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Published: February 2001

Dana Ambrosini | The Connecticut Post

If you think your budget is hand-to-mouth, take a gander at Stamford business owner Antoinette Allocca.

Allocca, founder of Essential Data Corp., said her now multi-million dollar business lived off of personal savings and month-to-month receivables for years before she became fully established.

“I couldn’t get a loan from the bank,” Allocca, who started the business in 1984, said. “I kind of skirted by.” In fact, Allocca didn’t land a bank loan until 1995.

Essential Data, which provides technical writers to businesses, had revenues of $30 million in 1999.

Though Allocca’s business growth has blown the majority of competitors out of the water, her start-up program is far from unusual.

Women owners of fast growth businesses are more apt to turn to business earnings and personal credit lines to finance their firms than fast growth men, who rely more on commercial loans, according to a survey out today by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners.

“The men are able to access capital to a greater extent,” Bruce Rosenthal, a spokesman for the foundation, said. “I think it’s an opportunity for the financial institutions.”

While seven out of ten fast-growth women rely on their business earnings as their primary source of capital, only about half of their male counterparts do the same, a survey of 602 women and 592 men business owners said.

The study concentrated on fast growing firms that achieved revenue or employee growth of 30 percent or more over the past three years.

Women were also more likely to use personal credit cards to finance their businesses. In fact, one-third of fast-growth women entrepreneurs use personal credit, while only 21 percent of their male counterparts did the same.

Accounting Resource Management, a women-owned New Haven accounting consulting firm, was born on plastic, founder Sandra Glick said.

“Initially, it was really the credit card,” Glick said, on founding the business 13 years ago. “I didn’t even bother asking for capital.”

It wasn’t until 1996 that Glick went to the banks simply to set up a line of credit. Her firm has revenues in excess of $1 million.

The female founder of Connex International Inc. in Danbury borrowed more than $100,000 off of a relative to buy the expensive technical equipment needed to start her own teleconferencing firm.

“We were ten people in search of a business,” Bobbi Heyel, president of Connex said. That was in 1981; Connex now employs more than 100 people and has revenues of more than $10 million.

“We broke even in six months,” Heyel said.

Financial institutions are missing out on fantastic business opportunities with fast-growth women-owned firms, said Teri Cavanagh, senior vice president of FleetBoston Financial, which helped underwrite the study.

Cavanagh said banks should reach out to women business owners if only to access a wider range of business opportunities.

“They’re not getting there naturally on their own,” Cavanagh said of women.