Guest Blog- The Export-Import Bank: Fostering the Spirit of Enterprise for Women

The U.S. Chamber’s International Affairs Division and its Center for Women in Business today joined with Women in International Trade (WIIT) to host three women-owned businesses whose owners gave testament to the important role the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) has played in their growth.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s most recent study on women entrepreneurs, women-owned firms have grown at one-and-a-half times the rate of other small enterprises in the last 15 years and now account for nearly 30% of all new businesses.

That’s impressive, but these start-ups face real barriers. The Small Business Administration has noted that “the major constraint limiting the growth, expansion, and wealth creation of small firms—especially women- and minority-owned businesses—is inadequate capital.”

That’s where Ex-Im comes in. Ex-Im provides loans, loan guarantees, and export credit insurance to help cover financing gaps for American exporters. Last year the Bank provided financing or loan guarantees for $34.7 billion in U.S. exports and supported more than 200,000 American jobs.

Moreover, nearly 90% of Ex-Im’s transactions support the exports of small and medium-size businesses, and one in five of the Bank’s authorizations supported women- and minority-owned businesses. Over the past five years Ex-Im has financed more women- and minority-owned businesses than the Bank did in the previous 16 years combined.

For example, Miss Jenny’s Pickles was born out of the financial recession. After being laid off, Jenny Fulton and Ashlee Furr decided to take a true leap of faith—like many during the hard economic times—and start their own company. “Knowing that 95 percent of the world’s population lives outside the United States, we decided that exporting would be crucial to our success,” says Fulton, Chief Pickle Officer.

With some “out of the jar” thinking and pure determination, they decided to try their hand as exporters. Fulton was able to offer a Chinese buyer financing terms through a product developed by Ex-Im called Express Insurance that protects against foreign-buyer nonpayment. This allowed her to finance the sales of her pickles over 60 days. In return, the buyer increased his order, Fulton says: “Without the Ex-Im Bank, our small business would never have been able to offer these terms, which led to increased exports and more sales.”

Another example is Chindex Medical Limited. Established in 1981 by two American women entrepreneurs, this Maryland-based company sells medical equipment in China. As Chindex Vice President for U.S. Operations Judy Zakreski explains, “if we lost access to Ex-Im loan guarantees, we could not hope to compete with the vast financing available from European and Israeli ECAs. None of the $85 million in medical device exports purchased from Chindex using Ex-Im guarantees would have moved forward without Ex-Im support; instead Chinese hospitals would have purchased equipment from other countries instead of medical devices made in America.”

Located in Fairfax, Virginia, Team Askin Technologies, Inc. (TATI) represents the new face of the American exporter: services. “Ex-Im is the key determinant that allows us to export,” says Debbie Askin, president and CEO of TATI. “Before 2010, exporting wasn’t even in our scope.” Exporting has allowed Askin to expand the firm’s workforce considerably, from around a dozen employees before she began using Ex-Im to more than 30 today. TATI has customers in Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and is looking to expand its reach into India.

These successful women-owned companies share one thing in common with thousands of other small businesses: They strongly support reauthorization of Ex-Im before its charter expires on September 30.

Visit to learn more.

– Stefanie Holland, Director, International Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Roberta Phillips, Executive Director, Center for Women in Business