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The Best Small Business Loans for Women in 2020

Editor's note: Fundera exists to help you make better business decisions. That’s why we make sure our editorial integrity isn’t influenced by our own business. The opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations in this article are those of our editorial team alone.

The Ultimate Guide to Business Loans for Women

Women-owned small businesses are starting and growing at record highs. According to data from Kauffman, 40% of new entrepreneurs in the U.S. are now women, and the number of new women-owned businesses is growing at double the rate of male-owned businesses. So, the number of small business loans obtained by women should be growing with a corresponding trajectory, right?

Unfortunately, these numbers don’t match up. Based on Fundera’s in-house research, only one in four female entrepreneurs apply for business loans, and those who do ask for approximately $35,000 less than male business owners—and that’s despite the fact that women-led businesses ultimately have greater profit potential than businesses with mostly men at the helm.

With all of this in mind, if you run a women-owned business, you’re probably wondering where you can get financing. Luckily, despite some of the inequity between funding for men and women-owned businesses, government-guaranteed SBA loans, and alternative online lenders have made it easier for female business owners to obtain financing. In this guide, therefore, we’ll break down some of the best small business loan providers for women, as well as discuss a few alternative financing options.

LenderMinimum Credit ScoreMinimum Time in BusinessMinimum Annual RevenueLoan AmountInterest RatesBest for
SBA Lenders640-675Two yearsVariesUp to $5 millionVariable based on the Prime RateMost desirable rates and terms
Funding Circle620Two yearsN/AUp to $500,0004.99% to 22.99%Longer online-term loans for established businesses
OnDeck600One year$100,000Up to $500,000APR of 9.99% to 99%Online short-term loans or lines of credit with lower credit score requirements and fast funding
Fundation600 for term loans, 660 for lines of creditTwo years for term loans, one year for lines of credit$100,000Up to $500,000 for term loans, up to $150,000 for lines of creditAPR of 8% to 30%Fast and affordable term loans or lines of credit
BlueVine600Six months$100,000Up to $250,0004.8% to 51%Online term loans or lines of credit for newer businesses and those with average credit
KabbageN/AOne year$50,000Up to $250,0001.5% to 10% per monthLines of credit for businesses with poor credit
Opportunity FundN/AOne year$50,000Up to $250,0005.9% to 25.9% depending on the stateFast funding for microloans
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The Best Small Business Loans for Women

Ultimately, although there aren’t small business loans designed exclusively for women, there are a number of lenders and programs that focus on supporting female entrepreneurs. Therefore, as we summarized in the chart above, we’ll break down some of the best providers of business loans for women spanning across multiple loan types—including SBA loans, online loans, lines of credit, and microloans.

SBA Loans

Perhaps the best small business loans for women (or any business owner for that matter) are SBA loans. Although there aren’t SBA loans for women exclusively, SBA loans have some of the most competitive payment terms and interest rates on the market—plus, SBA loans can be used for nearly any business purpose.

As a government entity, the SBA guarantees loans for small businesses; however, the SBA itself does not make these loans. Instead, banks and other direct lenders actually make the loans, and the SBA subsidizes a portion of the loan if the borrower defaults.

Because of this, lenders are more likely to work with small businesses. Therefore, SBA loans for women are great financing options for those who can qualify—you’ll get low interest rates and long-term financing (seven-year terms or longer).

Plus, the SBA offers multiple programs within their suite of business loans. For example, the SBA microloan program lends small amounts of money—up to $50,000—for startups and micro-businesses. There is also the SBA 7(a) loan program, which offers general-purpose working capital for businesses that are already a few years old. And, the SBA 504 loan program provides money specifically for the purchase of commercial real estate or equipment.

To qualify for one of these loans, you’ll need to find an SBA lender—like Wells Fargo, Celtic Bank, or First Home Bank—and meet a range of requirements, typically including a good credit score and a decent annual revenue. Along these lines, the process to apply for an SBA loan for women is also very involved—meaning significant paperwork and a longer time to get approved.

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Funding Circle

If you can’t qualify for any of the SBA loans for women, online lenders are a great place to look next. Online lenders offer up almost every type of business financing. There are lenders that provide short-term three- to 18-month loans for working capital, medium-term two- to five-year loans for women who can’t qualify for bank loans, and more creative arrangements like invoice financing.

In particular, if you’re looking for a longer-term loan with larger amounts, but more flexibility than an SBA or bank loan, you might turn to Funding Circle. Funding Circle offers small business loans for women in amounts from $25,000 to $500,000 and terms up to five years. The interest rates on a Funding Circle loan can range from 4.99% to 22.99% and you can receive your funds within five days after applying and submitting your documents.

To qualify, you’ll need a minimum credit score of 620 and at least two years in business. You won’t however, need to meet a minimum annual revenue requirement.

Overall, Funding Circle will be able to offer some of the best rates and terms of any online lender, making it a great option for women-owned businesses who can’t qualify for an SBA or bank loan. Additionally, Funding Circle will be a worthwhile lender for businesses that would prefer a simpler and faster application process compared to the lengthy processes associated with bank and SBA loans.

OnDeck

Although Funding Circle is a great online alternative to SBA and bank loans, they still require fairly high qualifications. Therefore, if you’re looking for more flexible qualifications, you might consider OnDeck as one of the best providers of small business loans for women.

OnDeck offers both short-term loans and lines of credit, with the same qualifications for either product. To qualify for a business loan from OnDeck, you’ll need a minimum revenue of $100,000, a credit score of 600, and at least one year in business.

This being said, for their short-term loan, you can receive amounts up to $500,000 with terms ranging from three to 36 months. Although your APR can be as low as 9.99% if you have solid qualifications, they can also reach as high as 99% if you’re a less-qualified borrower. Generally, a short-term loan from OnDeck will be well-suited for women-owned businesses who need access to fast funding to cover larger, unexpected purchases.

With the OnDeck line of credit, on the other hand, amounts range up to $100,000, with terms of 12 months and APR ranging from 13.99% to 63%. An OnDeck line of credit is a particularly worthwhile option if you’re looking for a business loan to stabilize cash flow or cover other working capital needs.

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Fundation

Next on our list of the best providers for business loans for women is Fundation, who offers business term loans and lines of credit. Like OnDeck, Fundation is a great option for term loans and lines of credit for those who are looking for affordable and flexible capital, but either can’t qualify or don’t want to wait for SBA or bank funding.

This being said, Fundation offers their business term loan product in amounts up to $500,000, with terms from one to four years, and an APR that ranges from 8% to 30%. To qualify for a term loan from Fundation, you’ll need an annual revenue of $100,000, a credit score of 600, and at least two years in business.

With Fundation’s line of credit, on the other hand, you’ll be able to access a credit line of up to $150,000, with a term of 18 months, and the same APR range. Fundation is more flexible with time in business for this product, only requiring one year, but their credit score requirement is higher, at 660. The annual revenue requirement is the same, at $100,000.

Regardless of which product you choose, however, Fundation funds loans in an average of three business days—making this lender a great option for faster funding. In addition, Fundation is known for their simple and tech-friendly application process, allowing you to apply for a business loan quickly and easily without needing to spend a significant amount of time putting together paperwork.

BlueVine

If you’re looking for funding for your women-owned business that’s under one year old—or with average credit—BlueVine might be the best option for you. Like Fundation and OnDeck, BlueVine offers business lines of credit and short-term loans, however, they will work with businesses that have only been operating for six months.

This being said, with either their term loan or line of credit, BlueVine offers amounts up to $250,000, with terms of six or 12 months and interest rates that range from 4.8% to 51%. To qualify for either of these products, you’ll need a minimum credit score of 600, an annual revenue of $100,000, and at least six months in business.

BlueVine’s application is fast and simple to complete and they fund small business loans for women in an average of two to seven business days. With a lower time in business requirement than most alternative lenders, BlueVine is a great option for female-owned startups, as well as any business owner who needs flexible and fast funding.

It’s important to remember, however, with BlueVine (and any other lender) the lower your credit score and the faster you need funding, the more expensive it’s likely to be. You’ll want to make sure that you can afford any funding you’re offered and apply with multiple lenders to find out which provider can offer you the best deal.

Kabbage

Although Kabbage doesn’t offer term business loans for women, they do offer a line of credit product that’s great for business owners with average or poor credit. To qualify for a line of credit from Kabbage, you need $50,000 in annual revenue and at least one year in business. Kabbage does not have a minimum personal credit score requirement.

You can get a Kabbage line of credit in amounts ranging from $2,000 to $250,000 with terms of six, 12, or 18 months. Interest rates on these credit lines range from 1.5% to 10% per month.

This being said, Kabbage has a simple, automated online application and funds as fast as the same day. Like BlueVine, however, it’s important to remember that with a fast provider who has lower qualification requirements, you’re more likely to see higher interest rates—and therefore, the cost of borrowing will be more expensive.

Nevertheless, if you need access to a fast business loan to manage your cash flow or fund a small project, this line of credit product is going to be one of your best options.

Opportunity Fund

So far, the majority of our lenders on this list offer fairly high loan amounts—anywhere from $250,000 to $5 million. If you have smaller funding needs, on the other hand, you may find that microloans will be the best fit for your women-owned business.

Although the SBA has a microloan program, as we discussed in regards to general SBA loans, SBA microloans will also require higher qualifications and slower funding times compared to microloans from online lenders.

Therefore, if you’re looking for a microloan, you might consider Opportunity Fund as one of your top options. Opportunity Fund offers microloans as small as $2,600 and as large as $250,000. Terms range from 12 to 60 months depending on the loan and the application process takes three to five business days. Additionally, as you’ll see on their website, Opportunity Fund primarily provides loans to underserved small business owners, including minority and women-owned businesses.

This being said, on the whole, Opportunity Fund is a great option for business loans for women if you don’t need a large amount of capital and can work with their loan team to find out what funding options will look like for your business.


Alternative Financing Options for Women

Small Business Grants for Women

Ultimately, although debt financing (like the options we discussed above) will likely be the most accessible way for women-owned businesses to access funding, it’s not the only way. Female entrepreneurs may decide to explore alternative financing options as well, such as small business grants or equity financing.

First, a business grant is “free money” since you won’t have to pay back the cash you receive as you would a loan. However, most grants are much more restrictive than small business loans in terms of qualification requirements and what you can use the funds for. This being said, depending on your financing needs, you may still decide to consider the grants that are out there—especially since there are grants designed specifically for women-owned businesses.

To get your search started, check out our guide to the top small business grants for women.

VC Firms and Angel Investors for Female Entrepreneurs

Instead of applying for a business loan or searching for a grant, you could also look into equity financing for your women-owned business. Equity financing is when a business owner raises money from venture capital (VC) firms and investors. In return for capital, investors get a portion of ownership (or equity) in your business. Working with an investor can be a great option if you need a large amount of capital to start a new business or scale your business—and could use some solid business wisdom from investors along the way.

However, finding the right investor can be challenging. Here are some options to help you get started:

Female Founders Fund: The Female Founders Fund provides early-stage fund investing in ecommerce, web-enabled products and services, marketplaces, and platforms led by women.

Merian Ventures: This VC fund focuses on women-led innovation in cyber, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and consumer-facing technologies.

Astia: Astia is a network of over 5,000 investors funding high-growth startups at any stage beyond concept—designed specifically to level the playing field for women entrepreneurs.

Golden Seeds: The Golden Seeds early-stage investment firm provides funding for women-led companies in the B2B and B2C technology, health care, and consumer products or services industries.

Women’s Capital Connection (WCC): The WCC firm provides investor funding for companies with a female founder or C-level executive.

37 Angels: Angel investors invest $50,000 to $150,000 in high-growth startups. You’ll receive an investment decision within four weeks after pitching your business to 37 Angels. This investment firm accepts pitches from men and women-led businesses, but about one-third of funded companies are owned by women.

Belle Capital: This is an early-stage angel fund that targets digital, technology-enabled products and services, life sciences, medical devices, health IT, and cleantech market sectors. Additionally, businesses applying for funding with Belle Capital must have at least one female founder or C-level executive.

Springboard Enterprises: Springboard supports high-growth, women-led companies seeking equity financing for expansion. Since 2000, 800 companies within Springboard’s portfolio have raised $1o billion, including 20 IPOs.

Once again, although inherently different from small business loans for women, VC platforms can be a great way to raise capital, particularly if you have a rapidly growing company and need significant investment to take your business to the next level.


Funding Challenges for Women-Owned Businesses

As you can see, there are a variety of lenders who offer small business loans for women, as well as alternative financing options—whether grants or equity financing. However, as we mentioned earlier, business funding between male and female entrepreneurs isn’t evenly distributed.

Why is that? There are a few different explanations to consider:

Industry

Some people hypothesize that on the whole, female entrepreneurs choose low-growth industries like retail, with about 10% of women-owned businesses fitting into the retail category—and making up 30% of all retail businesses. And—because retail is considered a low-growth industry, lenders and other investors are less likely to provide capital.

Underestimating Capital Needs

Some surveys show that women entrepreneurs are hesitant to ask for as much capital as their male counterparts, both for small business loans and equity financing. Generally, these business owners are more conservative about their company’s prospects of success, so they don’t ask for as much money.

Societal Factors

Most investors are white men—and only 9.65% of “decision-makers” at VC firms are women. Therefore, cultural differences and problems of harassment can make it harder for women to successfully pitch their ideas to male investors.

Plus, not only is it harder for women-owned businesses to secure financing, but they also tend to pay higher interest rates on the loans they’re able to secure. According to Fundera’s own study, women pay 5.4 percentage points more on short-term business loans than men do.


The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, despite the inequality that still exists between male and female entrepreneurs, there are more financing options for women-led businesses than ever before.

Ultimately, the right financing for your business will depend on a variety of factors—including your specific needs, qualifications, and more. This being said, as you explore your options for different small business loans for women, as well as other types of business financing, you’ll want to think carefully about what you can afford, what you can qualify for, and what will work best for your business.

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