The idea was developed by industry leaders Lisa Kornick, Melissa Widen and Amy Fahey after the three discussed how female entrepreneurs are still unable to access loans as quickly and as easily as their male counterparts. Their bank has received conditional approval from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Kornick, co-owner of DMK Restaurants in Chicago, said her own experiences dealing with financing as a female founder led her to turn the idea into reality.
“I was shocked to find there were no banks focused on women,” Kornick said, according to the Tribune. “As an entrepreneur, I immediately saw an opportunity.”
This is not the actual first women’s bank to land in a major city — the Colorado Business Bank, originally called the Women’s Bank, gave credit to women who typically needed their husbands’ permission to do so back when the bank opened in 1978.
Kornick’s vision comes as more women are starting their own businesses — between 2014 and 2019, the number of these businesses grew by 21%, and half of all women-owned businesses in 2019 were started by women of color, according to a 2019 report from American Express.
First Women’s Bank will aim to offer its lending services and SBA-backed loans to hair salons, day care centers, bookkeeping firms and consulting firms.
While Kornick will serve as the bank’s chief experience officer, Fahey, a veteran of JPMorgan Chase, will be chair of the board of directors, and Widen, a former attorney, will serve as vice president and chief administrative officer.
Marianne Markowitz, who was acting administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration under President Barack Obama, will be president and CEO.
The women have encountered fundraising obstacles due to the pandemic, but they are hoping to open their flagship location by early 2021.