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.
Smartbiz cuts the time it takes to apply for an SBA loan down to just a few weeks — versus the normal multi-month process. And while there is a referral and packaging fee to use Smartbiz’s service, women-owned businesses can take advantage of the low rates that SBA loans have to offer.
Compare regular bank loans and SBA loans
Cuts weeks out of SBA loan turnaround time
Simplified online application
Charges SBA referral and packaging fees
No loans under $30,000
Relatively high starting APR of 7.99% on non-SBA loans
For women who aren’t sure where to begin the process, Lendio works with over 300 lenders to help your business find the right fit. Its lenders may charge an origination fee, but you may also qualify for rates as low as 6%. And like Smartbiz, Lendio can connect your business with an SBA lender.
For women whose businesses work through invoicing, Fundbox provides a solid way to finance up to 100% of an unpaid invoice. And because you connect your accounting software directly to Fundbox, you won’t need to have your personal credit checked.
LendingClub may have a higher starting APR than many lenders, but it’s able to offer loans to women who have fair credit and whose businesses only make around $50,000 annually. But be prepared to pay an origination fee for a relatively long turnaround.
Even businesses as young as six months may qualify for funding — provided your business can meet SBG Funding’s high annual revenue requirement. You may need to make weekly repayments, however. But for women working in high-risk industries or without good personal credit, SBG Funding may be a good choice.
BlueVine offers revolving lines of credit with low starting APRs. Each draw is treated like a loan with its own unique repayment terms — but that does mean multiple draws can lead to multiple weekly repayments. And while convenient, the high minimum time in business and monthly revenue requirements may make it difficult for some women-owned businesses to qualify.
Women who have served our country may be eligible for up to $250,000 from StreetShares. It has one of the lowest annual revenue requirements out there, and it offers both loans and lines of credit. Veterans are also able to sign up for training, mentorship programs and grants.
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.
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.
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
Max. Loan Amount
10% to 15%
Interest Rate Type
Maximum Loan Term
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.
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
NASE Growth Grant
FedEx Small Business Grant
Girlboss Foundation Grant
Open Meadows Foundation
Idea Cafe Small Business Grant
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)
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
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.
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.
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 tax returns
Business bank statements
Lease agreements if you operate out of a storefront
Proof of business ownership
Business asset transactions
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:
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.
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.
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.
Fill out the application. Some lenders offer fully online applications, while others might require you to apply in person.
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.
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.
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.
Anna Serio is a trusted lending expert and certified Commercial Loan Officer who's published more than 950 articles on Finder to help Americans strengthen their financial literacy. A former editor of a newspaper in Beirut, Anna writes about personal, student, business and car loans. Today, digital publications like Business Insider, CNBC and the Simple Dollar feature her professional commentary, and she earned an Expert Contributor in Finance badge from review site Best Company in 2020.
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