Many lenders and business associations offer loans or other types of business financing specifically to women-owned businesses. Others don't have a specific loan geared toward women business owners, but instead focus on lending to small business owners in general. Both provide options for women entrepreneurs.
Websites Offering Loans Specifically to Women
The following list of sites offer loans and funding information. It takes time and research to find one that matches your needs.
WomanOwned.com contains a "Loans and Leases for Funding" option under its "Biz Tools" category. The option asks users to specify:
- The type and amount of funding they are looking for
- What they anticipate using funds for
- Amount of current business capital, if any
Once provided, the information is sent to lenders who then contact the business owner.
Women's Funding Network
Women's Funding Network is a nonprofit organization that connects women business owners with lenders. Lenders are usually private companies interested in investing in programs dedicated to enhancing the lives of women and girls throughout the world. Grants are also available.
Accion USA falls within the category of "micro-lender" because it provides loans only up to a maximum of $25,000. It focuses on providing loans to minorities, which it defines as including women.
National Minority Business Council
The National Minority Business Council offers loans to members ranging from $1,500 to $25,000. It also offers funding through the Emerging Enterprise Investment Committee, which offers equity investments ranging from $250,000 to $5 million to women-owned businesses.
New York Business Development Corporation
The New York Business Development Corporation focuses on providing loans to women-owned and minority businesses in the New York area. In addition to providing loans, it also links entrepreneurs with other lenders.
Bank of America
National lender Bank of America offers the SBA Express Loan, a government-managed program. Women and minorities are preferred for the loans. The maximum loan amount is $250,000 and the interest rate cannot exceed prime plus 2.75 percent.
Wells Fargo provides loans specifically aimed at minority or women-owned businesses. The terms and other information about these loans, however, are not provided online. Interested borrowers must contact the company at their local branch or by calling 1-800-869-3557.
Websites Offering Loans to All Business Owners
Women business owners should also research other funding sources offering creative and innovative financing options to all business owners. While these funding sources do not target women for loans, they may offer a suitable solution.
- Whether the business is in the planning stages or in operation
- The city and state in which it operates
- Type and amount of capital sought
- General information about their company's operation
When submitted, users are provided with a review of how their company compares to competitors in their area, as well as potential local lenders.
Strategies for Small Businesses
This company is a provider of the U.S. Small Business Administration's "Community Express Loan Program." Loans offered under this program are unsecured, but are overseen by the federal government. Typical loan amounts range from $5,000 to $25,000.
This website provides what it refers to as "peer-to-peer" lending. Members of the site can search for lenders or borrowers. Loan amounts range from $2,000 to $25,000, but rates depend on the parameters set by the lender and borrower.
The Small Business Administration
The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) is a government agency that focuses on providing guidance and support to small business owners. It offers the "Loan and Grants" search tool to owners interested in acquiring a loan. The tool requires users to answer 13 questions. Once complete, it generates a list of potential lenders matching the criteria established through the answers. The SBA is not a direct lender.
Expert SBA Advice
"Starting a small business is one of the riskiest things an individual can do, therefore, loaning money to a small business is one of the riskiest things a lender can do," says Dave Lentell, a business development specialist for the U.S. Small Business Administration. That's why the SBA steps between the borrower and the bank, to absorb some of the risk from the bank and level the playing field for the borrower. "If the SBA agrees to participate in the risk by offering a federal guarantee of repayment, lenders are more likely to extend long term loans to entrepreneurs," says Lentell.
"Many lenders are hesitant to makes loans to small businesses - particularly start-ups - without the SBA guarantee," Lentell further states.
Prior to searching for a loan, the SBA encourages business owners to consider the type and amount of funding they need. This, the agency states, will make the search for a loan less complicated. The U.S. Government backs a number of business loans, many of which are administered by the SBA.
The Office of Women's Business Ownership
The Office of Women's Business Ownership at the SBA provides information pertinent to women business owners. This office's website frequently spotlights a grant or other funding opportunity specifically for women.
"In addition to basic financial, management and technical assistance programs," Lentell says, "the SBA offers a pre-qualification loan program, services through the Office of Women's Business Ownership, online advice through Women's Business Centers and a cadre of counselors who belong to SCORE."
Lentell recommends the following Web sites for more specific information:
- Small Business Administration
- SBA's Women's Business Center
- SCORE-Service Corp of Retired Executives
Finding Your Loan
Be sure to do a thorough investigation of any company or organization you find online before turning over any personal data to them. Always investigate a potential lender, their practices and any reviews of their work prior to providing them with your personal information.