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Small business loans and grants for women in 2021

See business loan and grant options tailored to women entrepreneurs.

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Best business loans for women Compare our top picks

This article was reviewed by Doug Noll, a member of the Finder Editorial Review Board and award-winning lawyer, mediator and author with over 40 years of experience in the legal field.

Women-owned businesses are the fastest-growing sector of the economy, but only qualify for 22% of business loans, according to a US Senate report. There are no small business loans exclusively available to women. But several have assistance programs for women entrepreneurs to help level the playing field.

Our team has spent over 360 hours researching lenders before selecting this list of business small business loans for women. We considered factors like rates, terms, loan amounts and customer reviews before selecting our top picks. Recently, we've separated out top picks by loan type to give you a clear idea of what kinds of financing your small business may qualify for.

Summary of the best small business loans for women

Smartbiz

4.75%

$5 million

640

Lendio

6%

$5 million

560

Kiva

0%

$15,000

None

Accion Opportunity Fund

5.99%

$100,000

Not stated

Fundbox

Not stated

$150,000

600

OnDeck

35%

$250,000

600

Seek Business Capital

Varies

$500,000

680

Guidant Financial

12%

$150,000

690

Funding Circle

4.99%

$500,000

660

BlueVine

4.8%

$250,000

600

10 best small business loans for women

Finding the right kind of lender is key to getting funding that fits your business’s needs. These five categories — and the additional funding options listed below — work with a variety of small women-owned businesses, although very few have specific programs for female entrepreneurs.

SBA loans

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers a variety of loans and loan programs. While they are typically available through banks and credit unions, there are also online lenders like Newtek that work with the SBA.

The most common SBA loan programs are 7(a) loans, Express Loans, 504 loans and microloans. These are meant to cover small business expenses and gaps in cash flow. But to qualify, you will need to have strong personal credit. In many cases, you should also expect a long application process. It may take weeks to complete a single application and months for your lender and the SBA to review your details.

If you're interested in an SBA loan, we have compiled a list of SBA resources to make the process of getting funding for your business easier.

SmartBiz business loans


Finder rating 4.5 / 5
★★★★★

Go to site

on SmartBiz's secure website

Smartbiz cuts the time it takes to apply for a loan backed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) 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.

Lendio business loans


Finder rating 4.75 / 5
★★★★★

Go to site

on Lendio's secure website

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.

Microloans

Microloans are small-dollar loans, and come with some of the lowest rates available to small business owners. Most microlenders are community development financial institutions (CDFIs) or other nonprofits. Many also have programs tailored to women-owned businesses and are willing to work with those who have bad credit.

Like the name implies, microloans are usually under $10,000. They're ideal for covering small initial costs like buying a web domain and purchasing inventory. To get the most out of your microlender, look for one that offers mentorship programs to women business owners.

In addition, the SBA microloan program can help your business access more affordable rates for loans up to $50,000 and is available to startups.

Kiva business loans


Finder rating 3.7 / 5
★★★★★

This startup-friendly microlender offers 0% APR microloans to women entrepreneurs — if you solicit donations from five to 35 members of your community before you apply. It works with all credit types and offers funding as low as $25. While its women’s entrepreneurship fund isn’t available in the US, one of its core missions is helping women achieve gender equity worldwide. It has funded a total of over 1.6 million business loans for women across the world.

Accion Opportunity Fund business loans


Finder rating 3.6 / 5
★★★★★

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.

Short-term loans

Short-term business loans include merchant cash advances, invoice financing and small-term loans. These are designed for businesses that need to cover gaps in cash flow and usually use credit card payments or invoices as collateral.

There are rarely specific short-term loans intended specifically for women business owners. Provided you meet the minimum requirements set by a lender, you could receive quick financing for your business. Just be aware of the high cost of short-term lending and repayment terms.

Fundbox lines of credit


Finder rating 4.2 / 5
★★★★★

Go to site

on Fundbox's secure website

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.

OnDeck short-term loans


Finder rating 4.6 / 5
★★★★★

Go to site

on OnDeck Capital's secure website

OnDeck is one of our top-rated lenders. While it doesn't have any specific programs for women, its fees and terms are relatively competitive in the short-term market. This doesn't make it cheap, however. Expect a high interest rate — starting at 35% — and a monthly maintenance fee for its lines of credit. But if you need to build business credit history and want same-day funding, it can be a good fit for your business.

Startup loans

For women with new businesses, startup loans can mean the difference between getting off the ground and closing down. But first things first, know that startup loans typically require at least six months in business and an annual revenue of $100,000 or more. For businesses younger than that or with a lower annual revenue, you'll want to consider microloans or some of the alternatives we review.

If your business meets the most common requirements for a business loan, then you could have access to funding that supports your startup. Lenders like Grameen America specifically work with women business owners, though the amount you can borrow is limited.

Other lenders, like Seek Business Capital and Guidant Financial, don't have programs exclusively for female entrepreneurs. But they do have well-rounded options that can help you finance the initial expenses startups face.

Seek Business Capital loans


Finder rating 4.5 / 5
★★★★★

Seek Business Capital is a connection service that works with direct providers, including SBA lenders and credit card companies. While its services aren’t available to women who don’t have strong personal credit scores, it does accept as little as six months in business. And with a maximum amount of $500,000, Seek Business Capital can help you find a lender that suits your business’s working capital needs.

Guidant Financial business loans


Finder rating 4 / 5
★★★★★

Guidant Financial is one of the few lenders that offers a line of credit for businesses that haven't opened their doors yet. To qualify, you'll need good personal credit, minimal inquiries and a credit utilization ratio under 50%. It even offers a 0% introductory rate for well-qualified applicants. After that, interest rates range from 12% to 18% — lower than typical business credit cards. But it comes with a high 9% origination fee. And it's not the fastest option out there — it can take up to a month to fund your LOC.

Online loans

Online lenders offer a broad range of options, including term loans, lines of credit and equipment loans. For women business owners, they can be a quick and easy way to obtain financing.

As with most options, there aren't specific loans for women. Provided your business qualifies, you may be eligible for funding. Go with an online lender when you need financing as soon as possible. Lenders that specialize in financing for women-owned businesses are often slow — think a few weeks or a month.

Funding Circle business loans


Finder rating 4.4 / 5
★★★★★

Funding Circle's low credit score of 660 makes it a good choice for women who may not qualify with more traditional lenders. And while you will need to have at least two years in business to qualify, you may be eligible for interest rates as low as 4.99% — quite competitive in the peer-to-peer (P2P) space.

BlueVine business lines of credit


Finder rating 4.5 / 5
★★★★★

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.

Where to find additional funding

Established women-owned businesses aren't limited to microloans, online lenders and short-term loans. Like any business, you have a wide range of options to support your growth and cover your expenses.

Banks and credit unions

Banks and credit unions are the most traditional choice to finance an established business. Female entrepreneurs can take advantage of some of the most competitive rates — all while building a positive banking relationship. You and your business will need to have strong finances to qualify, however.

CDFIs

Community development financial institutions offer loans based on your personal finances to help you build up your business finances. Some might also have special programs for women-owned businesses.

And like banks and credit unions, you'll find the most common types of business financing options, including term loans, equipment financing, lines of credit, SBA loans and commercial real estate loans. These lenders also tend to have lower time-in-business requirements, and you might not need to be profitable to qualify.

Best of all, CDFIs are local institutions and may have connections to organizations for women business owners in your area. This is a good way to find potential grant or lesser known loan opportunities unique to where you live.

Inventory financing

Businesses that deal in large amounts of inventory — especially e-commerce businesses — can receive special financing to purchase it from wholesalers and manufacturers. This can help you meet demand without damaging your cash flow. And interest rates tend to be competitive since the lender will use your inventory as collateral for the loan.

Equipment loans

When you need a specific piece of equipment, check with the seller to see if it offers financing. Like inventory loans, equipment loans have competitive rates because the equipment is used as collateral.

Equipment leases are also available so you can upgrade when you need to. This helps postpone the cost of of getting started or upgrading what you have — which is especially useful for women in fast-paced industries.

Angel investors and venture capital

If you're willing to sell the equity in your business, angel investors and venture capitalists may be willing to support a woman-owned business with strong potential. This can be a good option for new businesses that haven't gotten off the ground.

But taking on an investor means considering their input. It could lead to valuable mentorship, but you could also lose some of your autonomy when you do.

Crowdfunding

For women with strong social networks, crowdfunding is often the way to raise money for new ventures or specialty products. This is far from a guaranteed source of income — but if you have strong marketing skills, it could be a good way to secure funding without interest or selling equity.

Grants for 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:

This is just a small selection of the grant programs available. Do your research and see if there are more options that your business could qualify for — especially if there are unique opportunities in your industry.

Coronavirus grants for women-owned businesses

While there are no nationally-available grants specifically for women, there may be programs available in your area. Check with your local women's business center to find out what options are available to you in your state and industry. You can find your closest center on the SBA website.

Resources and organizations for women business owners

Like grants, there are specific programs and organizations designed for female entrepreneurs that you can use to support your business.

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:

There are also resources for specific industries. Organizations like the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) or the National Association of Women in Real Estate Businesses (NAWRB) exist — so reach out to mentors in your industry to see if there are organizations your business can join.

You can also explore funding options for minority-owned businesses, which includes both grant opportunities and specialized programs.

Become certified as a women-owned business

Certifying your business as majority-owned by women is an important step to securing federal contracts.

To get certified as a WOSOB or an Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB), determine if your business is eligible. Your business must have one or more women who claim at least 51% ownership. The SBA has a number of FAQs, forms and support documents to help you complete the process.

As of October 2020, self-certification is no longer available. If you previously self-certified, you must recertify through an approved third-party certifier once your federal contracts are finished.

How to qualify for a business loan

While requirements vary widely between lenders, most will require your business meet these three criteria at minimum:

  • Good to excellent personal credit score of 670 or higher
  • 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.

How to apply

Just like any business loan, you will need to follow a few basic steps to apply:

  1. Determine the type of financing you need
  2. Compare lenders and prequalify
  3. Gather supporting documents
  4. Submit an application and interview, if required

The exact process depends on the type of loan and the lender. While these generalized steps are common for most loans, you'll need to contact your lender to ensure you have the information it needs to keep the application process quick.

Typical required documents

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

Recap: Best small business loans for women

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.

Compare more business loans for women

These lenders offer additional options to fund your business.

Name Product Filter Values Loan amount APR Requirements

Biz2Credit business loans
Finder Rating: 3.75 / 5: ★★★★★

Biz2Credit business loans
$25,000 – $6,000,000
Starting at 5.99%
6+ months in business; $100,000+ monthly revenue; 500+ credit score
Get only the capital you need through secure, prescreened lenders with this highly rated company offering SBA, expansion, working capital and other loans.

OnDeck short-term loans
Finder Rating: 4.6 / 5: ★★★★★

OnDeck short-term loans
$5,000 – $250,000
As low as 35%
600+ personal credit score, 1 year in business, $100,000+ annual revenue, active business checking account
A leading online business lender offering flexible financing at competitive fixed rates.

Fora Financial business loans
Finder Rating: 4.1 / 5: ★★★★★

Fora Financial business loans
$5,000 – $500,000
Varies
6+ months in business, $12,000+ monthly revenue, no open bankruptcies
Get qualified for funding in minutes for up to $500,000 without affecting your credit score. Best for companies with at least six figures in annual revenue.

Lendio business loans
Finder Rating: 4.75 / 5: ★★★★★

Lendio business loans
$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 300 legit business lenders.

ROK Financial business loans
Finder Rating: 4.7 / 5: ★★★★★

ROK Financial business loans
$10,000 – $5,000,000
Starting at 6%
Eligibility criteria 3+ months in business, $15,000+ in monthly gross sales or $180,000+ in annual sales
A connection service for all types of businesses — even startups.

Fundbox lines of credit
Finder Rating: 4.2 / 5: ★★★★★

Fundbox lines of credit
$1,000 – $150,000
Not stated
6 + months in business, $100,000+ in annual revenue, 600+ credit score
Get flat rate, short-term financing based on the financial health of your business, not your credit score.
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