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6 Best Small-Business Loans for Women of October 2021

Lenders and other organizations offer financing, assistance and support for women-owned businesses.
Steve Nicastro, Ryan LaneApril 29, 2021
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.
There are more than 11.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States, which employ nearly 9 million people. However, businesses run by women are less likely to be approved for a small-business loan than those run by men, according to the Federal Reserve.
But small-business loans for women are available, and resources like government-backed Women’s Business Centers offer training to help bridge the funding gap.
The best business loan is the one that costs you the least while fitting your company’s needs. Here are small-business loans for women — including options for startups and bad credit borrowers — plus information on grants and other programs for female entrepreneurs.

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Our picks for

Small-business loans for women with bad or average credit

Fundbox - Line of credit

Est. APR

10.10 - 79.80%

Depending on your creditworthiness and your business's financials

Min. Credit Score

600

Fundbox offers a business line of credit to fill a cash-flow gap, and qualifying is easier than with other lenders.

Pros

  • Cash can be available by the next day.
  • Low minimum credit score requirement.

Cons

  • Rates are high compared to traditional banks.
Read full review

Qualifications:

  • Minimum credit score: 600.
  • Minimum time in business: 6 months.
  • Minimum annual revenue: $100,000.

OnDeck - Online term loan

Est. APR

9.00 - 99.00%

Depending on your creditworthiness and your business's financials

Min. Credit Score

600

OnDeck offers a fast term loan for small-business owners with less-than-stellar credit who want to expand.

Pros

  • Cash can be available within the same business day.
  • Requires low minimum credit score.
  • Less paperwork than most lenders.

Cons

  • Fixed-fee structure means early repayment will not save interest.
  • Requires frequent (daily or weekly) repayments.
  • Requires business lien and personal guarantee.
Read full review

Qualifications:

  • Minimum credit score: 600.
  • Minimum time in business: 1 year.
  • Minimum annual revenue: $100,000.
  • No bankruptcies in the past 2 years.

Our picks for

Women-owned businesses older than 2 years

SBA 7(a) loan

Est. APR

5.50 - 8.00%

Depending on your creditworthiness and your business's financials

Min. Credit Score

650

7(a) program participants include specialized lenders like Live Oak Bank and big-name traditional banks like Wells Fargo.

Pros

  • Available as a term loan or line of credit.
  • Interest rates are capped.
  • Long repayment terms available.

Cons

  • Personal guarantee is required.
  • Collateral is typically required.
  • Longer processing times than online lenders.
Read full review

Qualifications:

  • Be a for-profit U.S. business.
  • Must first use alternative financial resources, including personal assets.
  • Financial qualifications determined by individual lender.

Credibility Capital - Online term loan

Est. APR

6.99 - 24.99%

Depending on your creditworthiness and your business's financials

Min. Credit Score

650

Credibility Capital offers low-cost business loans that work best for small-business owners with strong credit.

Pros

  • Competitive rates among online lenders.
  • No prepayment penalty.
  • Extra monthly payments can save interest cost.

Cons

  • Requires high minimum credit score and revenue.
  • Requires business lien and may require personal guarantee.
  • Not available in Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota or Vermont.
Read full review

Qualifications:

  • Minimum credit score: 650.
  • Minimum time in business: 2 years.
  • Minimum annual revenue: $200,000.
  • No bankruptcies in the past 5 years.

Funding Circle - Online term loan

Est. APR

12.18 - 36.00%

Depending on your creditworthiness and your business's financials

Min. Credit Score

660

Funding Circle is an option for established businesses that are financing an expansion or refinancing debt.

Pros

  • Cash can be available within 3 business days.
  • Competitive rates among online lenders.
  • No minimum revenue requirement.

Cons

  • Requires business lien and personal guarantee.
  • Not available in Nevada.
Read full review

Qualifications:

  • Minimum credit score: 660.
  • Minimum time in business: 2 years.
  • Minimum annual revenue: None.
  • No bankruptices in the past 7 years.

Our pick for

Businesses with unpaid invoices

BlueVine - Invoice factoring

Est. APR

15.00 - 68.00%

Depending on your creditworthiness and your business's financials

Min. Credit Score

530

BlueVine's invoice factoring can turn unpaid customer invoices into fast cash.

Pros

  • Finances larger invoices.
  • Cash can be available within the same day.
  • Accepts low minimum credit score and short time in business.

Cons

  • Not for businesses that do not invoice on net terms.
  • Loan amount is tied to the value of your invoices.
  • Dependency on customers to pay their bills on time.
Read full review

Qualifications:

  • Minimum credit score: 530.
  • Minimum time in business: 3 months.
  • Minimum annual revenue: $120,000.

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Summary of 6 Best Small-Business Loans for Women of October 2021

LenderBest ForEst. APRMin. Credit ScoreNext Steps

Fundbox - Line of credit

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Best for Small-business loans for women with bad or average credit10.10 - 79.80%600
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OnDeck - Online term loan

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Best for Small-business loans for women with bad or average credit9.00 - 99.00%600
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SBA 7(a) loan

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Best for Women-owned businesses older than 2 years5.50 - 8.00%650
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Credibility Capital - Online term loan

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Best for Women-owned businesses older than 2 years6.99 - 24.99%650
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Funding Circle - Online term loan

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Best for Women-owned businesses older than 2 years12.18 - 36.00%660
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BlueVine - Invoice factoring

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Best for Businesses with unpaid invoices15.00 - 68.00%530
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Types of small-business loans for women

Women-owned companies may be able to tap into multiple types of business loans, including:
  • SBA loans. There are several SBA loans  that female entrepreneurs can tap for financing, including the flagship SBA 7(a) loan program and SBA Community Advantage loans, which are available to startups in underserved communities. Banks, online lenders and other financial institutions offer these loans, which are backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Some SBA loans, like the competitive 7(a) loan, require solid finances and an established business. Small businesses that are more than 50% female-owned received 14%, or $1.1 billion, of the SBA 7(a) loans approved in fiscal year 2020, according to the SBA. But other programs, such as SBA startup loans, are geared toward new businesses and borrowers with bad credit.
  • Bank business loans. Small-business loans from banks typically come with the lowest costs but toughest eligibility qualifications. In 2016, large banks approved 50% of women-owned business applications and small banks approved 67% — the highest among all funding sources — according to the most recent data from the Federal Reserve. However, overall bank approvals have shrunk greatly since then, with Biz2Credit’s most recent data finding 13.2% and 18.3% approval rates at large and small banks, respectively.
  • Online loans. If you have a lower credit score (a FICO score between 300 and 689) or have been in business for less than two years, an alternative online lender could be a good choice. These lenders offer multiple products (including terms loans, lines of credit and invoice factoring), specialize in speedy funding and have looser eligibility requirements than banks. The trade-off for those conveniences is borrowing costs may be higher than other options.
  • Microloans. The SBA offers microloans through nonprofit organizations. For example, Grameen America provides loans of $2,000 to $15,000 to entrepreneurial women who live in poverty; other SBA microlenders may offer funding up to $50,000. Microloans can be a good option if you can’t qualify with a bank or online lender or have a small financing gap. Find providers in your area on the SBA website.

Funding options for women-owned startups

Startup funding is elusive, but targeting the right lenders and programs can improve your chances of securing a startup loan.
The SBA microloan program is designed specifically for startups and early-stage businesses (startups received 30% of all SBA microloans in fiscal year 2020). And SBA Community Advantage loans typically go to businesses that have been in operation for fewer than three years.
Additional funding options include nonprofit microloans  and crowdfunding. If you have good personal credit, you may qualify for a personal loan for business. Most personal loans are unsecured, and some loan amounts go as high as $100,000.
Business credit cards also offer financing for women-owned small businesses who are starting out or looking for working capital.

Other resources for female entrepreneurs

Government and nonprofit organizations offer free assistance to women entrepreneurs. These programs may provide women with help completing steps to getting a small-business loan, like writing a business plan, and guidance on topics like starting a business, financial management and marketing.

Grants

Women-owned businesses can get free funding through grants from government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Here are places to look for small-business grants for women.

Women’s Business Centers

The Women’s Business Centers are a network of more than 100 educational centers around the United States that help women start and grow their businesses. These SBA-funded centers typically offer seminars and workshops on a range of topics, including how to start a business and raise capital.

Federal contracting programs

The SBA-run Women-Owned Small Businesses Federal Contracting Program is for women-owned businesses that are interested in government contracts. Women can also apply for a certification from the SBA 8(a) Business Development program, which allows all “socially and economically disadvantaged people or entities” (including women) to compete for set-aside federal contracts.

Ascent online learning platform

Ascent is a free digital tool launched in 2021 as part of a joint initiative between the White House, SBA, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. This online platform offers tools, quizzes and other learning resources designed to help women entrepreneurs who are looking to grow their businesses.

National Association of Women Business Owners

The National Association of Women Business Owners, based in Washington, D.C., has 5,000 members and nearly 60 chapters across the country. It offers training and information on topics such as access to capital, government contracting and business certification.

National Women’s Business Council

The National Women’s Business Council works with the Office of the President, Congress and the SBA on issues related to women business owners. Resources include help for startups, alternative lender programs, conferences and mentor groups.

Compare small-business loans

When shopping for loans, compare APRs, which give the true cost of borrowing, including all fees. NerdWallet’s small-business loans comparison tool can help.
Last updated on April 29, 2021

To recap our selections...

6 Best Small-Business Loans for Women of October 2021

Frequently Asked Questions

Does your business need funding? Find your best loan options with Fundera by NerdWallet.

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