Raising venture-capital funds is difficult for any entrepreneur, but it may be especially rough for woman business owners. Here's one solution from Women's Collateral Funding.

The group, based in Philadelphia, publishes a directory -- The Women's Directory: Business Resource Guide -- and uses the funds raised from advertisers and subscribers to guarantee collateral for bank loans. The loans of $10,000 to $25,000 go to woman-owned businesses that otherwise lack the collateral to win support from bankers and are too small for venture capitalists. Two loans have been guaranteed.

Nina Brown, the group's cofounder and chief executive, decided to "produce a product that we would sell and thereby raise funds to invest indirectly in woman-owned businesses." The book, which is distributed free to female decision makers in the area, lists female electrical contractors, fund-raisers, environmental consultants, and many others. "For businesspeople and others in the Philadelphia region who want to patronize woman-owned businesses, this is a great way of learning who's doing what," Brown explains.

Although the project is confined so far to the Philadelphia area, Brown plans to replicate her publishing and investing formula in other urban centers. Next on the agenda: a Washington, D.C., guide, to be available by year-end.