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Small Business Loans for Women: 5 Financing Options for Female Entrepreneurs

5 Financing Options for Female Business owners

Written by: Kelly Hillock

April 29, 2024

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5 Financing Options for Female Business owners
6 min read

Women entrepreneurs face unique challenges when trying to access capital for their businesses. Gender biases, lenders’ false perception of higher risk, and historically lower approval rates often prevent them from securing funding. Additionally, women may have fewer networking opportunities to connect with potential investors or mentors who can help with access. 

This article will list some effective financing options and resources that women-led businesses can rely on, with an overview of a range of small business loans, including alternative lending sources, traditional loans, SBA-backed loans, grants, and more. 

Small Business Loan Options for Women Entrepreneurs 

Small business loan options that are tailored for women entrepreneurs can open doors to many funding opportunities. From alternative lenders offering flexible terms, to specialized loans for supporting short-term or specific investment needs, each option has unique benefits and considerations.  

Alternative Lenders 

Alternative lenders offer non-traditional business loans that may be more accessible for women entrepreneurs, especially for those who may not meet the stringent criteria of traditional banks. These lenders can operate online and have a streamlined application process, faster approval times, and less restrictive credit requirements. It can make them a more attractive financing option for those who need quick funding or lack extensive credit history.  

Some benefits of alternative lenders include: 

  • Faster processing and disbursement of funds. 
  • Flexible qualification criteria compared to traditional banks. 
  • Diverse loan products tailored to varied business needs. 

There are some general qualification criteria for these loans:  

  • A minimum annual revenue requirement 
  • Business to be in operation for at least six months  
  • Owner’s personal and business credit score may be checked. 

Working Capital Loans 

Working capital loans can provide a financial buffer for women entrepreneurs, allowing them to manage daily business expenses without tapping into their personal funds. These loans can help bridge cash flow gaps during off-peak business periods or cover operational costs like payroll and inventory purchases. Here are some pros and cons of working capital loans: 


  • Enhances liquidity to maintain day-to-day operations. 
  • Often features quick approval and fund disbursement. 


  • Generally higher interest rates due to the short-term nature. 
  • Short repayment terms can pressure business cash flow. 

Short-Term Business Loans 

Short-term business loans are designed to provide quick, flexible financial assistance, helping women entrepreneurs to address immediate business needs or capitalize on unexpected opportunities. These loans are ideal for emergency repairs, unexpected business expenses, or capitalizing on a timely market opportunity. Some pros and cons include: 


  • Fast access to funds, facilitating quick responses to business needs. 
  • Shorter loan terms mean paying less total interest. 


  • Higher periodic payments compared to long-term financing. 
  • Often more costly in terms of annual percentage rate (APR). 

Unsecured Business Loans 

Unsecured business loans can be attractive options for female entrepreneurs who don’t have collateral but have a solid business plan and good credit. These loans can be used for various things, from covering start-up costs to funding expansion projects without securing the loan against any assets. Some pros and cons include: 


  • No collateral requirement frees up business assets. 
  • Suitable for businesses with strong credit but limited physical assets. 


  • Higher interest rates to compensate for lender risk. 
  • Typically, stringent credit and revenue qualifications. 

Commercial Bridge Loans 

Commercial bridge loans offer temporary financial relief while permanent financing is arranged, ideal for acquiring real estate or funding large projects. They provide immediate capital that can bridge the gap between needing funds now and securing long-term financing later. 


  • Immediate access to large sums of capital. 
  • Facilitates the capture of time-sensitive opportunities. 


  • Relatively higher interest rates and costs due to short-term nature. 
  • Risk of financial strain if long-term financing is not secured. 

Traditional Lenders 

Traditional lenders, like banks and credit unions, differ from alternative lenders mainly in their lending criteria and application processes. These institutions typically offer more competitive interest rates but require stronger credit, more documentation, and longer business histories compared to alternative lenders. They are known for their stability and comprehensive service offerings but may not provide the level of flexibility or speed in funding that alternative lenders do. 

Bank and Credit Union Loans 

Banks and credit unions provide various business loans that are often specifically tailored to support women entrepreneurs. These institutions assess credit history, business performance, and financial projections to determine eligibility. 


  • Potential for lower interest rates based on institution and customer relationship. 
  • Often offer additional business services and advice. 


  • Can require extensive documentation and longer approval times. 
  • Typically, stricter qualification criteria may exclude newer businesses. 

Business Line of Credit 

A Business Line of Credit (LOC) offers flexible access to funds up to a certain limit, allowing entrepreneurs to draw and repay as needed. It is like a credit card but typically has a higher credit limit and lower interest rates. Qualifications include business performance metrics and creditworthiness. Some of the benefits and drawbacks are: 


  • Only pay interest on the amount drawn, not the total credit line available. 
  • Reusable fund source as repayment replenishes the available credit. 


  • Variable interest rates can increase borrowing costs unpredictably. 
  • May require periodic renewal and review, which could change terms. 

Business Credit Cards 

Business credit cards operate much like personal credit cards but are designed to handle business expenses. They allow easier cost tracking and often offer rewards tailored to business needs, such as travel or office supplies. 


  • Convenient for handling day-to-day expenses and online payments. 
  • Often includes rewards and perks specific to business needs. 


  • Higher interest rates compared to traditional loans or lines of credit. 
  • Potential for misuse can lead to high debt levels. 

SBA Loans 

SBA loans are a great option for female small business owners because they come with government backing, which provides a safety net for lenders. The Small Business Administration (SBA) guarantees a portion of these loans, reducing the risk for lenders and making it easier for small businesses to access funding. This guarantee helps to secure more favorable terms and lower interest rates, making SBA loans an excellent resource for women entrepreneurs seeking financial support to start or grow their businesses. 

SBA 7(A) Loans 

SBA 7(a) Loans are the Small Business Administration’s primary program for providing financial assistance to small businesses. The loans range up to $5 million and are guaranteed by the SBA – up to 85% for loans smaller than $150,000 and up to 75% for loans greater than that amount. Eligibility criteria include operating for profit within the U.S., reasonable owner equity to invest, and feasible business purpose. The maturity terms can go up to 10 years for working capital and up to 25 years for fixed assets. Interest rates are negotiated between the lender and the borrower but are capped by the SBA. 

SBA Express Loans 

SBA Express Loans offer a streamlined approval process and provide loans or lines of credit up to $350,000. The SBA guarantees 50% of the loan, allowing accredited lenders to process it faster. Due to the rapid approval process, interest rates for these loans are slightly higher than traditional SBA 7(a) loans, but the SBA still caps them. 

  • Pros: Faster approval and disbursement, flexibility in usage as either a term loan or line of credit. 
  • Cons: Lower guarantee percentage, which could affect terms offered by lenders, and a personal guarantee is required from the borrowers. 

SBA Microloans 

The SBA Microloans program offers small businesses and certain non-profit childcare centers loans up to $50,000 to help start and expand their operations. The average microloan is about $13,000, and funds can be used for various purposes, including purchasing inventory, supplies, furniture, fixtures, and equipment.  

However, using these funds to purchase real estate or pay off existing debts is not permitted. Eligibility for an SBA Microloan requires the business to be based in the U.S. and meet specific financial qualifications set by the intermediary lender, which include demonstrating the ability to repay the loan. 

Grants for Women Small Business Owners 

Grants are very different from loans. They provide funding that does not require repayment, making them an attractive option for female entrepreneurs looking to start or grow their businesses without the burden of debt. Various grants cater specifically to women business owners, with sources ranging from federal initiatives like the Women’s Business Centers to state-specific programs and private grants such as the Amber Grant. Local government and nonprofit organizations also frequently offer grants for women in business, supporting various industries and business sizes. These grants often focus on fostering innovation, sustainability, and community development within the female entrepreneur community. 

Venture Capital Investments, IPO, and Crowdfunding 

Venture Capital (VC) and Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) are large funding avenues for women entrepreneurs, each with pros and cons. VC offers substantial financial injections and expert business guidance but often requires giving up a share of equity and control. IPOs provide a massive capital raise through public markets, increasing company visibility and valuation, yet involve complex, costly, and public operational needs. 

Crowdfunding allows entrepreneurs to raise funds directly from customers and investors via platforms like Kickstarter, providing early product validation and market interest insights without equity loss. However, its success heavily relies on campaign appeal and market reach, and it might not get sufficient long-term capital. 

Type of Funding 



Venture Capital (VC) 

  • Significant capital access 
  • Business mentorship and network expansion 
  • Loss of equity 
  • Potential loss of control 


Initial Public Offerings (IPO) 

  • Large amounts of capital 
  • Increased public profile and credibility 
  • High costs of preparation and compliance 
  • Continuous intense public scrutiny 


  • Validates product demand with minimal upfront investment 
  • Non-dilutive funding 
  • Uncertain funding levels 
  • Requires strong marketing to succeed 

About the Author

Kelly Hillock

Kelly Hillock is the content marketing manager for SmallBusinessLoans, where she writes and edits articles for small business owners. Kelly has over eight years’ experience in copywriting across a variety of industries, focusing on entrepreneurship and finance. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from San Diego State University.

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