Research shows women-led businesses struggle to get bank loans, especially when they’re selling innovative products
When Enwei Li and Heather Sloan first had the idea for Heali, their health and wellness company, their goal was to bring affordable, accessible natural health products to everyday people. But they had no idea just how difficult it would be to find funding, or how long it might take.
“It went slower than we expected all around,” Sloan remembers. “I think when we started looking for funding, we kind of were hoping that the process would be a quick turnaround time.”
Research from the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub confirms that women in business generally have a harder time getting credit through financial institutions. They may not qualify for a loan, for instance, because their businesses “tend to be smaller, have fewer employees and be in industries hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, like retail and hospitality.”
Women also get fewer funding dollars, with the average amount of financing for men-owned businesses being roughly 150 per cent higher than that for women-owned businesses. And when pitching an innovative product that may have little precedent on the market – just like Li and Sloan – women owned-businesses have a hard time securing bank loans.
That’s where TD comes in.
Financing innovative ideas
Li and Sloan had known each other for over 15 years, and reconnected in 2020, when they decided it would be a good idea to combine their backgrounds in medicine, logistics and sales to build Heali. (The company’s name is a portmanteau of their names, Heather and Li).
Their first product is an infused kinesiology tape, which they released in 2021. Prior to the invention of the Heali tape, athletes had to choose either regular kinesiology tape, which is applied to the body to support muscles, tendons and ligaments, or pain cream, because the wet nature of the cream would loosen the adhesive of the tape itself. Heali tape combines the two, offering even more pain relief.
“We wanted to create the best products and have the right amount of adhesive and the right amount of pain relief and the right amount of recovery,” Sloan explains. “And when we came up with the solution of using menthol magnesium, we learned that both menthol and magnesium together are what we call synergistic. So by having the two components together, they’re better able to penetrate through the body.”
Product in hand, the pair reached out to TD at the end of 2022. At that time, funding was their biggest challenge, because they had to spend a lot of money on upfront costs like inventory, patenting and getting all the proper certifications to run the business.
After facing roadblock after roadblock at other banks, TD provided Heali with professional support, a robust network of fellow founders – and a healthy line of credit to support the business.
“We got the best amount of line of credit… compared to what we got from other banks,” Li recalls. “And I think [there’s] just a willingness for them… to help women founders when they really see the potential in the business.”
The benefits don’t end at the bank. Sloan says the connections she and Li are making through TD have also created possibilities for future business relationships and even future sources of funding to continue to grow Heali.
“They’ve introduced us to other female founders that might help with future sales, as well as VC [venture capital] or angel opportunities,” Sloan says.
Supporting business growth beyond funding
While funding may have been what initially brought them to TD, Sloan and Li were also drawn to the bank because of its strong connections with, and support of, women founders.
TD approaches women entrepreneurs differently, Sloan says. “They bring women together… who are either starting their own companies or are already midstream in their company’s evolution.”
“They’re really interested in creating a women founder community.”
Connecting with like-minded founders is something that’s been pivotal to growing the business and finding a broad network of support in an often-stressful path of entrepreneurship.
“Everyone brings their strengths to that kind of environment, and everyone’s willing to help each other,” Sloan says.
When reflecting on their journey and thinking about advice for other women founders who may be struggling in their early days, both Li and Sloan are unequivocal about the importance of teamwork and networking.
Each founder came to the table with a unique set of skills and that mix, combined with the support from TD’s large network, has been crucial to building Heali.
“Don’t be shy to ask for help and get expertise,” Li says. “[That way] you optimize the whole capacity of the team. Don’t try to do it all.”
To learn more about how TD can help support your business, connect with TD.WomenInEnterprise@TD.com
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with TD. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.