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Small business loans and grants for women

See business loan and grant options tailored to women entrepreneurs.

Updated . What changed?

Fact checked

While no business loans are exclusively available to women-owned companies, we looked for lenders that provided perks and services with women entrepreneurs in mind. We also considered costs, loan amounts and customer reviews to offer options to a range of business owners.

Entrepreneurs can generally benefit the most from these lenders. If you’re out of the startup stage, you’ll likely benefit more from financing through a traditional provider.

4 lenders that support women in business

Best for low-income entrepreneurs: Grameen America

None
Min. Credit Score
15%
Starting APR
$15,000
Loan Amount
Grameen America microloans are designed with low-income female entrepreneurs in mind. While its rates start higher than some other options, it’s competitive for startup financing — especially if you have bad credit. But it’s not available to everyone: You have to live in one of the 15 cities it has branches in to qualify.
  • Startups can qualify
  • Funding designed for low-income women
  • Loans as low as $2,000 available
  • No online loans
  • Only available in 15 cities
  • High rates compared to standard business loans
Min. Loan Amount $2,000
Max. Loan Amount $15,000
APR 15% to 18%
Interest Rate Type Fixed

Best for interest-free microfinancing: Kiva

None
Min. Credit Score
0%
Starting APR
$15,000
Loan Amount
Kiva is a microlender that specializes in funding underserved business owners — the majority of its borrowers just happen to be women. It’s hard to beat the 0% interest rate. But it’s not ideal if you’re looking for funding to cover more than a small expense or need money fast — it can take over 45 days.

UPDATE: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kiva has announced it will loosen its eligibility requirements and extend its maximum loan amount by $5,000 — to a total of $15,000. Additionally, borrowers can request a six-month grace period before payments are due.

  • No interest or fees
  • All credit types welcome
  • No residency requirements
  • Relies on your social network for crowdfunding
  • Can take up to 45 days to raise funds
Min. Loan Amount $25
Max. Loan Amount $15,000
APR 0%
Interest Rate Type N/A
Minimum Loan Term 1 months
Maximum Loan Term 3 months

Best for getting additional support: Accion

575
Min. Credit Score
10.99%
Starting APR
$250,000
Loan Amount
This microlender goes beyond offering loans by providing services to help female entrepreneurs succeed. It can help you find a bank or lawyer — or even get certified as a Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) or Woman Business Enterprise (WBE). However, it has slightly tighter requirements than other female-focused microlenders.
  • Competitive rates — especially for a microloan
  • Low credit scores OK
  • No prepayment penalty
  • High fees
  • Limited loan amounts
  • Slow application
Min. Loan Amount $300
Max. Loan Amount $250,000
APR 10.99% to 22%
Interest Rate Type Fixed
Min. Credit Score 575
Minimum Loan Term 6 months
Maximum Loan Term 60 months
Women’s Economic Ventures logo
Finder Rating: 4.1 / 5

★★★★★

Best for Santa Barbara business owners: Women’s Economic Ventures

None
Min. Credit Score
10%
Starting APR
$150,000
Loan Amount
This community development financial institution (CDFI) offers startup capital up to $25,000 and Small Business Administration (SBA) expansion funding up to $150,000 to California business owners in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
You can qualify even if you’ve never run a business or don’t have strong credit. But it charges more fees than your typical microloan, and it can take up to eight weeks to get approved.
  • Wide range of loan amounts
  • SBA funding available
  • Low maximum APR
  • Only available in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties
  • Application and origination fees
  • Must submit presentation for loans over $5000
Min. Loan Amount $250
Max. Loan Amount $150,000
APR 10% to 15%
Interest Rate Type Fixed
Maximum Loan Term 84 months

Grants and other resources available to women business owners

Depending on the nature of your business, you have a few places to turn to for grants — including both government options and private programs.

Grants

The federal government, state and local governments and many private organizations offer grants to help fund women-owned businesses. You can start your search for federal grants on Grants.gov and Challenge.gov. Or, consider one of these private organizations:

  • Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant
  • WomensNet Amber Grant
  • 37 Angels
  • NASE Growth Grant
  • FedEx Small Business Grant
  • Girlboss Foundation Grant
  • Open Meadows Foundation
  • Idea Cafe Small Business Grant
  • WomanOwned

Women’s business organizations

There are several national and local organizations that can offer support and resources to women-run businesses.

You’ll likely need to become a member and pay annual dues. But in exchange, you’ll get access to training programs, discounts from merchants and services, and help applying for financing like SBA loans. Some can also connect you with incubator funds to get your startup off the ground or certify your company as a Woman-Owned Small Business. These include:

  • Association of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC)
  • DreamBuilder
  • National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO)
  • National Women’s Business Council (NWBC)
  • National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC)
  • National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC)
  • National Association of Women in Real Estate Businesses (NAWRB)
  • Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
  • U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce
  • Womensphere
  • WomanOwned

SBA resources

The SBA offers several resources designed to empower women-owned businesses:

  • Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO). Get training, counseling and help with financing and applying for federal contracts through this program. It’s available at SBA Women’s Business Centers (WBCs).
  • SBA 8(a) Business Development Program. Apply to participate in this program to find a mentor, get help with applying for contracts set aside for women-owned companies, and get access to other trainings and assistance.
  • Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract Program. Apply directly to contracts set aside specifically for women-owned small businesses.

What type of small business loan is right for me?

Finding the right kind of lender is key to getting funding that fits your business’s needs.

If you’re starting a new business …

Microloans are your best bet. These small-dollar loans come with some of the lowest rates available to entrepreneurs — most microlenders are CDFIs or other nonprofits. Many also have programs tailored to women-owned businesses.

If you’re in the startup phase …

You can still benefit from microloans at this stage — though you might want to also start looking into online lenders and SBA funding.

  • Online loans. These are often open to businesses that have been around for as little as six months and go up to $500,000.
  • SBA loans. The SBA microloan program can help your business access more affordable rates for loans up to $50,000 and is available to startups.

If your business is in its first few years…

Online lenders, credit unions and community development financial institutions might be your best bet. These lenders typically have lower time-in-business requirements, and you might not need to be profitable to qualify.

If your business has been around for 3 years or longer…

At this point, your business is established enough to qualify for large long-term loans at the most competitive rates. You have the track record to qualify for a bank loan or larger amounts of SBA funding, including its popular 7(a) program.

If you have bad credit…

Online lenders and microloans could be your best choice, no matter how long your business has been around — these typically have lower credit requirements for business owners. Or, consider secured options — backing your loan with collateral makes you a less-risky applicant.

If you need money ASAP…

Go with an online lender. Lenders that specialize in financing for women-owned businesses are often slow — think a few weeks or a month. But an online lender can get your funds in 24 to 48 hours after approval — or even the same day in some cases.

Compare more business loans for women

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Filter Values Loan amount APR Requirements
First Down Funding business loans
$4,000 – $300,000
5.49% to 22.79%
At least 1 year in business, an annual revenue of $100,000+, and a minimum credit score of 300
Alternative financing up to $300K with highly competitive rates.
Lendio business loan marketplace
$500 – $5,000,000
Starting at 6%
Operate business in US or Canada, have a business bank account, 560+ personal credit score
Submit one simple application to potentially get offers from a network of over 75 legit business lenders.
Fundera
$2,500 – $5,000,000
7% to 30%
$300,000+ of annual revenue, 680+ personal credit score, in business for 3+ years
Get connected with short-term funding, SBA loans, lines of credit and more.
Kickpay e-commerce loans
$20,000 – $1,000,000
Not applicable
At least $250,000 in the past 12 months of revenue, e-commerce business, use a 3rd party fulfillment center for storing and shipping inventory, at least one US location.
Get a loan for your e-commerce business based on your sales history.
Credibly Business Loans
$5,000 – $250,000
6+ months in business, $180K annual business revenue, 500+ credit $15K+ in monthly deposits
Funding to cover business expenses with daily or weekly repayments.
SmartBiz
$30,000 – $5,000,000
4.75% to 7.00%
650+ personal credit score, US citizen or permanent resident, 2+ years in business, $50,000+ annual revenue, no outstanding tax liens, no bankruptcies or foreclosures in past 3 years
Get funding for your small business with a government-backed loan and extended repayment terms.
LendingClub small business loans
$5,000 – $500,000
9.77% to 35.98%
12+ months in business, $50,000+ in annual sales, no bankruptcies or tax liens, at least 20% ownership of the business, fair personal credit score or better
With loan terms that vary from 1 to 5 years, enjoy fixed monthly payments and no prepayment penalties through this award-winning lender.
Monevo Business Loans
$500 – $100,000
3.99% to 35.99%
Credit score of 500+, legal US resident and ages 18+.
Use this connection service to get paired with a loan you can use for business.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Does my business qualify for a loan?

Business requirements tend to vary depending on the type of loan you’re interested in. But you generally need to meet the following criteria to get a standard term loan from a traditional lender:

  • Good to excellent credit
  • At least three years in business
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue

If you don’t meet these requirements, you still have options. You might want to look into microlenders, CDFIs and online lenders. Your company doesn’t need to be majority-owned by a woman to apply for a business loan designed with female entrepreneurs in mind.

Find financing options for minority-owned businesses

What information do I need to apply?

Different lenders will require different documentation, but you’ll typically need a basic level of information to apply across the board. Here’s a breakdown of what you might be asked to submit when applying:

Business information

  • Business tax returns
  • Business bank statements
  • Lease agreements if you operate out of a storefront
  • Proof of business ownership
  • Business asset transactions
  • State filings
  • Business plan

Personal information

  • Personal tax returns
  • Social Security number
  • Contact information and mailing address
  • Proof of residency
  • Personal credit score

How to apply for a business loan

Think you’re ready to apply for financing? Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Compare your options. Once you figure out how much funding you need, compare your options based on loan amounts, APR, fees, speed and eligibility requirements.
  2. Prequalify. Some business loan providers let you prequalify online by filling out a short form on their website — just make sure it doesn’t require a hard credit check.
  3. Gather your documents. When you’ve found the lender you’re interested in working with, check their website or call customer service to see what documents and information you’ll need to provide in the application.
  4. Fill out the application. Some lenders offer fully online applications, while others might require you to apply in person.
  5. Complete an interview, if required. Many traditional business loan providers (especially banks) require an interview, during which you’ll give a presentation that demonstrates both the security of your business plan and your financial need.
  6. Wait for a response. Decisions can take a week or more, so you could be in limbo for a bit. The process is further delayed if your paperwork isn’t in order, so be sure to double-check everything before you submit.

Step-by-step guide to applying for a business loan

Bottom line

You’ll get the most out of loans made for women-owned businesses if you’re an entrepreneur or a startup. But you can still benefit from the wide variety of resources meant to empower female entrepreneurs well after you’ve started turning a profit. Read our guide to business loans to find other financing options that fit your needs.

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