Microloans for Women in Business

8 Microlenders That Specialize in Helping Female Entrepreneurs

Microloans—also known as microcredit—allows disadvantaged borrowers to access the funds necessary to build a small business. These loans help encourage these small entrepreneurs and ease poverty.

Starting your own business can be challenging for a woman entrepreneur, especially if you don't have a strong track record yet and you're without collateral when starting out. But many local, state, and national resources are available to female and minority business owners if you know where to look.

These organizations provide microloans—those under $50,000—to women and other marginalized groups. Some eligibility restrictions apply, particularly for loans that are limited to specific geographic areas. Check with organizations directly to stay on top of their most updated offerings. This information was effective as of August 2018. 

01
Kiva

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San Francisco-based Kiva is an international nonprofit started in 2005. It aims to reduce poverty by connecting people through microlending. The loans are crowdfunded, with backers contributing donations as small as $25. It offers loans of up to $10,000 at zero percent interest. 

Kiva's microloans are available to borrowers in more than 80 countries and can be used to start or grow a business. Borrowers repay the loans through Kiva, and the lenders can then decide whether to reinvest their funds in another borrower. 

02
Grameen America

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Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the successful Grameen Bank women’s microloan program in Bangladesh, founded Grameen America in 2008. The organization gives women in poverty financial education and guidance with the goal of establishing credit. Women in the program also receive a $1,500 microloan to start a business. 

03
Accion

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Accion is a private, nonprofit organization that provides microloans of up to $50,000 and other financial services to low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs. They include women who are otherwise unable to access bank credit for their small businesses.

In addition to loan programs tailored for female business owners, Accion has programs for other marginalized people as well, including veterans, people of color, Native Americans, and people with disabilities. 

You do have to give proof of sufficient cash flow to repay the loan, however. You cannot have any recent bankruptcies or current liens against the property. 

04
Elizabeth Street Capital

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Elizabeth Street Capital is a partnership between the Tory Burch Foundation and Bank of America. The organization partners with community development financial institutions (CDFIs) to provide access to affordable loans for women in underserved communities. Elizabeth Street Capital also offers mentoring support and networking opportunities. 

05
SBA Office of Women's Business Ownership

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The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has an Office of Women's Business Ownership that helps female entrepreneurs through programs coordinated by SBA district offices. Services include getting access to credit and capital

The SBA provides funds to nonprofit community-based intermediary lenders that have experience managing and lending. Borrowers work directly with these preselected intermediaries. Loans of up to $50,000 are available to help small businesses start-up and expand. 

Each intermediary lender has its own guidelines and eligibility requirements, but SBA microloans are generally not approved for payment of existing debts or to purchase real estate.

06
The Loan Fund

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The Loan Fund is a private, tax-exempt organization that provides loans, training, and business consulting to entrepreneurs, business owners, and nonprofit organizations throughout the state of New Mexico and the entire Navajo Nation. The organization offers microloans of up to $50,000 to small businesses, although they're not specifically for women.

The program is restricted to people who live and own businesses in New Mexico. 

07
Women's Economic Ventures

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This organization provides low-interest business loans to women-owned businesses in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties in California. Loans for startups range from $250 to $25,000. Business expansion loans up to $50,000 are available to women who have been in business for at least a year and a half.

These loans are only available to people who have lived in Santa Barbara County or Ventura County for at least one year.

08
Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC)

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The WWBIC offers microloans from $1,000 to $100,000, and sometimes more, to women in Wisconsin who are small business owners. They also offer education, seminars, business assistance, and referral services in addition to lending programs for women and men.

This organization's programs are limited to Wisconsin-based small businesses.

Qualifying for a Microloan

Most microlenders are nonprofit organizations. Although they tend to be more flexible than large banks and might require less documentation, you must typically be able to demonstrate a history of sound financial behavior.