- Over 11.6 million firms are owned by women
- Woman-owned businesses employ almost 9 million workers
- In 2017, these same businesses generated $1.7 trillion in revenue
- 39% of all privately-held firms in the U.S. are women-owned
Despite the gains women are making in the economy, there’s room for improvement. That’s why many loan programs have made a concerted effort to get women to apply, and some have set aside funds for women, minorities, and those in underrepresented groups. Given how these loans can take months to get approval, it’s best to research long before you need access to capital. Remember, loans – unlike grants – need to be paid back, so you’ll need to demonstrate your ability to pay and provide full documentation of your creditworthiness.
Note that there generally aren’t “women loans,” and you won’t find the government or other entities offering loans for only women. Instead, you’ll see that there are places on the application to indicate your personal information, and this may be used to approve you for funds that have been set aside specifically for traditionally disadvantaged groups – like women. The loan process, name of the loan, and the application won’t look different for a woman than any other applicant.
Here are some loans you can start looking into now, so you’re ready to go when it’s time to fund your next stage of business growth.
1. Small Business Administration Lender Match — 7(a) Small Business Loan
Available to all small businesses that meet certain guidelines, these SBA loans are served through a program called Lender Match. Put in your info, and you’ll be contacted by a willing bank or lender that meets your needs and is best suited to provide the type of funding you’re looking for. You’ll know if you qualify to continue the process of meeting with a lender within two days. Not everyone who signs up will qualify.
To be eligible for SBA loans, you must be a U.S.-based, for-profit business of a certain size that has an owner that is materially invested in the business. SBA loans require the businesses to have exhausted all other methods of funding first, such as personal assets and traditional bank loans.
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2. Rural Business and Industrial Loans
According to the GovLoans.gov website, “The purpose of the Business & Industrial (B&I) Guaranteed Loan Program is to improve, develop, or finance business, industry, and employment and improve the economic and environmental climate in rural communities.”
This is technically a loan for cooperative agencies (profit or non-profit), an individual, a tribe, or a public body. To qualify your business or organization must serve a rural area and:
- Hire workers
- Improve the economic or environmental climate around you
- Promote clean water for aquaculture, or
- Promote renewable energy solutions
To apply for the loan, visit the USDA Rural Development office near you.
3. USDA (Farm Services Administration – FSA) Women Farmers and Ranchers
The FSA has a renewed focus on giving even more money to underserved farmers and ranchers, through several programs. These are open to most all small farmers, but they do put a focus on providing funds to the underserved – including women. They include:
- Operating and Farm Ownership Microloan program
- Youth Loan
- Guaranteed Loans
- Direct Operating Loans
- Direct Farm Ownership Loans
The best way to know which program best suits your farm or ag business is to partner with your local FSA office. They can point you in the right direction for your business size, goals, and method of farming (organic, for example.)
4. SBA 8(a) Business Development Program
While not specifically aimed at women (and not a loan), this program offers guidance for “small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged people or entities.” Presumably, this includes women, and the program is marketed to women’s business groups as well as minorities. To apply for an 8(a) status, you’ll want to go through the certification site (just be sure to have your new SAM number first.)
Once accepted and given 8(a) status, you’ll enjoy many benefits, such as:
Eligibility to compete for set-aside government contracts, mentoring, access to a business opportunity specialist, and assistance with various business specialties such as marketing and technology.
To get started with any of the SBA programs start by contacting your local office. Businesses who work alongside their local chapter have better results in getting funding and resources than those who don’t.
5. P2P Loans
One last option for borrowing is by getting money from other eager investors. Peer-to-peer loans have come along way since they first hit the scene almost a decade ago. Whether you choose to look for money through a more service-minded platform like Kiva, or pick one that’s aimed to serve a larger business landscape, getting funds directly from individual lenders is easier than it has ever been before.
6. Private Small Business Loans
Finally, there is a beautiful world of private, for-profit businesses that will offer loans to women. Like most loans, they will need you to have good to excellent credit, a reliable business history, a business plan for how you will spend the loans, and projection of profits to show that you can pay the money back. Collateral may be required, as well.
Where do you find these loans? You might want to start with the banks you already do business with, such as your mortgage holder or auto lender. These banks have much of your information on file and already know you as a customer. They may sometimes knock a portion of a point from the interest rate of your business loan as a reward for your loyalty.
Another way is to search online, much like you would a credit card. Business loans come in all sizes, from a few thousand dollars to $100,000 or more. Realistically, if your business is modest, young, and new to borrowing money, you’ll find a smaller amount easier to obtain. As you show satisfactory progress in paying that back, the doors of opportunity for larger loans should open.
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