According to Womenable, a for-profit social enterprise that supports women’s enterprise creation and growth, the number of women-owned businesses has grown by a whopping 45% between 2007 and 2016. In 2016, there were over 11 million women-owned businesses in the US, and these businesses employed 9 million people, resulting in over $1.6 trillion in revenues. While these numbers are incredibly impressive, women-owned businesses still only represent approximately 35% of small businesses in the US. We would like to see the number of women-owned businesses increase in 2018.
In the past few years, the US has seen a steady increase of women embracing entrepreneurship; however, many women face plenty of challenges and obstacles. We have heard one of the biggest hurdles women have, is finding financing. It can be incredibly difficult to know all of the financing options available, especially the programs and lenders that are exclusively dedicated to helping women-owned businesses.
To encourage the continued growth of women-owned businesses, we have combed the Internet and compiled a list of some of the best financing options and resources available today.
1. Traditional Bank
Many banks have special programs for women-owned businesses. They generally offer flexible underwriting and competitive interest rates; however, traditional banks usually have strict criteria to qualify. To seek out better lending options from a traditional bank—or any lender—we suggest you consider becoming certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council or the National Women Business Owners Corporation. Both of these certifications are attractive to lenders and may grant you access to additional funding and/or government programs.
2. Apply Online
This is usually a simple process because oftentimes online lenders will ask if you are a woman-owned business in the loan application questionnaire. Many online websites work with lenders who specialize in loans catered to the unique needs of a woman-owned business.They may also offer lower interest rates and flexible repayment terms, so they can be a good option as well. Magilla Loans is a great starting place to shop and compare loans because they work with a vast network of lenders that fund women-owned businesses and they offer very attractive incentives.
There are plenty of crowdfunding websites where you can attract folks who are specifically looking to fund female businesses. There’s actually a few crowdfunding websites cropping up that are 100% dedicated to female-led startups and women-owned small businesses. A couple of them are IFundWomen and WomenYouShouldKnow. They not only offer crowdfunding services, but they both have useful tools and resources specifically catered to female entrepreneurs.
4. SBA Loans
The SBA does not lend to businesses directly; howeve,r they set the guidelines for loans which are funded by their partners. Their partners include traditional lenders, community development organizations, and microlending institutions. The loans are generally guaranteed, which reduces the payback risk, making the lenders more inclined to approve the loan. The SBA guaranteed loans are not only available to women-owned businesses; they are also offered to all businesses that do not have access to financing with reasonable terms.
5. Line of Credit
This may be the easiest way to obtain financing for a new business. The beauty of a line of credit is the flexibility. Because lines of credit are unsecured loans, they work just like a credit card and they do not have a fixed monthly payment. Lines of credit offer a pre-determined credit limit and you can borrow any amount at anytime, as-needed. This is also a great option for working capital, to purchase more inventory, help with payroll, or to use as an emergency fund.
6. Accelerators & Incubators for Women
Accelerators and incubators are a great starting point for women-owned businesses because they offer mentorship, funding, and a vast variety of resources, including access to technology tools. Three of our favorite options for women are Women’s Startup Lab, Cartier Women’s Initiative, and Funding $age.
Grants are not loans but they are a fantastic option to obtain financing for women-owned businesses. The tricky part is getting the grant, because many of them require a rigorous application process and some have competitions as well. There are countless grants available to businesses that qualify, but we have selected a few really good options to consider if you’re looking for a grant—Idea Cafe and FedEx Small Business Grant Contest. A few grants exclusive to women owned businesses are the Eileen Fischer, Huggies MomInspired, and the InnovateHER grants, which are backed by the SBA.
8. Angel Investors
Similar to a grant, most angel investments are not an actual loan but an investment in the company. However, some angel investors do require repayment for a portion of the money invested once the business becomes profitable. This can be a good option for a new business that needs startup capital and is willing to offer equity in the company. A few female-focused angel investor groups are Pipeline Angels, Women’s VC Fund, and Springboard Enterprises.
9. Alternative Lenders
If all else fails, you may consider an alternative lender. Starting a new business is risky and lenders are hesitant to fund new ventures. In fact, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Report, over half of all new businesses shut down within the first 5 years. This makes a new-business loan, for businesses owned by women and men, high risk and difficult to obtain. Some alternative lenders do offer women-owned programs with lower rates, however they may still be much higher than other lenders. Thus, we suggest you start with the options that offer the best rates and work your way down. If an alternative lender is the only way to get financing, then we recommend you strategize your repayment plan and pay off the debt ahead of schedule or refinance the loan to get a better interest rate.
Photo: Arnaud Mesureur via Unsplash