Compare small business loans and grants for women

The ultimate guide to financing for girl bosses.

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Women in business

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While no business loans are exclusively available to women-owned companies, some lenders offer funding designed with girl bosses in mind. But 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.
Min. Loan Amount $2,000
Max. Loan Amount $15,000
APR 15% to 18%
Interest Rate Type Fixed
Pros
  • Startups can qualify
  • Funding designed for low-income women
  • Loans as low as $2,000 available
  • No fees
Cons
  • No online loans
  • Only available in 15 cities
  • High rates compared to standard business loans
  • Limited information about loans online
  • Only way to get in touch is email

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.
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
Pros
  • No interest or fees
  • All credit types welcome
  • No residency requirements
Cons
  • Relies on your social network for crowdfunding
  • Can take up to 45 days to raise funds

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 girl bosses 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.
Min. Loan Amount $500
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
Pros
  • Competitive rates — especially for a microloan
  • Low credit scores OK
  • No prepayment penalty
  • Resources for small businesses
Cons
  • High fees
  • Limited loan amounts
  • Slow application
  • Poor customer service

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

Women’s Economic Ventures logo
Finder Rating: 4.1 / 5

★★★★★

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.
Min. Loan Amount $250
Max. Loan Amount $150,000
APR 10% to 15%
Interest Rate Type Fixed
Pros
  • Wide range of loan amounts
  • SBA funding available
  • Low maximum APR
Cons
  • Only available in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties
  • Application and origination fees
  • Must submit presentation for loans over $5000

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

Updated March 29th, 2020
Name Product Filter Values Min. Amount Max. Amount Requirements
First Down Funding business loans
$1,000
$300,000
Varies by type of loan
Alternative financing up to $300K with highly competitive rates.
Lendio
$500
$5,000,000
Operate a business in the US or Canada, have a business bank account and have a personal credit score of 675+.
Submit one simple application to potentially get offers from a network of over 75 legit business lenders.
OnDeck
$5,000
$500,000
600+ personal credit score, 1+ years in business, $100,000+ annual revenue
A leading online business lender offering flexible financing at competitive fixed rates.
Kabbage Small Business Line of Credit
$500
$250,000
1+ years in business, $100,000+ annual revenue or $4,200+ monthly revenue over last 3 months
A simple, convenient online application could securely get the funds you need to grow your business.
SmartBiz
$30,000
$5,000,000
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.

Compare up to 4 providers

What other resources are available to girl bosses?

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.

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 girl bosses 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 girl bosses 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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