

So, what’s next?

• Reach out to your banker about what the right next steps are for you.
• Build your network and professional relationships to gain more insights into how your peers are handling current challenges.
• Look for collaborative opportunities with other local businesses or connections in your network.
• Partner with other businesses to offer more comprehensive solutions and create operational efficiencies.
• Join organizations that can provide you with additional resources and support.
• Take advantage of opportunities and aid from national organizations, like the SBA’s Office of Women Business Owners and NAWBO and local groups such as Chambers of Commerce.
• Visit to learn how Key4Women can help you manage and grow your business.

About the author:

Erin Ressa is Branch Manager of KeyBank’s Polaris branch in Westerville. She has more than 10 years of banking experience, with focus on helping small businesses and providing financial wellness guidance to her clients. Erin is a certified advisor and member of Key’s Key4Women Columbus chapter, which offers local women business owners and entrepreneurs financial guidance, resources, and networking opportunities to grow their businesses. She is an active member of NAWBO Columbus and serves on the new membership committee. She can be reached by phone at 614-818-4937 and by email at

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