Did you know that women own more than 11.3 million businesses in the United States, and that those businesses account for 1.6 trillion in revenue? Women represent an important segment of the U.S. economy, and yet, according to a report by the U.S. Senate, it’s still more difficult for women to get a small business loan than it is for men.
According to credit bureau Experian, women are still seen as less credible and less legitimate than male business owners, and even female lenders prefer working with men. It is absolutely sexist, but knowing this will not help you get the funding you need to succeed.
If you are a female entrepreneur, it is important to know all of the financing options available to you and the impact they could have upon your business. Thankfully, there are several programs which lend specifically to women, whether you have good credit or bad credit, or whether you are just starting out or you are operating an existing business.
Be aware that traditional banks and lenders require significant documentation with business loan applications, as well as excellent credit. They are the toughest loans to get, and may not even offer the flexibility and terms that your business needs. While you should be prepared for a vigorous application process with any of the lending options below, alternative lending offers the quickest application and approval process and flexible payments, both of which could be what your business needs.
We have listed several resources as well as many of the financing opportunities available for women to help you start the process. While we cannot list every option available, we have included some funding sources specific to a particular region to help you identify a similar program in your area.
It may be more difficult for women to get business funding than men, but it’s not impossible. And by taking advantage of these resources, you definitely up your odds of success.
Finding Help before Applying for Small Business Loans
Before applying for any financing, it’s always smart to seek out business counseling. There are several free, helpful resources for women in business which have been set up by the government and non-profits to aid female entrepreneurs. Some provide education, others will help you find female-friendly lenders, and others will help you write and complete loan applications.
The first are women’s resources through the Small Business Administration’s website, or in-person help through local Women’s Business Centers. The SBA will help you fine-tune your business plan to make sure it appeals to lenders.
Another great online resource for women to access business tips and resources is the non-profit, Ladies Who Launch. Their organization runs a website dedicated to helping female business owners and entrepreneurs succeed in business. They also host local events where successful women business owners share their wisdom on panels and networking opportunities abound.
If you are a female veteran, V-Wise is a place where you can find valuable resources to assist you with small business management and entrepreneurship. The resources at V-Wise include training, business planning, economics and finance, marketing & social media, business law, access to capital, networking opportunities and much more. Business counseling will go a long way in helping you run a successful business and eventually acquiring the funding you need. It also serves as a resume booster to convince lenders to invest in your ideas.
Another option for business counseling is SCORE, a non-profit business mentoring service. Most of their services are free, though they do offer some premium options at a very low cost. They will help put you in touch with many of the funding options, grants, and other resources available for women business owners.
If you like networking or just want to find articles and resources about small business loans for women, grants for women, and a variety of business resources you can check out a great online community dedicated to small businesses called Women Owned. Lastly, the National Association of Women Business Owners is a great network for women business owners and entrepreneurs and their website has tools and resources for women.
If you want assistance in the process, Women Accessing Capital can be a great resource for webinars, podcasts, and training sessions to help prepare you to access capital. When borrowing money you will be entering a world of confusing language, from APR to terms to interest-only, and educating yourself as to their meaning and possible impact upon your business is crucial for success.
The more prepared you are with your paperwork, and the more educated you are about different loan types and options, the more likely you are going to get approved for some type of funding.
What to do Before Submitting your Application
Start operating before you apply for financing. What many people don’t realize is that most funding opportunities are reserved exclusively for existing businesses. This means you need to start working, earn some money, acquire a small customer base, to prove you can run a business before you actually apply for a small business loan. Once you have been in operation for at least a few months you will have a much better chance of receiving business funding.
Be aware that multi-level marketing companies, such as Mary Kay, It Works!, LuLaRue and others as they generally do not qualify for traditional short term business loans. These are not considered businesses. Most participants in MLM’s make less than 70 cents an hour, which is scary when you consider that over 32% of them finance their “business” with a credit card. They do not qualify for SBA loans, and according to the FTC the failure rate is over 99%.
Gather everything you need for your loan application before submission. Banks and traditional lenders have long lists of requirements, which often include financial statements, tax returns, resumes and business plans. If your application is missing something, it could delay the loan approval process. Alternative lenders have much-less stringent requirements and are a better choice if you need money faster than the two to three months it will take for a bank’s approval to come through. Once you are prepared to apply for a small business loan the following resources are just some of the options available to you.
Alternative Lending for Women
Most of the small business lending that occurs is either from alternative lenders or banks. Alternative lending is the easiest and most flexible source for private business loans for women even if you have bad credit. There is a reason that this segment of the lending market has grown exponentially over the past few years, with origination volumes reaching $34.5 billion in 2016. Alternative lenders fill a market need by lending to businesses that banks and traditional lenders are afraid to touch.
Alternative lending firms that are easily found online don’t require good credit with their bad credit small business loans as long as you have an existing business, but they also offer lower rate short term business loans for borrowers with good credit. They will typically lend up to $1,000,000 without asking for collateral, and their quick application processes, sometimes as fast as 24 hours, ensure that you get the capital you need as quickly as possible.
In contrast, traditional lenders such as banks can take three months or more to approve a loan. Also, traditional lenders are not an available option for businesses that are just starting out. Those businesses can’t meet the requirements for length of time in business, monthly revenues, and more.
If you are in business and do not have meet the requirements of many of the traditional lenders listed below, alternative lending can be a great way to access small business loans for women.
State Loan Programs for Women
State Loan Financing Programs are available in each state. They establish various economic programs to help women in business. After typing in your zip code on the website and answering a few basic questions, this government resource will display a variety of local resources for financing. Each state also has SBA resources, some of which we have listed below, but we also recommend taking this SBA-provided 45-minute business financing course here to help prepare you to apply with many of the SBA-backed sources you will find below.
Government Grants for Women
There are two main types of grants; those offered by the government and those offered by individuals or private organizations. Government grants can be a great resource to fund an existing project if your business operates within a certain industry or is a certain type of organization. You will need to meet very stringent compliance and reporting requirements to qualify for them.
Tax dollars fund government grants so it is important to point out that they are generally not available for starting or expanding a business. They are notoriously difficult to come by, and typically only made available to non-profits and non-commercial entities such as education, scientific research, technology development or medicine, or if your entity contributes to the community in specific areas.
If you feel you might be able to meet the requirements from the government here are some excellent resources.
- https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/search-grants.html is one of the largest grant resources and a website to search for most of the Government Grants available.
- The Small Business Innovation and Research Program and The Small Business Technology Transfer, https://www.sbir.gov/about/about-sbir, list grant programs offered for technological innovations and R&D that have the potential for commercialization.
- Grants for Women is a comprehensive directory with details about organizations and the grants they offer.
- Grant Watch is a website where you can search for grants geographically as well as search by the type of funding source for those grants.
- The SBA lists a wide variety of grants awarded to Women offering innovative products or services that help improve the lives of women.
Some individuals and organizations offer small business grants. Private grants for women are typically small dollar amounts, but can be a good option for growing or expanding a business. Many do not disqualify small business owners with bad credit. Look into alumni organizations, particularly if you attended a woman’s-only college, or inquire with local corporations.
Here are some resources to get started.
- Smart Women Grants offers a $3,000 grant to each of 6 different categories or business types.
- Amber Grant is a program that offers $500 or $1000 grants for women entrepreneurs.
- The Eileen Fisher Grant, offered by the women’s clothing retailer, is a program where $10,000 grants can be awarded to a business where the majority stake in the company is owned by a woman and the company is already operating and has the potential to create social or environmental change.
- FedEx offers small business grants up to $25,000 awarded to small businesses, however, non-profits are not eligible.
- The Walmart Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative offers a variety of programs to assist women in business through purchasing their products or providing financial grants.
- The American Association of University Women provides career development grants to assist women reentering the workforce or trying to pursue academics beyond the bachelors level.
- The Open Meadows Foundation offers $2,000 grants for projects that directly benefit girls or women. It has a strong focus on political change or assisting in building community power.
- The Halstead Grant is a program that offers up to a $7,500 grants as well as $1,000 worth of jewelry supplies for emerging jewelry designers or artists.
- Google Ad Grants is a program offered by Google where eligible non-profits can receive up to $10,000 a month in free advertising.
Small Business Loans for Women from Private Organizations or Banks
Some organizations and banks offer small business loans specially tailored to women. Many of the options listed below were created for women, however, there may be more out there.
Programs established for particular regions will give you a starting point to search for something similar in your area. When trying to find a similar program in your region search with the same features, keywords and phrases discussed on the first program’s website.
Generally speaking women are eligible for business loans in any bank, but many local community banks offer business loans for women which include access to helpful business and financial planning resources.
Foundations, Funds and Initiatives that Give Small Business Loans to Women
- Loans through the Tory Burch Foundation are for women who have operated a business for at least two years, have a satisfactory credit rating, and have a sustainable business model. These particular small business loans are made through Community Development Financial Institutions.
- Women’s Venture Fund is an organization dedicated to helping women succeed as entrepreneurs by providing funding and additional business resources.
- Women’s Economic Ventures is another organization dedicated to assisting women in business providing small business loans as well as additional business resources. Startups can receive as much as $25,000 and expanding businesses can receive up to $50,000 in loan funding.
Geographically-Based Small Business Loans for Women
While geographically-based loans and grants are often offered in economically-depressed areas, and are sometimes only available minorities, you might be able to find one in your area. Loan amounts vary, but many also lend at below-market rates and provide training and resources along with their loans.
- The Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative provides small business loans up to $250,000 to startups or existing businesses that operate or expect to operate in the state of Wisconsin.
- The Economic Development Corporation of Eerie NY offers loans to women-owned existing businesses or startups that have been operating for less than two years and are located in distressed areas in the Eerie region. Small business loans range from $25,000 to $500,000.
- Northeastern University Business Loans are offered to women owned businesses in Boston that have been in operation for less than two years. Business loans range from $1,000 to $1,000,000 and are offered at below-market interest rates.
- The Business Outreach Center Network is a NY organization that provides access to small business loans for women in New York ranging up to $50,000. They also provide assistance with business plan development and many other business development resources.
- Loans through the Women’s Opportunity Resource Center of Pennsylvania are offered to women owned or minority businesses in the Philadelphia area. Both startups and existing businesses are eligible. Loans range from $500 to $35,000.
- My Entrepreneur Works provides small business loans to startups or existing businesses in the Philadelphia region. They also offer training and a variety of business tools to help women succeed in business.
- Maryland Capital Enterprises Inc offers small business loans for women in Maryland ranging up to $250,000 with varying interest rates between 7% and 12%. They help both startups and existing businesses with financing as well as MBE certification, business plans, social networking and many other strategies to help female entrepreneurs get their business off the ground.
Local Bank Small Business Loans for Women
The local and national banks below are meant to show you that these programs exist and you can probably find one near you.
- Key Bank has announced a commitment to female business owners and backed up that commitment with loans to businesses of all sizes. They also provide custom financial solutions, educational and networking opportunities to women-owned companies in 14 states. They’re located in Ohio and operate in surrounding areas.
- PNC offers financial products and services specifically geared to women, as well as educational and advisory services to women in business. PNC is headquartered in Pennsylvania and serves that region of the country.
- Union Bank has a Business Diversity Lending program which was created to assist women owned companies to more easily qualify for the financing required to build their business. With branches in California, Oregon and Washington, they primarily serve the West Coast.
- Goldman Sachs launched an initiative called “10,000 Women” meant to provide female entrepreneurs with business management resources, education, networking and mentoring, and ways to access to capital.
- Local First Bank, located in North Carolina, offers a variety of small business loan options to female entrepreneurs.
- Live Oak Bank is another North Carolina bank that offers small business loans to women operating businesses that receive federal government contracts.
- American National Bank, in Wisconsin, lends to women-operated existing businesses. Loan amounts go up to multi-million dollar business loans. American National is a certified preferred lender with the SBA.
- Lift Fund loans, run by JP Morgan Chase, recently announced an initiative to increase access to small business loans for women in the Southern United States. Small business loans range from $500 to $1,000,000. The women biz resource website also offers a variety of resources to assist women in growing their business.
- Community Advantage Loans are loans and resources offered through an SBA pilot program. The SBA provides access to credit, management, and technical assistance to small businesses in underserved communities. The loans are granted through approved local lenders and banks.
Economic Development Agencies
Each state and many local governments have resources dedicated to help new and established businesses grow and become successful. To find resources in your state, the SBA has a platform where you can search state by state for your local Economic Development Agency.
Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs, are financial institutions that were established to provide affordable loans to low-income or disadvantaged communities. To qualify for their programs you must meet certain criteria, such as operating your business in a disadvantaged community, being a member of a minority group, or income requirements. Below you will find some sample CDFIs as well as some of the main resources to find local CDFIs in your area.
- The CFDI website, is the central resource to find a list of CDFI’s in your local community.
- Craft3 is a nonprofit CDFI assisting individuals in Pacific Northwest communities. They offer small business loans for women that range from $25,000 to $5,000,000. Interest rates on the loans range from 7% to 12% with a repayment terms from 3 to 7 years. There are some additional legal and origination fees to consider, so be sure to understand all of the terms before applying.
- ACE Women’s Business Center is another CDFI that provides small business loans. Bad credit scores as low as 550 can get approved and loans range up to $50,000. They also offer business advisory services and the website features online courses for business training with Dreambuilder, unique women’s business skills online training.
- AEO Works is a network of community lenders with the mission to serve entrepreneurs and small business owners that do not qualify for traditional financing. The initiatives offered are meant to provide access to small business loans for underserved entrepreneurs in local communities through CDFIs.
Angel investors or venture funding can be a great option to find start-up capital or secondary funding for small businesses in the early stages. Venture Capitalists are extremely picky and have a very stringent vetting process but if you have a great idea or business model it may be wise to consider. Many have been started to work with and fund women-owned businesses.
The SBA offers a great resource to learn what venture capital and angel investing is all about. Below is a list of a few venture capital funds which work primarily work, or seek to work with more, women.
- Astia provides capital, networking opportunities and business guidance to female entrepreneurs around the world in the various stages of business.
- Golden Seeds provides funding to women led companies where a female owns a fair amount of the company and that woman has power and influence in the company. There are some strict requirements as to company type, revenue, and margins, but if you are looking for this type of funding Golden Seed can be a good option for women.
- A group of women investors that give women access to capital in amounts up to $150,000, 37 Angels understands women and entrepreneurship. It can be a good fit for a woman owned business looking for funding.
- Plum Alley is a place where investors and influencers are brought together to advance women owned and gender diverse companies. They take a hands-on approach to walk you through the entire business funding process and get you capital for your business.
- Women’s Capital Connection is a network of more than 100 women investors that focus on investing in women-led startups.
- The female-founded group Topstone Angels encourages women startups to apply for venture capital. They invest across multiple industries.
- Early-stage capital fund BBG Ventures focuses on mobile and internet startups with at least one female founder.
- Belle Capital is an Angel Fund that focuses on investing in the technology sector. They provide funding to companies that are founded by women, have women executives, or who are willing to recruit women at the executive level.
- Springboard is an expert network of innovators, influencers, and investors looking to accelerate the access to growth capital for women entrepreneurs.
- Phenomenelle Angels Fund invests in early stage women owned companies in the Midwest and Wisconsin. They utilize a network of successful female entrepreneurs to advise other women, assist in recruiting, and help with marketing and partnerships. They also assist with additional financing.
- The Harriet Fund invests in early-stage women owned companies with investors from the community as well as by a woman owned venture fund. Funding recipients receive more than capital, through their accelerator program they provide coaching and mentoring.
- Female Founders Fund invests in early stage women owned tech companies and provide networking options with leading female CEO’s and executives.
- SheEO World has built a network of woman to assist entrepreneurs as well as providing low or no-interest loans with money pooled by women activators or investors. Companies that are selected must have $50,000 a year in revenue.
Crowdfunding is a process where an individual or borrower attempts to raise funding by requesting small amounts of money from a large pool of people. Funds are often donations and contributors do not expect to be paid back, though some crowdfunding campaigns offer donor incentives and gifts. Those incentives can take the form of gifting products or offering services at a discount. Some crowdfunding platforms today even allow investors to lend in a type of angel funding or venture capital equity framework.
Most of the crowdfunding options are done via the internet. For detailed information on Crowdfunding for women check out this report from the National Women’s Business Council. There are some crowdfunding websites set up for women-owned ventures, or who support searches for female borrowers.
- Patreon is a business funding platform that allows content creators for websites like Instagram or YouTube to get crowdfunded by fans and followers.
- IFundWomen is a crowdfunding website dedicated to women entrepreneurs. Funding is provided for startups and small businesses. 20% of the website’s fees for a funded deal are reinvested into another deal on the website.
- Popular crowdfunding site Kiva dedicates part of the site to small business loans for women owned businesses.
Microloans for Women
Microloans are typically loans which only give a small sum of money, too small to interest a bank. Although some microloans can range up to $100,000, most are capped at $35,000 with the average being about $13,000 according to a recent senate report.
- Grameen America provides microfinancing to women entrepreneurs.
- Accion is a nonprofit that offers microloans up to $50,00 to lower income entrepreneurs including women. They also offer articles and videos as well as other business resources to assist entrepreneurs on business matters.
- The SBA Microloan Program provides loans up to $50,000 to assist small business owners and certain types of nonprofits to startup or expand. The funding can be used for things like inventory, furniture, machinery or equipment, or working capital.
- The NY Minority and Women Revolving Loan Trust Fund Program lends up to $50,000 to assist minority and women owned small businesses. Additionally they assist applicants through the application process and provide business plan assistance, mentorship, and other other business services.
- The Michigan Women’s MicroLoan Fund Program provides microloans up to $50,000 to assist small businesses where a woman owns at least 51%. The company must be legally established and based in the state of Michigan.
At Shield Funding we believe in assisting women in business. We believe that an educated borrower is an empowered borrower, and want you to know all of your options for small business funding. We also suggest learning about your borrower’s rights before taking out a loan.
If you have any questions, please give us a call. We would be happy to help guide you to the right choice when it comes to financing your business.