Seasoned lending veterans in the entertainment industry, Melanie Krinsky and Charlene Paling, have teamed up to create the Los Angeles-based entertainment and media group at Western Alliance Bank.
The pair moved to Western Alliance in the autumn of last year to begin the process of setting up the entertainment lending arm of the institution. The new division has already put through $300 million in loans, with a reported $100 million in potential deals pending.
Entities within the entertainment entrepreneurial space are predominantly victims of habit and usually go to the same sources for funding, the heavy amount of loans given out already highlights a glaring need in the marketplace.
The pair have been working together since 2017 in separate companies. When they first met Paling had recently moved into banking for the entertainment sector from a career as an attorney, and Krinsky was summarizing her tenure at an L.A. entertainment bank.
“There’s just something about being women in entertainment finance, especially as we’ve both grown in our careers and traveled to international events, that’s definitely helped us bond,” Krinsky said.
Female writers and producers have statistically struggled to raise financing for projects and when they do are funded less than their white male counterparts. Paling and Krinsky aimed to not just correct this but take advantage of a massive area of the sector that is underfunded with powerful stories and ideas.
With lending being a relationship-inspired endeavor the pair is so far enjoying their relationship with the bank.
Krinsky said on the bank: “Many people we talk with in the business haven’t heard of Western Alliance. I love having a chance to tell them who this bank is. The first thing to know is that this is a national business bank with more than $50 billion in assets — and everyone here, up to and including the CEO, is excited to be getting into entertainment and media lending.”
Western Alliance is a consistent player on the Forbes list of America’s Best Banks and was named by S&P Global Market Intelligence as the second-best Institution among the 50 biggest public U.S. banks in 2021.
“I’ve been impressed with the depth of expertise across the bank’s national footprint, in addition to international banking capabilities and all the resources and sophisticated products and services our clients need,” Krinsky says. “Senior management wants to learn more about this business, understand our clients and our deals — they actually want to say yes. It’s a bank that has a prudent approach to credit, of course, but everything is tailored. The bank supports our desire — and our clients’ desire — to move quickly.”
Bank executive Vice President, Robert McAuslan, who supervises the new division said about the female founders’ exciting progress: “Just six months in, the list of top entertainment companies doing business with us, combined with the bank’s capabilities and rising commitments in the space, is promising.”
Co-Founder and CEO of Frame Fitness, Melissa Bentivoglio, has had to navigate entrepreneurship as a female since the inception of her company in February of 2020. Noting the glaring difference in treatment in acquiring funding and business from each perspective.
Beginning right at the start of the COVID pandemic, she realized investors were not thrilled about investing in brick-and-mortar in such a volatile marketplace, so she pivoted heavily to launch state-of-the-art Pilates reformer, The Frame Reformer, so people could workout from home.
The reformer has been affectionately dubbed the ‘Peloton of Pilates’ due to its potential in changing the at-home Pilates market.
The product changed her future as an entrepreneur and was voted by Women’s Health Magazine as the Best Pilates Reformer of 2022, by PopSugar as a Must-Have Pilates Machine, and by Well and Good as the Best Pilates Equipment of 2022.
Speaking about raising investment as a female founder she said: “It’s a challenge, and certainly a risk to push into. I partnered with my husband and took my three kids to Los Angeles to begin prototyping the reformer.”
“We surmised after development that we needed further investment and that’s when I realized navigating this environment was very different as a woman.”
Bentivoglio was able to adjust Frame Fitness’s business to meet new market and consumer demands, and with that attract numerous investors to her door.
Having gained plenty of attention in fitness and investment circles, Bentivoglio and Co-Founder Lee Belzberg secured a handful of strategic partnerships and investments.
All of the major investors in Frame Fitness’s digitally-enabled, at-home Pilates reformer are major players in the traditional brick-and-mortar fitness space. Mark Mastrov, founder and former CEO of 24-Hour Fitness, Michael Bruno, owner and CEO of Core Health and Fitness, Jim Rowley, CEO of Crunch Worldwide in addition to Jaclyn Johnson, marketing aficionado and founder of Create & Cultivate.
On the need to have diversity and representation across the investment space she added: “It’s extremely important that there are people of different points of view and backgrounds in the lending and equity space. If everyone comes from the same place and looks the same it’s very difficult for them to understand other people’s lives, and more importantly the market-at-large. That’s how people miss out on opportunities.”
“The women at Entertainment & Media will be able to see projects differently and have a level of understanding and relationships some in the sector may not have. Similarly with us, we have a mix of investors that understand our sector and the necessities around it. COVID – whilst devastating – gave us an opportunity which our investors understood because of their industry experience and our ability to connect.” She added.
With female project investment on the incline more diversified stories and investment in the entertainment landscape overall are expected to come to fruition.