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.
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.
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.
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
Limited loan amounts
Min. Loan Amount
Max. Loan Amount
10.99% to 22%
Interest Rate Type
Min. Credit Score
Minimum Loan Term
Maximum Loan Term
Finder Rating: 4.1 / 5
Best for Santa Barbara business owners: Women’s Economic Ventures
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.
Frequently asked questions
No, lenders aren’t allowed to discriminate based on gender — meaning that requirements work the same as any other lender.
You can, though your options are more limited — lenders typically consider your personal credit score rather than your business credit. You might want to consider backing your loan with collateral to increase your chances of qualifying for a competitive rate.
You’ll find extreme variations on processing times between lenders. It can be anywhere from a few business days to a few weeks or more.
How much you can borrow varies by lender. Some business lenders offer loans as high as $5 million. Often your maximum amount is based on the provider’s lending limits, how much your business can afford and your personal credit score.
Anna Serio is a trusted loans expert who's published more than 800 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 CNBC, Business Insider 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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