Startups: Funding & Business Loans for Women Entrepeneurs

business funding and loans for women

According to the State of Women-Owned Businesses Report there are more than 9.1 million female-owned businesses in the United States. Receiving grants and assistance or getting business loans for women entrepreneurs can be tough, but we hope we may have some solutions for you.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction
2. Business Loans for Women
3. Business Grants for Women
4. Government Grants for Women
5. Minority Business Grants & Startup Grants


Before we dig a little deeper into the type of funding that will suit you and your business you need to first find out what financing will be required. The key question here is; how much money will I need to make this business work? In order to answer this we can take some simple steps to decipher our funding needs.

Step 1: Market Research

What problem are you solving? Finding the right answers here will give you an indication of the stock or service levels required for you to satisfy your customers and in turn run a successful business. This in itself may have a cost associated with it but it is of course possible to bootstrap this process. If you hustle, use your friends, colleagues and neighbours to help answer surveys or give feedback you will be surprised at the amount of data you can collect quite quickly.

Step 2: Competition Analysis

What are the competitors in your market doing? How many players are in the market? Accurate competition analysis will give you an indication as to the amount of money will you need to compete.

Step 3: Business Plan

This step is crucial. Set yourself realistic budgets, forecasts and timelines. You must be brutally honest here. Try and be as accurate as possible. You don’t want to apply for a loan or grant and find out later that you should have applied for more.

Now that you know how much money you need you can investigate our funding options.

Business Loans for Women

Getting business loans for women entrepreneurs is not always an easy task, but if you have done your research and have a solid business plan as outlined above, you may be pleasantly surprised at the amount of options available to women entrepreneurs.

Small Business Administration (SBA)

The SBA is at the forefront of helping small business succeed in America. They offer a number of assistance programs and have a dedicated section called the Office of Women’s Business Ownership specifically created to help women in business. In addition, they also offer SBA loans for women in business. Although the SBA does not directly offer the loans they facilitate loans with lenders and can act as a guarantee on the loan.

The 7(a) Loan Program is the main SBA lending facility. It can lend a maximum of $5m. It can guarantee as much as 85% of loans up to $150,000 and for over $150,000 it can cover up to 75%.

PNC Financial Services

There is no doubt that PNC are dedicated to help promote women in business. They have trained over 1500 members of staff as women’s business advocates. These staff members are specifically trained to work with women owned companies.

PNC offer a wide range of financial services including a small business loan for women and lines of credit. To contact PNC click here, and make sure you ask to be passed through to certified women’s business advocate, they will be delighted to help.

Union Bank

Union Bank offers specific small business loans for women only. These loans are targeted at women owned businesses in the early stages of maturity. The bank offers loans of up to $50,000.

Some key stipulations of the loans are:

  • The business must be more than 51% owned by a woman
  • The business must be more than two years old
  • The total borrowing need cannot be more than $2.5m
  • The current annual sales cannot exceed $15m

To find out more about their loans and to apply please click here.

Peer-to-Peer Lending

You don’t have to get your loans from banks or credit unions, you might want to check out this loan system called peer-to-peer (or P2P) lending, in which you get to procure business loans directly from people with considerable resources. This alternative could get you affordable fixed interest rates, which could ultimately save you a ton of money. To find out more, click here.

Business Grants for Women

Starting your own business can be a daunting task, and will ultimately be one of the biggest decisions you will make in your professional career. Whether you have a fully fledged career and want to set up on your own, or if you want to set up a business from home to increase your household income, one of the key components of starting the project will be funding. Fortunately there are business grants available for women if the you meet certain criteria. In this section we outline some of the non-governmental sources for women owned business grants. For more information on government lead grants please see more information in our Government Grants section.

Eileen Fisher Grant Assistance for Women Business Owners

The Eileen Fisher Grant Program started in 2004 and has been running ever since. The program offers grants for women owned businesses that have a sustainable environmental ethos. Although this program is only open to typically 10 applicants per year it is well worth applying for if you meet the criteria. The media exposure and business support awarded by the grant is second to none and could be the catalyst you need to help catapult your business.

To find out more information about their grants click here. Grant Database is an online portal that promotes women in business and helps female owned companies connect, network and share information. It must be stated that this is a membership site, but prices do seem fair at $11.95 per month. As a member you will get access to their “Grants and Funding” section. Here you will gain access to their database of grant information, including many industry specific grants that may well be suited to your niche.

To find out more information about their grants and funding database click here.

Government Grants for Women

Aside from the privately funded grants mentioned previously the biggest source of grant funding is via the government. There many suitable grants for women starting a business, the key to finding them is through speaking to government agencies in your niche.

Small Business Administration (SBA)

In addition to the business loans outlined previously, the SBA also help facilitate suitable grants for to assist women in business. The SBA is very strict on who it offers assistance to. Many of the grants offered are given through local and state programs. If your business is in some way helping the community, benefiting the environment or helping boost tourism the SBA is often seen to be more forthcoming in grant aid. These federal grants for women business owners can often be of great benefit, and more importantly the connections and networking opportunities made available through the SBA can often prove far more invaluable than any actual dollars given.

For more information on SBA grants please see here.

Small Business Innovation Research Program

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program looks for small businesses that want to engage in research and development that may have a commercial element to it. Companies are encouraged to investigate and research technological potential and viable opportunities. The program includes opportunities with the Departments of Agriculture, Defence, Education, and Energy amongst others.

To find out more about applying for the program please click here.

National Association for the Self-Employed

Members of The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) can apply for a small business grant worth up to $5000. Participants can use the funding for I.T. equipment, marketing or anything that is deemed to be helping the business grow in some way. NASE has already awarded over $600,000 in growth grants to its members.

For more information on how to apply please see here.

Minority Business Grants & Startup Grants

If you are unable to secure a business loan or any of the aforementioned federal women in business grants there may be the possibility of securing one of the minority business grants or possibly alternative startup funding. It’s also worth noting that the opportunities listed below are not exclusive grants for minority women but are open to anyone who meet the criteria so please check each option carefully.

Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program

The Dept of Transportation’s (DOT) Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program is there to make sure contracts awarded by the DOT are non-discriminate and that each minority is well represented. Contracts include airport, highway, and transit projects. Occasionally they also provide training grants to minority businesses to help them compete more successfully for DOT contracts.

To find out more see here.

United States Department of Agriculture Rural Business Enterprise Grants Program

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Business Enterprise Grants (RBEG) Program offers grants to help small businesses that are located in rural areas. Eligible groups for funding include Indian tribes, non-profit businesses and communities. The RBEG can be used towards construction, project development, land purchases.

For more detailed information on the RBEG see here.

The Huggies MomInspired Grant Program

The Huggies MomInspired Grant Program provides assistance to mothers to help in the product development stages of a business or product idea. The competition is widely renowned and many of the previous winners have built significant businesses on the back of the support received through this program.

For further information about the program you can click here.

FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest awards a total of $50,000 to six businesses owners. If you are a U.S. based company with less than 100 members of staff then you are eligible to apply. The overall prize winning business will win $25,000 while the other five finalists will be awarded $5000 each.

For further information about the competition please click here.

Miller Lite Tap the Future Competition

This Miller Lite annual competition allows for entrepreneurs to compete for a prize of over $200,000 to help fund their business. Miller Lite have teamed up with business guru Daymond John from ABC’s hit television show “Shark Tank” to help find the nation’s most promising businesses. In addition to the actual prize this is a great PR and marketing opportunity given the national scale of the competition.

To find out more about the prize on offer and the application process please click here.



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