Did you know that before the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, many states required a woman to have a male guarantor for her business loan? Times have certainly changed since then. In fact, 40% of U.S. businesses are now owned by women.
You’d think banks couldn’t afford to ignore such a large market for their lending products; and to give them credit, they have made efforts (in varying degrees) to give equal treatment to women and other minorities who apply for business loans.
However, it’s not too unlikely that you’ll still run into some male chauvinism at a traditional bank — especially if you don’t own a major asset, such as a house, to use as collateral to secure the debt. If that happens, you’ve got other options.
U.S. Small Business Administration
This federal government agency offers a variety of resources to everyone who owns or is considering launching a small business — including loans from $500 to $5.5 million. An SBA guarantee on your loan with one of their partner lenders may help you get financing with less collateral and/or a lower interest rate.
Community Development Financial Institutions Fund
An initiative of the U.S. Department of Treasury, the CDFI provides microloans of $500 to $50,000 to those individuals or communities that lack access to traditional financing.
Women’s Venture Fund
This nonprofit organization focuses on business development in urban communities. As one of the CDFI institutions mentioned above, it offers small loans as well as technical and advisory services.
Another nonprofit, Grameen America is dedicated to enabling women to rise above the poverty line through entrepreneur loans. Loan amounts range from $1,500 or $15,000 and can be used for building a business or getting financial education.
Association of Women’s Business Centers
Start here if you’re looking for local financial support. This national network connects more than 100 state and regional locations with a mission of securing economic justice, entrepreneurial opportunities, and financing.
Women’s Economic Ventures
If you’re low or moderate-income and/or an underserved minority, the WEV offers another discrimination-free option. For business start-ups, they lend between $250 and $25,000; for business expansions, they’ll go up to $50,000.
Women and other minorities who live in the states of California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, or Washington can apply to the Opportunity Fund for a small business loan.
Other Financing Sources
Most of the lenders above do serve very specific groups, such as those who have low income, lack any collateral assets, or live in defined regions. If you don’t fall into any of these groups, you may want to consider:
• Peer-to-peer lending platforms, such as Lending Club, Prosper and Funding Circle
• Crowdfunding through social media sites such as GoFundMe, Indiegogo , and Kickstarter
• Angel investors (who put their own money into your business in return for equity in the company)
• Venture capitalists (who invest other people’s money in your business)
A grant is not actually a loan because you never have to pay it back. In other words, free money! We’ve given you a link to the federal grants page, but there are also state and local government grants to be had if you look.
You must have a very particular type of business in order to qualify for a grant, such as:
• Economic/jobs development
• Improved health
• Diversity (ethnic minorities, veterans, women)
As you can see, the financial resources for women-owned businesses extend far beyond traditional banks. Go out and get your piece of the pie!