Nancy Barry: Startup Money For Enterprising Women

When she was at Harvard business school, Nancy Barry drove classmates crazy. From age 16, she had spent summers working for her father's management-consulting firm, which brought her into contact with scores of small and midsize businesses. So whatever her class was studying, she knew about it. Says Barry, now 41: "I'd raise my hand obnoxiously and say, `When I was 16, I did a study of the garage-door-opener market in California . . . .' The class would groan."

Today, Barry's experience is broader still. At the World Bank for 15 years, as division chief for industry, trade, and finance in her last post, Barry left last fall to become president of another global nonprofit bank, the Women's World Bank. The 11-year-old WWB is a far cry from the enormous World Bank. But Barry didn't join for the prestige. At the World Bank, she saw an intense need to give women access to credit. Though a big part of the work force in many industries, many women lacked collateral to get loans to start businesses. WWB, with 50 affiliates in 40 countries, encourages commercial banks to lend to women by backing 75% of each loan.

Until now, WWB has concentrated on microenterprise, with the average loan about $200. Barry now wants to push for bigger businesses. One avenue: the export market. Barry is working on forging links between the women of six Latin American countries and the clothing and leather-goods businesses of Italy, including Benetton and the Fendi sisters.

Eight months on the job, Barry can boast success: By soliciting foundations and corporations she knew from World Bank days, she has won promises of an additional $12 million--more capital than was raised in WWB's first 10 years. And she has already visited most of WWB's 50 affiliates. Once an avid swimmer, Barry now has a new sport: "Running--to planes."

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