The Best Small Business Loans for Women in 2021

The Ultimate Guide to Business Loans for Women

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[1] than businesses with mostly men at the helm.

Luckily, despite some of the inequity in 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, we’ll break down some of the best small business loans for women, as well as discuss a few alternative financing options and additional resources.

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The Best Small Business Loans for Women, Summarized

Lender Loan Amount Interest Rates Loan Terms Best for
Up to $5 million
Variable based on the Prime Rate
Up to 25 years
Most desirable rates and terms
Up to $500,000
4.99% to 22.99%
Six months to five years
Longer online term loans for established businesses
Up to $250,000 for term loan; up to $100,000 for line of credit
APR as low as 35.1% for term loan; APR as low as 31% for line of credit
Up to 18 months for term loan; 12 months for line of credit
Online short-term loans or lines of credit with lower credit score requirements and fast funding
Up to $5 million
0.25% per week
Up to 13 weeks
Invoice factoring for newer businesses and those with average credit
Up to $250,000
APR ranges from 12.15% to 29.97%
12 to 60 months
Fast funding for microloans

SBA Loans

Best for: 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.

Details: 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.

How to qualify: 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.

Best for: 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.

Details: 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.

How to qualify: To qualify, you’ll need a minimum credit score of 660 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.

Best for: 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.

Details: OnDeck offers both a short-term loan and a line of credit. With their short-term loan, you can receive amounts up to $250,000 with terms of up to 18 months and APRs as low as 35.1%. Generally, a short-term loan from OnDeck will be well-suited for women-owned businesses that 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 APRs as low as 31%. 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.

How to qualify: To qualify for a business loan or line of credit from OnDeck, you’ll need a minimum revenue of $100,000, a credit score of 600, and at least one year in business.

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BlueVine

Best for: If you’re looking for funding for your women-owned business that’s under a year old—or with average credit—BlueVine invoice factoring might be the best option for you.

Details: BlueVine offers invoice factoring in lines up to $5 million, with terms up to 13 weeks and interest rates that start at 0.25% per week.

How to qualify: For businesses that need invoice factoring, BlueVine only requires three or more months in business, a credit score of 530 or higher, and $10,000 in monthly revenue.

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.

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.

Best for: Therefore, if you’re looking for a microloan, you might consider Opportunity Fund as one of your top options.

Details: 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.

How to qualify: To qualify for a microloan from Opportunity Fund, you’ll need at least one year in business and minimum annual revenue of $50,000.

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:

Additional Resources for Women-Owned Businesses

Besides the business loans, grants, and investment options we discussed above, you may be curious about what other resources are out there for female entrepreneurs. Some of these include:

These organizations provide various resources for women business owners, from training programs to networking events. For even more options, check out our ultimate guide to small business resources.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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.

Meredith Wood
Vice President and Founding Editor at Fundera

Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood is the founding editor of the Fundera Ledger and a vice president at Fundera. She launched the Fundera Ledger in 2014 and has specialized in financial advice for small business owners for almost a decade. Meredith is frequently sought out for her expertise in small business lending. She is a monthly columnist for AllBusiness, and her advice has appeared in the SBA, SCORE, Yahoo, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, American Banker, Small Business Trends, MyCorporation, Small Biz Daily, StartupNation, and more. Email: meredith@fundera.com.
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