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6 Best Small-Business Loans for Women of March 2021

Lenders and other organizations offer financing, assistance and support for women-owned businesses.

Steve Nicastro, Ryan LaneMarch 18, 2021
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Women face many obstacles when starting or running a company, including getting approved for small-business loans.

Female-owned businesses are less likely to receive financing than male-owned businesses, 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.

LOOKING FOR CORONAVIRUS BENEFITS INFORMATION?

CARES Act: Coronavirus relief and SBA loans for small businesses.

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Our picks for

Small-business loans for women with bad or average credit

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on Fundbox's secure website

Fundbox - Line of credit

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on Fundbox's secure website

Est. APR

10.10 - 79.80%

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.
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OnDeck - Online term loan

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Est. APR

9.00 - 99.00%

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

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Top SBA Lenders

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Max Loan

$5k - $5M

Terms

5 - 25 years

Est. APR

Starting at 5.5%

Speed

As fast as 2 weeks

SBA loans work best for established businesses that prioritize low lending costs over funding speed.

Pros

  • Lowest down payments.
  • Longest payment terms.
  • Reasonable interest rates.

Cons

  • More paperwork than online term loans.
  • Longer approval time.
  • May require collateral.
Learn more

Qualifications:

  • Be a U.S. business.
  • Must first use alternative financial resources, including personal assets.
  • Approved SBA lenders will almost always have credit score minimums between 620-640.
  • Average successful applicant has an annual revenue of over $180,000.
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Credibility Capital - Online term loan

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Est. APR

19.99 - 24.99%

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.
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Qualifications:

  • Minimum credit score: 650.
  • Minimum time in business: 2 years.
  • Minimum annual revenue: $200,000.
  • No bankruptcies in the past 5 years.
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Funding Circle - Online term loan

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Est. APR

12.18 - 36.00%

Min. Credit Score

660

Funding Circle is an option for established businesses that are financing an expansion or refinancing debt. NOTE: Funding Circle has temporarily paused term loan origination to prioritize PPP lending.

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 bankruptcies in the past 7 years.

Our pick for

Businesses with unpaid invoices

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BlueVine - Invoice factoring

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Est. APR

15.00 - 68.00%

Min. Credit Score

530

BlueVine has temporarily paused applications for this product to prioritize PPP funding.

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 Best Small-Business Loans for Women of March 2021

LenderBest ForEst. APRMin. Credit ScoreNext Steps

Fundbox - Line of credit

Best for Small-business loans for women with bad or average credit10.10 - 79.80%600
See Your Loan Options

on Fundbox's secure website

OnDeck - Online term loan

Best for Small-business loans for women with bad or average credit9.00 - 99.00%600
See Your Loan Options

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Top SBA Lenders

Best for Women-owned businesses older than 2 yearsStarting at 6%620
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Credibility Capital - Online term loan

Best for Women-owned businesses older than 2 years19.99 - 24.99%650
See Your Loan Options

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Funding Circle - Online term loan

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

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

Lenders may advertise small-business loans for women, but programs that specifically prioritize female entrepreneurs are hard to come by.

Still, women-owned companies may be able to tap into multiple types of business loans, including:

  • SBA loans. If you have solid finances and an established business, consider an SBA loan. Banks, online lenders and other financial institutions offer these loans, which are backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Women who own more than half of a small business received 14%, or $1.1 billion, of the SBA 7(a) loans approved in fiscal year 2020, according to the SBA.
  • 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

It can be hard to qualify for a business loan if you haven’t been operating for at least a full year. Most lenders want to see a track record of strong finances, a solid direction for the business and an ability to repay debt.

But in addition to options like microloans and crowdfunding, there is other financing for startups.

For example, 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 March 18, 2021

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Frequently Asked Questions

Two new laws provide coronavirus relief for small businesses and the self-employed. The laws include relief valves such as the deferment of existing SBA loans, access to Paycheck Protection Program loans and immediate emergency funds, and debt forgiveness.

Women can get small-business loans through online lenders, credit unions and banks. Online lenders offer more speed, convenience and looser qualifications than most credit unions and banks, but may charge higher rates.

Some online lenders accept borrowers with a bad personal credit score (300 to 629 FICO). Interest rates are high on bad credit business loans, which are best used for emergency cash or short-term needs.