COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Post-pandemic economic recovery is tough for small businesses, tougher for minority-owned businesses, and a steep climb for those owned by women of color.

Goldman Sachs surveyed 10,000 small business owners and learned minority businesses are calling employees back at a slower rate, have less in cash reserves, and only 20 percent of minority businesses are confident they’ll have access to the capital needed to survive.

Two Columbus women were part of that survey and know firsthand what it’s like when the playing field is uneven.

“It’s hard for me to believe that someone can walk into a bank with just projections and Excel spreadsheets and be given a loan, but it’s true,” said Letha Pugh. “It’s not true for me.”

Pugh is co-owner of the successful Bake Me Happy gluten-free bakeries, one on the south side of Columbus and a second in Dublin. She said growing a business for women of color can mean working twice as hard to get half as far.

“I can’t come in anymore,” she said. “My credit score is in the 800s. I can’t do anything more to assure that you loaning money to us is a good investment, but I do believe I’ve been given the short end of the stick when I’ve been offered credit lines.”

 “I definitely have very similar experiences as it relates to access to capital, either myself or I know other small business owners,” added Haleema Shafeek, who owns Gof’s Commercial Interiors and Technology.

Both Shafeek and Pugh joined Congresswoman Joyce Beatty on Capitol Hill to ask other lawmakers for help.

“And that ranged from access to capital to mental health care, childcare, and then I specifically wanted to talk about the government procurement process and how it can be made easier for more small businesses to participate,” Shafeek said.

She supports streamlining rules and narrowing and dividing those massive government contracts to give small businesses a competitive chance.

“Definitely simplify the acquisition process for federal procurement opportunities,” Shafeek said. “There is so much opportunity for small business to do very well doing business with our government.”

“I think supporting small businesses with technical support would put them in a better position to be bankable,” Pugh said.

Both women are building on their individual successes while mentoring younger entrepreneurs and looking for ways that all of them can tap into government support.

Watch more of this story this Sunday, Oct. 17, at 10 a.m. on The Spectrum, only on NBC4.