Table of Contents

  • The Best Business Loans for Women
  • Top Small Business Grants for Women
  • Resources for Women Entrepreneurs
  • Questions About Women’s Business Funding

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Women own 40% of American small businesses. While this number is already a record high, women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men. 

While women continue to prove their businesses are just as viable and profitable as others, less than one-third of all female entrepreneurs applying for small business loans receive approval, according to a study by the National Women’s Business Council. Comparatively, 50% of all other applicants were able to get a loan.

Clearly, it’s difficult for women to get the financing they need to sustain and grow their business.

While there aren’t specific business loans for women, there are plenty of grants and other mentorship programs and resources available exclusively to female entrepreneurs. 

In this guide, we’ll break down the best small business loans for women, where you can find them, and what you’ll need to apply and qualify.

The Best Business Loans for Women

In every company, no matter the size, there comes a time when you can use additional working capital. If your business needs capital to fund startup costs or grow your business and you’ve been turned down for a traditional bank loan, consider these options. 

Business Line of Credit

Purchase and payment flexibility are the two main features that make a small business line of credit so appealing. A business line of credit can be used much like a credit card — used when it’s needed and paid off in regular increments. LOC limits are often higher than credit cards with repayment terms falling within the range of 6 months to 3 years.

Do You Qualify?

Based on previously approved borrowers, you’re likely to qualify if: 

  • You’ve been in business 6+ months
  • Your annual revenue is $160,000 or more
  • You have a credit score of 575+


Small Business Loans (SBA)  Loans

When women aren’t able to obtain a traditional term loan for their business, they often apply for an SBA loan. These loans are partially guaranteed by the Small Business Administration and are available exclusively to small business owners. While the SBA itself doesn’t provide any funds, they work with a group of participating lenders who disburse capital according to SBA-defined guidelines.

This guarantee effectively lowers the risk lenders assume when working with small business owners, making this option just as attractive to them as it does for you. If you default on your loan, for instance, the SBA would reimburse the lender up to 85% of the loan amount. 

As a result, participating lenders consider more applicants and offer more competitive terms. This combination translates into greater access to loan programs featuring longer repayment periods, lower interest rates and affordable monthly payments. 

Do You Qualify?

Based on previously approved borrowers, you’re likely to qualify if:

  • You’ve been in business 2+ years
  • Your annual revenue is $75,000 or more
  • Your credit score is 650+


Short-Term Business Loans

For projects and needs that will take less than two years to complete, a short-term loan provides women-owned businesses with upfront working capital. This loan type is best suited to fund large purchase orders, support healthy cash flow, undertake building upgrades and any seasonal preparations. 

This type of loan is best used to fill a short-term financial gap. 

Do You Qualify?

Based on previously approved borrowers, you’re likely to qualify for a short-term business loan if:  

  • You’ve been in business 1+ years
  • Your annual revenue is $75,000 or more
  • You have a credit score of 540+


Working Capital Loan

Working capital loans are intended to cover regular operational costs like rent, payroll and debt payments. Since working capital loans are often obtained without any form of collateral, these programs fund more quickly, making speed one of its greatest draws. Because of this, they’re often the best business loans for women with bad credit.

Because business working capital loans are used for short-term goals and needs, they’re often repaid in less than 18 months. They’re designed to be used as bridge loans and shouldn’t be used on any long-term business investments or expenses. 

Do You Qualify?

Based on previously approved borrowers, you’re likely to qualify if:

  • You’ve been in business 6+ months
  • Your annual revenue is $75,000 or more
  • You have a credit score of 500+

Top Small Business Grants for Women

A business grant is capital you aren’t required to pay back. While grants are often labeled as “free money,” (compared to small business loans for women) they have demanding qualifications and limits as to how you can use the funds. 

Here are some small business grants for women:

The Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program

With its Women-Owned Business Grant program, clothier Eileen Fisher supports female entrepreneurs whose businesses have a positive social and environmental impact on the world. These grants are awarded to 10 businesses that have progressed from the startup phase that are looking to extend their organization’s reach. 

Each year, the Eileen Fisher organization provides $100,000 in grants.

To qualify, your business needs to have been in business for at least 3 years with annual revenues less than $1 million. 

Guidelines for The Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program.

SBA InnovateHER Challenge

The SBA provides women-owned businesses the opportunity to better the lives of women and families through three SBA InnovateHER Challenge grants. In 2017, the SBA awarded a total of $70,000 to 3 businesses ($40,000 for first place, $20,000 for second and $10,000 for third).

Beyond having an established business, meet the following qualifications to be considered. Your business:

  • Has a measurable impact on the lives of women and families
  • Could potentially be commercialized
  • Fills a gap in the marketplace

Zions Bank Smart Women’s Grants

In combination with their effort to support women in gaining their financial independence, Zions Bank’s Women’s Financial Group provides Smart Women Grants. Each of these $3,000 microgrants is awarded to businesses who promote the empowerment of women. Focused on business owners in Utah and Idaho, recent winners have directly benefited women in low-income and underserved populations. 

Zions Banks has awarded nearly $250,000 since 2004.

Previous recipients of the Zions Bank Smart Women’s Grants.

FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

As one of the largest logistics companies in the world, FedEx understands the need for small businesses to grow continuously. To help businesses around the country, FedEx created a contest that acts as a source for funds and expertise. 

Since 2012, applicants have had the chance to win grants and other monetary prizes from the company. Even those who aren’t chosen for grants have the opportunity to learn from owners in a community of small businesses. The largest grants were awarded by FedEx in 2019 with the grand prize winner taking home $50,000, as well as $7,500 in FedEx business services. 

Silver and bronze prize winners were awarded $30,000 and $15,000 along with $5,000 and $1,000 in FedEx Office bonuses, respectively. The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest is open to women-owned businesses who’ve been operating in the U.S. for more than 6 months with less than 99 employees.

2019's FedEx Small Business Grant Contest awarded the most money in the history of the program.

The Amber Grant for Women

Started in 1998 to honor Amber Wigdahl, a burgeoning entrepreneur who passed away at 19, the Amber Grant for Women is managed by WomensNet to preserve her memory.

Each month, WomensNet selects one woman-run business to receive a $2,000 Amber Grant. At the end of the year, one of these dozen recipients will win $25,000. WomensNet also adds an additional community element by allowing visitors to vote for which candidates they’d like to see awarded the annual grant.

The Amber Grant for Women allows visitors to vote for candidates.

The Halstead Grant

Certain grants are created to preserve the future of an industry. The Halstead Grant is one of these endowments. Since 2006, the Halstead Grant has provided capital to silver jewelry artists as a means of promotion, furthering their opportunity and supporting their talent. 

Each summer, the grant recipients are awarded $7,500 and an additional $1,000 in merchandise from the Halstead Bead company. 

The Halstead Grant is designed especially for jewelers.

Minority Business Development Agency

As part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is a repository for more than $500 billion in annual grants. While the MBDA has local offices that assist underserved Americans across the country, is the digital hub, containing the information and applications for all of these programs. 

Much like the SBA, MBDA doesn’t provide loans or grants listed on their site. Instead, they offer one-on-one financial counseling and guide minority and female entrepreneurs in gathering the grant documentation they need.

Resources for Women Entrepreneurs

Beyond securing the funds needed to drive your business forward, entrepreneurs need access to quality resources. Given the challenges that women entrepreneurs face in today’s market, there are specific networks and mentorship programs designed especially to support their growth. 

Office of Women’s Business Ownership

The Office of Women’s Business Ownership (WBO) was created to support women in their entrepreneurial endeavors. The WHO oversees a network of close to 100 Women’s Business Centers across the country, helping women transform ideas and start-ups into consistent, profitable businesses. 

Like the MBDA, Business Centers exist as a means to defend, advocate and care for women-run businesses through mentorship, education and other forms of assistance. Of course, they also assist businesses in applying for grants and loans.

National Association of Women Business Owners

The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) represents the needs and interests of women-run businesses. The goal of NAWBO is to increase the footprint, visibility and opportunities for women-owned businesses.

As the only dues-based organization in the country, NAWBO betters women entrepreneurship by leading efforts to augment public policies, creating partnerships with non-profit and corporate organizations and providing a nationwide network of business owners. 

WE Fund Crowd

Running a business in New York City comes with a unique set of challenges for any entrepreneur. WE Fund Crowd recognizes this and actively seeks to support women-run organizations. WE NYC accomplishes their goals by partnering with crowdfunding loan specialist Kiva, pledging up to $1,000 for any crowdfunding campaign.

Also, WE Fund Crowd shows business owners how to optimize their crowdfunding campaigns to maximize their exposure, marketing and number of backers. 

Awesome Women Entrepreneurs

There are thousands of networking groups suited to support professionals of every background, gender, alma mater and industry. Awesome Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) is different, though. They focus solely on being a social networking group. They take the best parts of networking events — getting to know your peers and mentors over drinks and food in a relaxed atmosphere — and amplify it. 

Beyond the in-person events, AWE adds value to its Washington, D.C. metro-area members by providing monthly Mastermind programs, weekly podcasts, private Facebook groups and a members-only directory with online access. 

Girlboss Radio

Girlboss is focused on providing a connected community and toolset for millennial women looking to redefine success for themselves. Armed with their values of humor, resourcefulness, vulnerability, curiosity and inclusivity, Girlboss seeks to inform, entertain and inspire female entrepreneurs to take on the world of business in ways big and small. 

Their podcast, known as Girlboss Radio, is full of fascinating conversations and discussions with women from across the world. Topics range from politics, purpose-driven marketing and everything in between. 

Other Resources

Here are valuable tools for women business owners: 

  • SCORE: SCORE offers mentoring, on-demand webinars and courses, a digital library and local events. You can find your local chapter through their site.
  • Women’s Business Centers Directory: With 122 centers listed in the Women’s Business Centers Directory, this community is eager to welcome you.
  • Association of Women’s Business Centers: For the last 21 years, the Association of Women’s Business Centers have supported more than 140,000 members through 100 locations.
  • National Women’s Business Council: Another arm of the SBA, the National Women’s Business Council offers opportunities for women entrepreneurs to capitalize on the data it analyzes and disperses. 

Questions About Women’s Business Funding?

Fast Capital 360 loves helping women-owned small businesses reach their goals. After all, we’re run by one. If you’re interested in securing funding for your business but still have questions about the best choice for you, our helpful Business Advisors are here for you. They’re available to answer any questions you have about how to qualify for a business loan and the best ways to get the most from your loan.

Call (800) 735-6107 or chat directly with one of our advisors

Get weekly business insights & expert advice to help grow your business.