8 Small-Business Loans For Women in 2023
Female-owned businesses are often undersupported. Look to these small business loan options for women to help fill the gaps.
If you’ve had trouble getting funding for your business as a female entrepreneur, you’re not alone. While women employ over 9 million Americans and own about 42% of all firms in the US, they only receive about 4% of all conventional small business loan dollars — and only about 2% of venture capital.
Investors, traditional banks, and even some credit unions have historically denied women equal access to business funding, mostly due to unconscious biases and outdated stereotypes. Some women entrepreneurs turn to crowdfunding instead — or keep their fingers crossed for an angel investor — but both these options can come with more uncertainty than traditional loans. The good news is that there’s a growing number of small business loan programs designed specifically for women entrepreneurs, including those who have struggled to secure financing in the past.
8 Best small business loans for women entrepreneurs
Loans are a critical source of funding for small and early-stage businesses. Here are some of the best small business loans for women- and non-binary-led businesses in 2023.
1. Women’s Enterprise Action Loan Fund
The Women’s Enterprise Action Loan Fund (WEALF) helps women entrepreneurs in the New York Tri-State area become financially self-sufficient. WEALF does this by combining no- and low-interest loans of up to $10,000 with one-to-one mentoring. The loans are granted without collateral requirements or personal guarantees, which makes them highly accessible to women and entrepreneurs of color. To apply, you’ll need to fill out a short form on the website.
2. USDA Farm Service Agency
The USDA Farm Service Agency sets aside a portion of all its loan funds for minority and women farmers and ranches. These are then divided into three types of loans:
- 1. Farm Operating Loans: These are loans of up to $400,000 that help finance the cost of operating a farm, including the purchase of livestock and equipment.
- 2. Farm Ownership Loans: These loans, which cap out at $600,000, help farmers and ranchers purchase or enlarge family farms, expand current operations, increase productivity, and assist with land tenure to save farmland for future generations.
- 3. Microloans: These are loans of up to $50,000 that focus on the business financing needs of small farms, beginning farmers, niche operations, and non-traditional farms.
You must be a woman and/or an African American, Alaskan Native, Native American, Latino/a, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander to apply for targeted funding.
3. Grameen America
Grameen America is a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that provides microloans to small businesses and entrepreneurs. In April, the organization announced that it will award 8,300 loans to emerging businesswomen — a total endowment of $5 million. The funds will be awarded to applicants from financially underserved U.S. communities between now and 2030.
First-time loans from Grameen American cap out at $2,000, but members become eligible to receive larger loans every six months. While no minimum credit score, collateral, or business income is required to receive a microloan, applicants must live near one of the Grameen America branches to meet the eligibility criteria.
4. The Tory Burch Foundation and Bank of America Capital Program
The Tory Burch Foundation helps women in business overcome obstacles through mentorship, networking, education, and access to capital. It created its Capital Program in partnership with Bank of America to help women entrepreneurs gain access to loans. Here’s how it works: Tory Burch provides funding to various Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), or community lenders that specialize in small business development. The CDFIs then dole out loans between $500 and $100,000 to established businesses, while Bank of America provides each successful candidate with a financial mentor.
To qualify, entrepreneurs must be able to prove that their business is at least two years old, generating revenue, sustainable, and has a satisfactory credit rating. Interested businesses must first complete a pre-screening form on the website. The organization will then reach out to let you know if your credit and revenue are sufficient to apply.
5. Union Bank Diversity Lending
Union Bank’s Business Diversity Lending Program aims to empower small businesses — including those founded and run by women, minorities, and veterans. While these loan products are essentially the same as Union Bank’s traditional business loans, which provide businesses with financing of up to $2.5 million, the Diversity Lending program offers more flexible credit guidelines. That helps open the door to a wider range of business owners, including those with bad credit.
To be eligible, a business must have been in operation for at least two years, and be at least 51% owned, operated, controlled, and actively managed by a woman, minority, or veteran. Additionally, annual sales of the business must not exceed $20 million.
Enrichher is the only Black woman-owned fintech lender serving minority-owned businesses. Over the last two years, Enrichher has deployed a whopping $14 million in capital to businesses owned by women and people of color. It currently offers direct loans and lines of credit between $10,000 and $250,000 with payment terms of 12 to 36 months. The application process is quick and painless, and successful applicants receive funding within 48 hours.
The founders of Coralus, believe it’s time to stop forcing women and non-binary folk into existing molds; instead of leveling the playing field, they want to build an entirely new one. The company does this by bringing together “Activators,” i.e. women and non-binary folk from different backgrounds who volunteer to contribute to the cause. Activators donate to what Coralus calls its “Perpetual Fund.” That funding is then loaned at zero-percent interest rates to women- and non-binary-led ventures that will have a positive impact on their communities. Since its founding in 2015 (it was originally called SheEO), the organization has supported 107 ventures with over $7 million in loans from 7,000+ Activators.
To qualify for a loan, your company must:
- Be majority-owned or -led by women, non-binary, gender-fluid, or gender non-conforming people.
- Have generated between $50,000 and $2 million in the US, Australia, New Zealand, or Canada, or between £40,000 and £2 million in the United Kingdom, in recurring revenue, from customers, in the last 13 months with a product or service in the market.
- Be working to create a better world through your business model, product, or service as defined by the UN Sustainability Goals.
8. Accompany Capital
Accompany Capital serves New York-area immigrant, refugee, and underserved entrepreneurs by providing them access to affordable credit, financial education, and training in technology and best business practices. Founded in 1997 (and originally called the Business Center for New Americans), Accompany Capital was created in part to help resettle World War II refugees. Today, the organization has provided more than 4,530 loans totaling nearly $44 million dollars.
Accompany Capital also partners with organizations like New York Women in Business to sponsor and highlight female entrepreneurs. It offers SBA-backed loans ranging from $75,000 to $250,000 to any qualifying small businesses in Queens and Staten Island, and to qualifying immigrant, refugee, and women-owned businesses in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx. The loan application fee is $50, and you’ll need to fill out a pre-qualification form before you apply.
Types of small business loans for women
There are several types of small business loan options available to women-led businesses. Some of these include:
The U.S. Small Business Administration offers a variety of small business loans that, while not exclusive to women-led businesses, can be a fantastic source of funding for women and non-binary entrepreneurs looking for financing. If you meet the criteria, an SBA loan can help cover startup costs for a new business, working capital requirements, real estate purchases, and more. SBA loans often have flexible terms and low interest rates, but your business will need a high credit score to qualify. Some of these loans include:
- SBA 7(a) loans: These include loans of up to $5 million, which can be used for working capital, expansion, and equipment financing.
- 504 loans: The maximum loan amount for these is $5 million. Each loan provides long-term, fixed-rate financing for major fixed assets. You’ll need to prove that those assets will be used to promote business growth and job creation.
- Microloans: For smaller businesses looking for a quick cash injection, the SBA microloan program offers loans of up to $50,000. The actual funds are distributed through designated intermediary lenders.
Bank business loans
Bank loans are usually the first port of call for most entrepreneurs looking for finances. These are your typical term loans that are offered for a certain period of time and come with a specified payment schedule. Bank loans, while quite common, can be difficult to get for women and minority business owners, especially those with poor credit.
Microloans, sometimes called “small-dollar loans,” are short-term loans that max out around $50,000. They’re typically provided to small, for-profit businesses that find it difficult to get financing from traditional banking and financial institutions. Most microloans come with additional support — such as mentoring, training, and networking — in addition to funding. Microloans are most often available through nonprofit organizations, like Accion Opportunity Fund, or groups like the SBA. They have low interest rates and flexible payment options.
Generally speaking, “online lender” refers to any lender that doesn’t operate from a traditional bank and conducts the majority of its borrower communications online. Online loans can include business lines of credit, peer-to-peer lending, working capital loans, and merchant cash advances.
The primary benefit of online lenders is the speed with which they grant loans. They also have more relaxed requirements regarding credit scores and financial history. With online loans, you can apply online, be approved within minutes, and receive the cash in your account in less time than it would take to drive to the bank. For this convenience, however, you’ll likely pay higher interest rates.
Tips on getting approved for a small business loan
Getting a small business loan can feel like climbing a mountain, especially if you’re a woman-owned business and have already been turned down by banks and other financial institutions. However, it could just be that you’re missing the right strategy. The key to getting funding is anticipating what the lender wants to see and making sure you give it to them. Here’s what you need to get right to get your small business loan approved.
1. Know the lender’s criteria
There are a few things lenders have in common: they want to know you’ll use their money wisely, make your repayments on time, and hopefully grow your business and cash flow along the way. Each lender also has its own unique criteria.
Some want to support businesses that are making a difference in their communities. Other lenders want to support businesses that have a mission to grow into multimillion-dollar companies. Others still are interested in lifting up only the most underserved entrepreneurs. Carefully read and understand your lender’s criteria before you apply. That way you’ll be able to clearly highlight your relevant qualifications in your application.
2. Get your finances in order
Some lenders will consider your credit or cash flow more closely than others, but all of them will want to take a look at your financials before offering you a loan. Be sure to include your business’s annual revenue and business credit report in addition to your personal credit history. The more information you can give a lender, the easier their job will be — which means they’ll be able to get you the money you need faster.
3. Put together a solid business plan
It doesn’t matter if you’re working with a big national bank or a little Community Development Financial Institution: no one wants to fund a business that isn’t going anywhere. For the lender to buy into your vision, you need to be able to share it in a clear, compelling way. A solid business plan will help you do just that. Be sure to demonstrate your business’s growth so far, as well as your plans for expansion.
Other valuable funding resources for women-owned small businesses
In addition to the loans listed above, there are lots of other resources available to women small business owners looking for financing options. Here are a few to get you started:
- Women’s Business Centers: This national network of entrepreneurship hubs provides free and low-cost counseling and training to women. Because they work closely with the National Women’s Business Council (a federal organization that advocates for women entrepreneurs) they have a great pulse on national issues facing women entrepreneurs. They also specialize in helping small businesses secure lucrative government contracts.
- National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO): The NAWBO is a dues-based organization that advocates for female business owners. It currently represents 11.6 million women-owned businesses and offers networking opportunities through its local chapters. NAWBO’s website also provides a rich database of online business resources.
- WomensNet: WomensNet was one of the first online organizations to introduce small business grants for women. They are most well-known for their Amber Grant, which provides $10,000 in funding to one woman entrepreneur each month.
- Accion Opportunity Fund resources library: Accion Opportunity Fund (AOF) is a non-profit online lender that works specifically with small business owners and entrepreneurs from underserved backgrounds, including women. Our comprehensive resource library includes articles, video trainings, and webinars for women entrepreneurs. Resources are available in both English and Spanish.
Explore funding options with AOF
At Accion Opportunity Fund, our goal is not only to help you get the funding and support you need to launch your business, but to help you grow and thrive once you’ve got your foot in the door. To that end, we provide a number of different types of loans — including both small-dollar loans and equipment financing loans — specifically designed for women-led businesses and other underserved groups. Each loan is customized to your business’s unique needs and comes with flexible repayment terms. Find out more about our small business loan program and apply online today.