Capital program aims to empower women entrepreneurs

Zshakira Carthens, a U.S. Army veteran, was awarded a loan to boost her family law firm, focusing on largely on military clients

(Courtesy of Carolina Small Business)

FAYETTEVILLE — Through a partnership with Bank of America and the Tory Burch Foundation, Carolina Small Business Development Fund awarded a loan to a woman entrepreneur to help launch her law firm.

Zshakira Carthens, who started Carthens Law Firm, received a loan through the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program.

 “When you begin to look at the role that women entrepreneurs play in the state economy and the national economy, that’s huge,” said Lenwood Long, CEO of Carolina Small Business Development Fund. “I think it’s very consistent with Tory Burch and Bank of America to want to make sure that capital and these services are available to further grow the businesses that are owned by women in this state. We are pleased to be a part of the program.” 

The CSBDF chose Carthens to receive a loan at a 2 percent interest rate reduction. The loan helped Carthens set up her law firm and advertise in Fayetteville.

“The loan allowed me to pay first month and deposit for a building that I’m in now,” Carthens said. “The cases started coming in really, really quickly. I used a good amount for equipment and advertising. Advertising is really important here in Fayetteville. It wasn’t as important as before because it was a smaller town. People didn’t have four or five lawyers to choose from.” 

(Courtesy of Carolina Small Business)

Carthens decided to open up her own law firm after realizing her passion in family law. As an Army veteran, she was drawn to Fayetteville because of the proximity to Fort Bragg.

“I really gained a lot of personal experience and I have a big heart for veterans,” Carthens said. “I do a lot of pro bono for veterans, and most of my paid clients are veterans as well because I’m 10 minutes from post. We’re in a military town here. A large number of my clients are veterans, and we don’t have a lot of attorneys here that are prior service — just a handful. They feel like they can identify with an attorney who knows what it’s like to be deployed, be in the field and have things going on with your family.”

One of the factors in choosing Carthens to receive the loan is her drive to give back to the community, according to Virginia Parker, the Triangle market manager for Bank of America.

“Her story is very compelling,” Parker said. “She’s not only a woman. She is a minority woman veteran. She’s got a dream and she’s got a passion to make that dream become a reality. That combination, the vision and the will to make that vision happen— those are the kind of women that we want to be funding through this program.”

For Carthens, she felt opening up her own law firm focusing on family and injury law would allow her to make a difference.

“My firm allowed me to do the areas of law that I felt like made a difference, allow me to grow my business and grow as a person,” Carthens said.

According to a study by 2017 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, women-owned businesses grew 114 percent over the past 20 years. Women are less likely to receive a loan and receive less money for a loan compared to men.

The Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program, Bank of America and Carolina Small Business Development Fund hope to continue to empower women entrepreneurs.

“We recognize that women business owners are a key channel to do that, because they’re women like Zshakira who want to make a difference in their community,” Parker said. “We found if we can fund women like that we can empower them whether it’s through financial investment or meeting their financial need with products and services. If we can empower them and turn around and make meaningful contributions to their community.”