Proving to a bank full of bros that your business plan isn’t just “cute”
Insights from Rebecca George, Volumes Bookcafe (Wicker Park)
It’s no secret that women have a much harder time securing funding to start their businesses compared to men. For every $1 in small business loans granted to women, another $23 is doled out to men.
Rebecca’s experience getting a bank loan when opening Volumes Bookcafe with her sister Kimberly was no different: “It’s a bunch of men just in there looking at you, like, ‘Oh that’s so cute, you want to open a bookstore? That’s really adorable,’ who have no idea what kind of a business a bookstore is.”
Rebecca was armed with a business plan that had a 90-page appendix of all the data proving why her bookstore was a smart investment. Still, she struggled to be taken seriously by the men making the investment decisions: “They’re so condescending, it’s obnoxious, and I don’t know how to break through that… It’s a great parallel with what’s going on in politics right now, you can throw facts at people all day and they’re just like, ‘cute’.”
Volumes Bookcafe is now a bustling Wicker Park staple, bursting at the seams with good reads, beautiful lattes, & local craft brews. Their success story shows how banks are routinely selling women short when evaluating their business plans — from small business loans up to venture capital.
Just because the bookstore/cafe is up and running doesn’t mean the sexism has stopped. Rebecca routinely deals with people under-estimating her ability to run a successful business simply because she’s a woman, from watching customers automatically approach male staff to ask if they’re the owner, to dealing with plumbers and electricians who assume she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
But that, of course, hasn’t stopped Rebecca and Kimberly from creating a lasting space in Wicker Park. They come from a family full of avid readers, where books and trips to B. Dalton’s, not toys, were used as a form of bribery. Although she doesn’t get to “sit around and read”, like she dreamed of as a child, Rebecca is satisfied getting to know her customers and stocking books they will love.
If you care about empowering women and supporting independent, small businesses as much as we do, check out all that Volumes has to offer — including their seemingly endless stream of open mics, trivia nights, comedy showcases, and so much more.