Table of Contents

  • The 10 Best Minority Business Loan Options
  • How to Get a Minority Business Loan
  • The Application Process
  • Small Business Grants
  • How to Apply
  • Other Resources

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Minority business owners may soon become the majority. According to a recent study from The Business Journals (via Small Business Labs), minorities now own around 40 percent of small businesses nationwide, up 79 percent in a 10-year span. Still, these owners have a harder time finding and receiving the funding they need to run their business.

Small business loans provide an opportunity for minority business owners to secure financing. While there are a few loan programs exclusive to minority-owned business owners, others increase accessibility to small business financing.

Partially guaranteed by the SBA and used for almost all business purposes

Smaller 7(a) loans with faster turnaround times

40-percent backed by SBA partners (for large fixed assets like commercial real estate)

Smaller business loans perfect for minority startups

Targeted towards minority business owners in underserved communities

Network of lenders aiming to help minority business owners

Both secured and unsecured loans for small businesses

Intermediate loans for minority business owners in the New York, Chicago and Los Angeles areas

Loans up to $1.125 million with 7 year terms

Similar structure to SBA 504 loans, but can be used to finance outstanding invoices

Why Minority Business Loans Are Necessary

According to a Fed Small Business survey, minority small business owners apply more but are 19 percent less likely to be approved for funding than their non-minority counterparts.

For those that don’t apply, 26 percent cite a lack of credit and a perceived stigma against them as reasons for why they don’t seek funding.

The 10 Best Minority Business Loan Options

In recent years, many financial institutions and advocacy groups have tried to bridge the gap by instituting loan programs that can assist minorities. Today, you can find the funding you need with help from multiple organizations, including the federal government.

SBA Loans for Minority Business Owners

The Small Business Administration has stepped up in recent years to help out. As of June 2019, the SBA has guaranteed over $16 billion through it’s 7(a) loan program this year alone. Of that total, 32 percent has gone to help minority business owners obtain funding. 

Unlike their program for veterans, there is no specific type of loan from the SBA only for minority-owned businesses. They are, however, geared for applicants who don’t qualify for traditional bank loans, making them a great option for minority owners who face these financial challenges. 

SBA 7(a) Program

The SBA 7(a) program is popular due to its flexibility. If you need funding for anything from working capital to commercial real estate, it has multiple options that can help. 

Standard 7(a) Loans

These loans offer up to $5 million for borrowers, meaning you can use them for projects large or small. The SBA guarantees up to 85 percent of your loan, reducing the risk for lenders and thereby opening up access to affordable long-term financing to candidates previously disqualified. 

Interest rates depend on your creditworthiness but are generally not too far off from what banks offer. Terms range from 7-25 years depending on the amount you borrow.

Although they’re flexible, it takes a few weeks to a month to receive an approval, and even longer to get the funding. 

SBA Express Loans

If you need funding right away, SBA Express Loans can have capital in your bank account in as little as 30 days. 

There’s a catch, however. In exchange for the expedited process, you’ll be charged slightly higher interest rates and have lower maximum borrowing potential. You can borrow up to $350,000 over a 5-10 year term.

The SBA only guarantees up to 50 percent of these deals, making them more risky for lenders, which can impact your terms and chances of approval.

SBA 504/ CDC Loans

The SBA 504 loan program is great if you need to purchase major fixed assets like equipment, commercial trucks and real estate.

They are partially funded by Certified Development Companies, non-profit partners of the SBA that aim to help build up America’s small business infrastructure.

The breakdown looks like this:

  • Bank loan: 50 percent (or more)
  • CDC loan: 40 percent
  • Down payment: 10 percent (or more)

The CDC-backed portion of the loan has a maximum of $5 million, but your lender may offer you more if you’re approved.

Interest is generally not much higher than what banks offer, about 3-5 percent, and terms go up to 20 years for the CDC portion of the loan. 

SBA Microloans

According to the Fed Small Business survey, minority business owners are more likely to apply for loans with lower amounts. SBA microloans a great option in such circumstances. In this program, you can receive up to $50,000 in funding.

Microloans are issued by third-party lenders, which in most cases are nonprofit, community-based organizations. While the maximum funding amount available to applicants is $50,000, the average loan is $13,000. You can expect an interest rate between 8-13 percent.

Microloans can be used for many purposes, but they cannot be used for real estate purchases or debt refinancing. They make great startup business loans for minority owners, who have limited options when opening a new company.

SBA Community Advantage Loans

The SBA Community Advantage Loan Program opens access to minority business owners financing options that they otherwise wouldn’t qualify for. The program encourages local lenders, nonprofits and even mission-focused organizations to issue SBA 7(a) loans to businesses owned by minorities, women and veterans, as well as those in underserved communities. 

Underserved community: Typically inner-city and rural areas, any low-to-moderate-income community is considered underserved by the SBA. If your business has at least 50 percent of its employees residing in one of these areas, you may qualify for the Community Advantage Loan Program.

The SBA guarantees up to 85 percent of the amount (maximum of $250,000), making this an excellent option for you if you’ve had trouble qualifying for traditional term loans.

The term length maximums are 10 years for working capital and equipment and 25 years for commercial real estate.

Interest rates are comparable to 7(a) program loans, around 7-9 percent.

Accion Network

The Accion Network’s goal is to give underserved minority businesses funding across the United States. In fact, over 60 percent of their borrowers come from minority groups.

This nonprofit organization offers affordable, flexible funding options to businesses across industries. You can apply for microloans and qualified borrowers can also receive larger amounts. 

Accion offers loans for everything you need from everyday working capital to renovations. 

They’re a great option for startups, as well.

Union Bank

Union Bank’s Business Diversity Lending Program offers minority small businesses loans up to $2.5 million. 

The program is designed to help small minority businesses finance projects large and small. To qualify, you must be in business for at least two years and have annual sales under $20 million.

Union Bank offers both secured and unsecured loan options with fixed or variable rates. What you qualify for will depend on your creditworthiness.

National African American Small Business Loan Fund

The Valley Economic Development Center (VEDC) partnered with JP Morgan Chase to create the National African American Small Business Loan Fund. The program provides minority business loans in low-income areas across Los Angeles, Chicago and New York communities.

Loans range from $35,000-$250,000. They can be used for short- or long-term capital needs such as financing equipment and business expansion.

The VEDC is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that focuses on helping underserved and socioeconomically-disadvantaged groups. Working with them offers other benefits, including financial, marketing and technical assistance.

Diverse group of coworkers celebrating approval for a minority small business loan.

Business Consortium Fund

The Business Consortium fund is another registered CDFI that works to offer business loans to minority owners. They have two programs that are open to any certified Minority Business Enterprise seeking funding.

BCF Direct Lending Program

The BCF will often lend to businesses directly. They offer term loans and lines of credit, ranging from a minimum of $75,000 to $500,000, although loans up to $1.125 million will be considered on a case-by-case basis. 

The length of repayment has a 7-year max, making these a good loan option for minority owners who need a medium-sized term loan. 

BCF Loan Participation Program

Similar to the SBA loan programs, the BCF will back you up if you have trouble being approved by traditional lenders. Their involvement, dubbed the Loan Participation Program, provides a credit enhancement by covering a portion of the funding. 

These loans are a good option if you need to finance equipment or invoices or need a quick boost in working capital.

Is Your Business MBE Certified?

Many organizations will require you to be a certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) or Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) to be eligible for minority business loans, grants or any of their other resources.

The main provider of these certifications is the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). Their MBE program qualifies you as a DBE and is recognized nationwide by suppliers both public and private.

To qualify, your business must:

  • Be at least 51-percent owned by one or more members of an approved minority group
  • Have day-to-day operations and decision making done by minority owner(s)
  • Be a for-profit business
  • Be located in the territorial U.S.

How to Get a Minority Business Loan

A minority business loan is specifically designed for minorities and socially or economically-disadvantaged individuals.

Although some options are specifically targeted towards one minority group, most provide small business loans for owners in the following racial/ ethnic groups:

  • African-American
  • Asian-American
  • Hispanic-American
  • Native American
  • Pacific Islander
  • Alaskan Native

While some of these loans have their unique requirements, many programs have similar qualifications. Generally, certification as an MBE or DBE is enough to pre-qualify you before they check your financials.

Since they’re taking a risk by offering loans to your business, they will each have their financial requirements.

For example, to qualify for one of the SBA 7(A) loans we reviewed earlier, you’ll need to have:

  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • At least 2 years in business
  • A credit score of 650+

With qualifications this steep, minority business owners may have a greater chance to secure the funds they need with an online lender. These online funders are better equipped to offer loans to minority-owned businesses working to repair their credit and financials. 

Applying for a Minority Business Loan

After you choose a lender,  the rest of the application process for minority business loans comes down to submitting paperwork and financial documents.

While each minority business loan requires different documents, you’ll generally need to gather at least the following before applying:

  • Three years (if possible) of:
    • Business and personal tax documents
    • Revenue statements
    • Profit and loss statements
  • Recent bank statements
  • Balance sheet
  • Voided business check

Some lenders will do more due diligence than others, including possible site visits. Check with the organization of your choice to learn more. The process of obtaining a minority business loan could take days, weeks or months, depending on your lender.

Need your money faster?

Minority Small Business Grants

Other than loans, there are many grants for minority business owners who need funding to expand their business. 

Local, state and federal programs aimed to help underserved communities

USA program to help low-income rural economies

Contest for small business owners to vie for funding dollars

Provides funding for minority healthcare companies for research, education and outreach

Developed for companies advancing the economies of Native American communities

One of the clear advantages grants hold over small business loans is the fact that you don’t have to pay them back. The tradeoff, however, is that grants carry more restrictions on how their funds can be used. Generally, they’re to either help disadvantaged businesses or help companies whose mission is to assist underprivileged individuals or communities.

If you meet their requirements, grants are some of the best ways to fund a business.

Government Grants

There are multiple government grants for minority small business owners seeking funding to expand.

At the local level, reach out to your chamber of commerce to find out information about what’s offered in your municipality.

Your chamber of commerce can help at the state level as well, but you may be better suited to reaching out to the Secretary of State’s office for more information on funding your business.

To find federal grants for minority small businesses, you can search the grants.gov database. There are thousands of programs available, and you can filter out grants targeted towards minority businesses. 

Small business tip: Before you can do business with the government, you must register with the System for Award Management (SAM) website and apply for a DUNS number. After that, you can create an account of the grants.gov site and begin applying for grants and bidding on government contracts.

Rural Business Enterprise Grants

The RBEG program offers funds to small businesses to improve rural development. This government grant isn’t exclusive to minority small businesses but can help if their business is located in a rural area with under 50,000 inhabitants. This applies to many minority communities, especially those in the Native American and Alaskan Native communities.

The maximum grant amount is $500,000, but the USDA gives greater priority to applications between $10,000 – $50,000. This funding can be used for real estate construction, infrastructure development, equipment purchases and working capital for startups.

FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

Open to any small business in operation for six or more months, the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest is a way for the company to contribute to the success of the country’s small business infrastructure.

It’s one of the best opportunities for minority owners who can leverage the power of community relationships to garner votes. 

A total of 10 winners are selected each year. You’ll need to write a profile on your business and create a video to participate. First prize winners receive $50,000. 

Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Grants

The National Institutes of Health implemented the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Grant program to improve minority communities. There are health challenges that minorities and minority communities face, and the NIH wants to help solve them.

Any for-profit healthcare community providing research, training, education or other outreach in minority communities is eligible to receive a grant through this program.

There are a few subprograms within that depend on your business and what you’ll use the funding for. The average amount you receive changes based on which subprogram you qualify for, and will range from around $250,000 to $2.3 million.

First Nations Development Institute Grants

First Nations began providing grants in 1993, and to date have given out over $32 million. Their mission is to help fund Native American small businesses.

Funding can be used for most general business purposes including startup costs, commercial real estate mortgages and other working capital needs.

These are great small business grants for Native Americans looking to grow the economy in their community.

How to Apply for Minority Business Grants

Just like with minority business loans, being a certified MBE will help facilitate the grant application and speed up the process. Organizations need to vet your business, so checking off the boxes that MBE certification provides cuts that process down. 

Generally, you’ll need to submit a proposal for any grant that you’re looking to receive. In it, you’ll need to explain your business and how you will use the funding to advance your efforts. 

For grants that are given to support certain causes, the proposal must clearly define why you qualify and how the funding will allow your small business to advance these community and economic efforts.

This process takes time. It’s important to make sure you do your research and apply for funding that you have a chance to receive.

Business owner planning how to use funding from a black minority business loan with her staff.

Other Resources for Minority Business Owners

Outside of funding, minority-owned small businesses face more everyday challenges that require some assistance. There are many groups that you can turn to that help you secure the financial and strategic future of your small business.

SBA 8(a) Program

Unlike the 7(a) and 504 loan programs, the SBA 8(a) program assists socioeconomically-disadvantaged small businesses, including those owned by minorities. 

Instead of giving your business money directly, 8(a) certified businesses get increased exposure and opportunities to win lucrative government contracts. Sometimes, your business may be the only company capable of fulfilling the contract. By default, you’re awarded a multi-million dollar contract that could change your future.

Participation in the program is limited to 9 years and includes access to management training as well as their Mentor-Protege program

You’ll need to become 8(a) certified to enter the program.

The SBA 8(a) program has specific guidelines that determine your eligibility. To qualify, you must:

  • Be classified as a small business under government size standards
  • Not be a former participant in the program
  • Have a personal net worth under $250,000
  • Not have an average adjusted gross income over $250,000 for 3 years
  • Have less than $4 million in personal assets

After pre-qualifying, create a profile on the sam.gov site and follow the instructions the SBA provides to submit the rest of your application.

National Minority Supplier Diversity Council

Membership with the NMSDC can give you multiple new avenues to help your business grow. 

Through their corporate partners, including global giants like Apple, Boeing, SAP and IBM, you can compete for contracts with companies seeking to use diverse B2B partners. Some of their partners can also help you find funding for your business.

To become a member—and to be eligible for resources and benefits from many other governmental and nonprofit entities—the NMSDC also provides certification for your business as a Minority Business Executive. Their certification is recognized across industries and fulfills prerequisites for all of the top minority business loan and grant options we reviewed above.

Minority Business Development Agency

The MBDA works to help assist minority-owned businesses to find the capital, contracts and markets they need to succeed. Their focus is on serving those in areas with high concentrations of minorities, building up the economies in these communities. 

They offer your business technical, management and marketing training to build a better strategy for your future. If you need funding, they’ll help you find lenders who want to work with you.

Their network of business centers is available to all minority owners.

Minority Chamber of Commerce

Members of the MCC have access to resources to sustain success. 

Minority Business Enterprises can receive specialized training by expert teachers with a focus on marketing, management and expansion.

The MCC can also match you with their corporate partners. Partners include multiple Fortune 500 companies that have diversity programs earmarking certain B2B contracts for minority-owned businesses.

SCORE

The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) offers you the opportunity to learn how to run your company from successful entrepreneurs and former executives.

Mentors with SCORE guide you through all levels of business ownership. They can help you navigate the startup phase, expansion and even teach you how to obtain minority small business loans.

The nonprofit also holds conferences and workshops that, for a small cost, offer you training as well as an opportunity to network with mentors and fellow entrepreneurs. 

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