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Small Business Loans for Women

By Elise Moores Managing Editor at Fast Capital 360 Reviewed By Mike Lucas Updated on May 04, 2021

Did you know that women own approximately 40% of American small businesses and are starting businesses at twice the rate of men?

While women continue to prove their businesses are just as viable and profitable as others, they can experience difficulty getting the financing they need to sustain and grow their company.

If  you’re looking for financing for your women-owned business, we’ll break down your top choices. We’ll also explore what you’ll need to apply and qualify for some of the best small business loans for women.  In addition to loans, there are many grants, mentorship programs and resources exclusively for women business owners. Plus, we’ll look at your options if you’re searching for small business loans for women with bad credit or business loans for female minorities who are entrepreneurs.

The Best Small Business Loans for Women

In every company there comes a time when you can use additional working capital. If you’ve been turned down for a conventional bank loan, consider some of these small business financing options. While there are no exclusive small business loans for women or small business loans specifically for female minorities (e.g., loans for Hispanic-owned businesses or small business loans for African American women), there are alternative options that can help you fund your business. Let’s examine some of the best small business loans and financing options.

Do you need a loan for your small business?

1. Short-Term Business Loans

For projects that will take less than 2 years to complete, consider a short-term loan, which 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 finance any seasonal preparations.

If your women-owned business is searching for loans to fill a short-term financial gap, consider this type of financing.

Do You Qualify?

Based on previously approved Fast Capital 360 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+

2. Small Business Administration Loans

If you’re looking for women’s small business government loans, consider a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. While the SBA itself doesn’t provide funding, it works with a group of participating lenders who disburse capital according to SBA-defined guidelines. The loans are partially guaranteed by the Small Business Administration and are available exclusively to small business owners, including women entrepreneurs. This guarantee effectively lowers the risk lenders assume when working with small business owners, making this option just as attractive to them as it is for you.

If you default on your loan, for instance, the SBA would reimburse the lender up to 85% of the loan amount, depending on the loan type. As a result, participating lenders are able to 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.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan

Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) help small business owners cover operating expenses and debts (e.g. rent, utilities, employee benefits, other loans or lease payments) that they could have afforded if not for the disaster’s disruptions. Small women-owned businesses can apply for these loans if their business is an area hit by a natural disaster (such as a storm or wildfire) and, in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., if their business has been affected by the pandemic’s economic impact.

These women’s small business government-backed loans have a 30-year maturity, and while payments are deferred for one year, interest (3.75% for for-profit organizations) will still accrue.

SBA Express Bridge Loans

If a women-owned business has an existing professional relationship with an SBA Express Lender, bridge loans allow that small business to quickly obtain up to $25,000 to cover lost revenue while they wait for approval for or funding from an EIDL.

When you receive your EIDL, either all or part of that financing will be used to repay the bridge loan.

Do You Qualify?

Based on previously approved Fast Capital 360 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+

3. Working Capital Loan

When you’re searching for the best options for female small business loans, consider working capital loans. This type of funding is 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 their greatest draws. Also, they’re often the best financing if you’re seeking small 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 long-term business investments.

Do You Qualify?

Based on previously approved Fast Capital 360 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+

Other Financing Options for Women Owned Businesses

Business Line of Credit

Purchase and payment flexibility are the main features that make a business line of credit so appealing if you’re searching for financing for women owned businesses. A business line of credit can be used much like a credit card — access funds when you need them and pay down your debt in regular increments. Lines of credit limits are often higher than credit cards, with repayment terms typically falling within the range of 6 months to 3 years.

Do You Qualify?

Based on previously approved Fast Capital 360 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+

Top Small Business Grants for Women

A business grant is essentially money you’re awarded and aren’t required to pay back. Meeting requirements for a grant can be challenging, though, and you might have limits as to how you can use the funds. That being said, grant monies can provide a great boost to your business and a debt-free alternative to other financing options for a women-owned business. You might also consider applying for a grant if you’re having difficulty qualifying for small business loans for women with bad credit.

Here are some of the best small business grants for women:

Visa Everywhere Initiative: Women’s Global Edition

The Visa Everywhere Initiative (VEI): Women’s Global Edition program selects 2 winners from an international pool of applicants of female entrepreneurs. One winner is from the fintech industry, and the other winner is an entrepreneur whose business is striving for social change.

Each winner receives $100,000 in U.S. dollars, and Visa also provides mentorship and advice regarding the payments industry.

A screenshot of a portion of the VEI: Women’s Global Edition webpage, which features a recent winner from the fintech sector.

Cartier Women’s Initiative

Since 2006, Cartier has run this grant program alongside the internationally renowned INSEAD Business School. This grant is open to women business owners from around the globe who are working to address challenges facing society and bring about change in the world.

Seven top winners, referred to as laureates, are awarded $100,000, and 14 finalists receive $30,000. Additionally, all finalists benefit from networking opportunities, business coaching sessions and ongoing support to continue to grow their business, including a scholarship to attend a 6-day entrepreneurship education program sponsored by INSEAD. During the Awards Week, finalists also have a chance to promote their brand on a global scale by interviewing with international press.

A woman speaks into a microphone in a screenshot of a photo from the Cartier Women’s Initiative.

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, including women owned businesses. 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 that have fewer than 99 employees and have been operating in the U.S. for more than 6 months.

A screenshot of the site for the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest.

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 $10,000 Amber Grant (this award amount increased in 2020 from what was previously $2,000 per month). 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.

A screenshot of a photo grid shows previous Amber Grant winners.

The Halstead Grant

If you’re a jewelry designer researching small business loans for women, consider this funding alternative. The Halstead Grant was created to preserve the future of the jewelry industry. Specifically, since 2006, the Halstead Grant has provided capital to jewelry artists working primarily with silver as a means of promoting them, 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.

A screenshot of the Halstead Grant call for entries.

Federal Grants

Find out what types of federal grants you might qualify for by visiting www.grants.gov, a digital repository with more than 1,000 grants and billions of dollars in annual funding.

Search by keywords or filter grants by:

  • Eligibility (e.g., small businesses; individuals)
  • Category (e.g., business and commerce; community development; employment, labor and training)
  • Federal government agency

Also access the website’s learning center for tips on how to apply for grants and eligibility requirements.


Resources for Women Entrepreneurs

Beyond securing the funds needed to drive your business forward, you 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. Now that we’ve looked at small business loans for women as well as grants for female entrepreneurs, let’s look at helpful resources that can help boost your business’s success.

Minority Business Development Agency

A part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Minority Business Development Agency has local offices that assist underserved Americans across the country. They offer one-on-one financial counseling. They also guide female entrepreneurs and minority business owners, including African Americans and Hispanics, in gathering the documentation they need to apply for grants. Such grants could serve as alternatives to small business loans for female minorities.

Office of Women’s Business Ownership

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

Like the MBDA, Women’s Business Centers exist as a means to defend, advocate and care for women-run businesses through mentorship, education and other forms of assistance. 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.

This dues-based organization 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 its goals by partnering with crowdfunding loan platform Kiva and 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.

SCORE

SCORE offers mentoring, on-demand webinars and courses. They also have a digital library and sponsor local networking and educational events. You can find your local chapter through the SCORE website.

Association of Women’s Business Centers

For more than 20 years, the Association of Women’s Business Centers has supported more than 145,000 members through 100 locations. The association hosts an annual conference to support women small business owners. They also provide training webinars and offer helpful online resources for members.

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. Access news and events designed for women business owners, such as the Small Business Roundtable Series. Sample topics include entrepreneurship for rural women and methods for eliminating gender-based funding gaps.

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