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A Quick Guide to Understanding SBA Loans

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SBA loan rates
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SBA loans are attractive financing options for small businesses — they come with relatively low rates and are available to borrowers who aren’t able to get funding elsewhere. SBA loans tend to be focused on leveling the playing field in small business lending so underserved communities can gain access to capital and get the benefit of business growth in their neighborhoods.

What is the SBA?

The U.S. Small Business Administration is a government agency that assists small businesses throughout the country with business financing, education and technical assistance, federal procurement and advocacy.

A core aspect of its mission is providing small businesses — especially those that find it difficult to borrow elsewhere — with financing options to grow and improve. SBA approves partner institutions to administer loans from $500 to $5.5 million with agency backing to enable businesses to get access to working capital, purchase fixed assets and satisfy many other business needs. The SBA guarantees up to 85 percent of loans, so there is a reduced risk to the lender.

Loans offered through the SBA

There are three main SBA loan programs: the 7(a) loan program, the CDC/504 loan program, and the microloan program.

The 7(a) program provides loans up to $5 million for almost any business purpose, including purchasing equipment, supplies or real estate; refinancing existing debt; and buying or expanding an existing business. These loans come with various fees, including guarantee fees and prepayment penalties under certain conditions, so research the details before applying. Subprograms of the 7(a) loan program are focused on funding specific groups, such as exporters, underserved communities, military veterans and their families; and small businesses owners looking for cyclical working capital.

The CDC/504 program helps businesses buy fixed assets to enable expansion or modernization as a way to assist in community development. Administered by Certified Development Companies (CDCs), these long-term fixed-rate loans are geared toward helping business owners buy fixed assets such as buildings, land, facilities and machinery; or refinance debt in connection with an expansion.

The microloan program provides small loans up to $50,000 and are designed to help small businesses start up and expand. Averaging around $13,000, SBA microloans are targeted to female, low-income, veteran and minority borrowers and are most often used for working capital.

Who sets the interest rate for SBA loans?

The SBA sets permissible interest rates by regulation, as defined in its standard operating procedures and noted in the Federal Register. Lenders in turn decide what rates to charge their borrowers based on the SBA’s parameters. Lenders cannot exceed maximum rates approved by the SBA.

Fixed vs. variable SBA loan rates

It’s important to understand the difference between fixed and variable rates when investigating your loan options.

Fixed rates do not change over the course of a loan — you pay the same amount every month until the loan is fully repaid. From the beginning you know the total interest you’ll end up paying.

Variable rates, also called floating rates, on the other hand, go up and down over the life of a loan as prevailing interest rates fluctuate. The interest rate at the start of the loan may be lower than with a fixed rate, but there’s no guarantee that it will stay that way. These loans usually come with a cap on the interest rate, but that cap is extremely high in relation to typical fixed rates.

The SBA provides fixed and variable rate options. SBA 7(a) loans can have fixed or variable rates, while fixed rates are required on the 504 loan program. Generally, the 504 rate is lower than the 7(a) rate, according to the SBA.

How the SBA loan process works

The SBA does not actually lend money — it works with approved partner lenders, which administer the loans following the parameters set out by the SBA. Because the SBA guarantees a large portion of each loan, its partner lenders are more inclined to take risks on borrowers who may be underserved by commercial lending institutions.

The SBA has specific eligibility requirements for its loans: Borrowers must be a for-profit small business not larger than a certain size. They must do business within the United States, and the business owner must have invested some amount of their own money and/or time into starting and growing the business. The borrower must also have exhausted their options for financing from commercial lenders.

Eligible borrowers approach SBA’s lending partners directly to seek a loan, and the lenders instruct the business owners on what documents and SBA forms are needed to apply. The borrower gets the funding from the partner and pays the money back to the partner on the agreed-upon schedule.

How to apply for an SBA loan

Applying for an SBA-backed loan is similar to applying for any other commercial loan — private lenders who are approved by the SBA set the application requirements and administer the loans. The application process is different from any other commercial loan process in that borrowers must certify that they meet specific eligibility requirements stipulated by the SBA, such as the size of the business and history of unsuccessful attempts to borrow.

The first step in applying for one of these loans is finding a lender approved by the SBA. A good strategy is to consult with your local SBA District Office for referrals and advice. Approach the lender with answers to the following questions:

  • What will the loan be used for?
  • How much money do you need?
  • When do you need the funding?
  • How and when will you repay the money?
  • What collateral can you offer?
  • Can you provide a personal guarantee?

Most SBA loan applications will have to include a statement of purpose, a business plan and several financial statements: a cash flow statement, an income statement, a balance sheet and a personal financial statement. Other documentation will probably be required, including official SBA forms that are required for each loan type. For example, all SBA borrowers will need to submit SBA Form 1919, which provides borrower information for each proprietor, general partner, officer, director and managing member of an LLC. Your lender will be able to tell you exactly what to submit.

The bottom line

SBA loans can be a very good option for business owners who have found it difficult to gain financial support from regular commercial lenders that don’t have the backing of the SBA. Those in communities particularly targeted by SBA loans — such as minorities, women and the military community — may want to look into the possibility of getting funding through one of the SBA programs. Those who do gain SBA-backed funding will enjoy low interest rates to help their businesses grow.

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Alternative Lending Options: Finding the Top Non-Bank Business Loans

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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As of 2018, there was a $5 trillion gap between the funding needs of small and medium business and the traditional, institution-based financing available to them, according to the SME Finance Forum, which works towards expanding financial access for these businesses. This funding misalignment has helped alternative lending become a major new option.

The rise of alternative lending has been a boon for small business owners and other potential borrowers who are not necessarily a good fit for traditional lending and financing. That’s because alternative lending — financing from a non-traditional source — generally has less stringent requirements for borrowers, and it’s available for a wide variety of purposes.

What is alternative lending?

Alternative lending refers to any kind of financing from an external source that is neither a bank nor a stock or bond market. Most often, alternative lenders operate through online platforms, and they can offer a range of products, from term loans to merchant cash advances.

In general, alternative business lending has less stringent requirements than traditional institutions. A bank will generally require good personal and business credit, as well as a certain amount of time in business to extend a small business loan. In contrast, an alternative lender will likely have lower minimum credit score requirements and less strict requirements for time in business.

With fewer qualification requirements come higher approval rates. According to the Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index, big banks (meaning banking institutions with more than $10 billion in assets) had a small business loan approval percentage of just 28.3% as of February 2020. Alternative lenders, on the other hand, approved 55.9% of small business loans in that same time.

In addition, the average closing period for traditional small business loans is 45 to 60 days. That’s the amount of time you will have to wait between turning in all parts of your initial application and when your funds are released to you. Traditional small business loans typically go through a multi-phase process before releasing the money, which is why they can take as long as 60 days to close. Loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA) can take even longer.

Many alternative lenders, on the other hand, can approve small business loans within one to three business days, or even sooner.

Types of alternative lending

Since small businesses have a variety of financing needs, it’s natural that alternative lending options include a number of different products to meet those needs. You can find the following types of loans through alternative lenders.

Term loans

A term loan is a lump sum that is borrowed all at once, and paid back over a specified term at a fixed interest rate. It’s what most people commonly think of when they refer to a business loan. The repayment term can last anywhere from just a few months to as long as 10 years, and sometimes even longer. The amount available to borrow depends greatly on the borrower’s creditworthiness and business profitability, as well as length of time in business.

Many small businesses seeking term loans will go through a traditional lender, since banks are generally able to offer longer terms and better rates than alternative lenders. However, alternative lenders do provide term loans that may be easier to qualify for.

Business line of credit

Unlike a term loan, which extends the full amount of the loan all at once, a business line of credit allows a small business owner to withdraw money up to an agreed-upon amount within the revolving credit line. Once the borrowed amount is paid back, the full amount is again available to borrow, similar to how a business credit card works.

This kind of product offers business owners a ready source of immediate funds. This can allow a business owner to hire as needed, purchase necessary supplies or even expand the company when an opportunity arises.

Equipment financing

Necessary equipment for running a business can be financially out of reach if you have to rely on making purchases in cash — that’s where equipment financing comes in. This kind of loan will help you purchase the equipment, even if you have a new business or short credit history.

Such loans will often use the equipment itself as collateral, which makes the loan easier to qualify for, though you do risk losing your equipment if you fail to repay the loan. The loan term will often be tied to the expected lifespan of the equipment.

Invoice factoring

Prolonged waits on invoiced payments can seriously affect a business’s cash flow. With invoice factoring, a business sells its unpaid invoices in exchange for a cash advance, typically 70% to 90% of the value of the unpaid invoice. The factoring company will then collect payment from your clients and send the remaining balance to you, minus a fee that it collects.

Merchant cash advances

Merchant cash advances are typically extended to businesses that rely on credit and/or debit card payments. This kind of advance provides you with a lump sum loan in exchange for a set percentage of daily or weekly credit card sales. You will continue to pay the daily or weekly percentage until the advance is repaid.

The amount you pay for a merchant cash advances is typically not based on an APR, however, but rather on what’s known as a factor rate. This rate, which can range from 1.2 to 1.5 (meaning 1.2 to 1.5 times the amount you borrow) can quickly get out of hand, however. If you calculate these factor rates as APRs, the APR you pay can range as high as 70% to 200%.

5 top alternative and non-bank lenders

To select the top five alternative and non-bank lenders we looked at a number of lenders. In addition to all being non-bank lenders, the lenders we chose had to meet the following criteria:

  • No more than two years in business required
  • Funding available in one to three business days
  • No prepayment penalties

1. BlueVine

Types of Loans OfferedLoan Amounts OfferedRateTime to Funding
Term loanUp to $250,000Starts at 4.80%Within hours of approval
Business line of creditUp to $250,000Starts at 4.80%Within hours of approval
Invoice factoringUp to $5,000,000Starts at 0.25% per weekAs fast as 24 hours

One of the big benefits of BlueVine is that it has no origination, prepayment, termination or maintenance fees. BlueVine’s term loans are available in 6– or 12-month terms, and you will pay a fixed weekly amount until the loan is paid in full. With the business line of credit, you will have 6 or 12 months to pay back your draw, with fixed weekly or monthly payments. You will pay a 1.6% to 2.5% draw fee every time you draw on your line of credit.

With invoice factoring, BlueVine provides 85% to 90% of the invoice amount upfront. Your customers will continue to make payments in your name, but the outstanding payments will go to the BlueVine account or P.O. Box and you’ll receive the remainder, minus BlueVine’s fees.

Both BlueVine’s term loan and business line of credit are available to any business that meets the following requirements:

  • Been in business for at least six months
  • Annual revenue of $100,000 or more
  • Personal credit score of 600 or higher

Businesses that cannot qualify for these loans may be eligible for invoice factoring, which requires only three months in business, monthly revenue of $10,000 or more and a FICO score of 530 or higher.

The business line of credit is not available in Vermont, and neither the line of credit nor the term loan are available in North Dakota or South Dakota. Invoice factoring is available across all states.

2. OnDeck

Types of Loans OfferedLoan Amounts OfferedRateTime to Funding
Term loan$5,000 to $500,000Starts at 11.89%Same day you are approved
Business line of credit$6,000 to $100,000Starts at 10.99%Same day you are approved

OnDeck has loaned out over $13 billion since 2007, making it one of the largest non-bank lenders. You can qualify for either a term loan or a business line of credit if you have:

  • Been in business for at least three years
  • A personal FICO credit score of 600 or above
  • Annual revenue of $250,000 or more
  • A business bank account

OnDeck promises instant funding as soon as you are approved. There are also no draw fees on the line of credit, unlike with BlueVine. However, you can expect to pay an origination fee for any kind of loan with OnDeck, as well as a $20 monthly maintenance fee for business lines of credit. You can potentially reduce your origination fee to 0% with subsequent loans though, and the monthly maintenance fee will be waived for six months if you make a $5,000 initial draw within five days of opening your line of credit.

3. Funding Circle

Types of Loans OfferedLoan Amounts OfferedRateTime to Funding
Term loans$25,000 to $500,0004.99% to 24.99%Within one business day after approval

Funding Circle has some of the more stringent guidelines for lending. To qualify for one of their term loans, you will need to have:

  • Been in business for at least two years
  • A personal FICO score of 620 or higher
  • No bankruptcies in the previous seven years
  • Located in an eligible state (Funding Circle does not operate in Nevada)

In addition, Funding Circle requires a lien on business assets and a personal guaranty from the business owner. However, there is no revenue requirement to qualify.

Loan terms can range from six months to five years, and your payment will be a fixed monthly amount. There are no prepayment penalties or maintenance fees, but you can expect to pay an origination fee of between 3.49% and 6.99% of the total amount borrowed. Additionally, there is a late payment fee of 5% of the missed payment.

4. National Funding

Types of Loans OfferedLoan Amounts OfferedRateTime to Funding
Term loan$5,000 to $500,000Not provided by lenderWithin 24 hours of approval
Equipment financingUp to $150,000Not provided by lenderWithin 24 hours of approval
Merchant cash advanceUp to $250,000Not provided by lenderWithin 24 hours of approval

National Funding has been in business since 1999, making it one of the oldest alternative lenders for small business. The lender does not specify its requirements for a term loan, but instead invites potential borrowers to fill out its application to connect with a loan specialist so that the lender can find the right loan for you. You won’t need collateral or a business plan to qualify, but you will have to sign a personal guarantee.

For the equipment financing loan, however, you will need to have been in business for at least six months, have a FICO score of over 575 and get a quote from a vendor for the needed equipment. Finally, any business that has been in business for at least a year and takes in at least $3,000 per month in credit card sales is prequalified for the merchant cash advance.

Though it is unclear how much you will pay in interest, National Funding focuses on offering a high approval rate, even to businesses with less-than-stellar credit. You can also receive early payoff discounts, as well as a variety of payment terms and options.

5. Kabbage

Types of Loans OfferedLoan Amounts OfferedRateTime to Funding
Line of creditUp to $250,0001.25% to 10.00% fee per monthWithin one to three business days

To qualify for a Kabbage line of credit, you only need to have been in business for at least one year, and take in $50,000 per year or $4,200 per month in revenue. There is no collateral requirement.

You may borrow from your line of credit in amounts as low as $500, all the way up to your limit. When you make a withdrawal, the money will show up in your bank account within one to three business days, or instantly in your Paypal business account. Each withdrawal is considered a separate loan, with a repayment term of 6, 12 or 18 months.

Kabbage’s interest rate is calculated monthly, which can mask how high an APR you are actually paying — according to ValuePenguin, the APR can range between 20% and 80%. The monthly fee ranges from 1.25% to 10.00%; however, there is no origination fee.

Pros and cons of alternative lending

Pros

There are a number of reasons why small business owners might choose to borrow with an alternative or non-bank lender. Benefits of alternative lending include:

  • Easier to qualify: With fewer and less stringent qualification requirements, alternative lending opens up funding opportunities for small business owners who may not otherwise be able to get the financing they need, especially if their credit is not excellent.
  • Rapid approval and funding: Alternative lenders approach the underwriting process differently from traditional lenders, which means they can both approve loans and release funds more quickly. This means small business owners can get the money they need when they need it.
  • Available to new businesses: Though traditional funding sources generally require a long history of profitability before extending a small business loan, alternative lending options will consider newer businesses for loans.

Cons

However, even though there are a number of excellent reasons to consider an alternative lender for small business financing needs, there are still some alternative lending hazards to beware of. This includes:

  • Confusing interest rates and fees: It can be difficult to compare apples-to-apples when it comes to alternative lending rates, since each lender uses its own methodology for calculating rates rather than clearly stating APRs. In addition, it can be difficult to determine exactly what and how much you will be paying due to additional fees, such as origination fees and draw fees, depending on the alternative lender you choose.
  • Shorter repayment terms: Alternative lenders often offer shorter repayment terms than traditional lenders. This helps to mitigate the risk to the lender, but it also means higher monthly payments for the borrower.
  • Less flexible payment options: Many alternative lenders require daily or weekly repayment, fixed repayment amounts or automatic ACH payments toward your loan. If your business has any cash-flow difficulties, this could cause some further financial problems.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Small Business

Guide to Small Business Funding for Women

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Source: iStock

As the number of women-owned businesses grows across the U.S., women entrepreneurs are increasingly in need of funding for their businesses. While there aren’t specific small business loans for women, there are many lenders and organizations that offer small business help for women entrepreneurs, including SBA loans, term loans and business lines of credit, among other resources.

Small business loans for women: 3 options to consider

SBA loans

Best for: Businesses looking for long-term financing and businesses struggling to get loan approval.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers small business help for women that includes business training, counseling and assistance in accessing financing. The SBA can also help you if other lenders have deemed your business too risky. Since SBA loans are guaranteed by the Small Business Administration, lenders may be more likely to approve your application and even offer lower interest rates and longer repayment terms.

The SBA offers multiple loan types, with amounts ranging from $500 to $5.5 million. Requirements to qualify for each loan type are unique, and eligibility varies depending on the lender and the loan program. However, SBA loans are available for most business purposes.

Term loans

Best for: Businesses that can clearly project how much cash they’ll need or for startup capital when a business doesn’t want to forfeit any ownership to an investor.

A term loan is a typical loan arrangement that allows you to borrow a lump sum of money and pay it back in installments, with interest. Interest rates and other fees can vary greatly from one lender to the next, but you’ll likely need to present your business plan, expense sheet and financial projections in order to apply for a term loan at any bank or credit union.

Some lenders are committed to offering small business term loans to women. Learn more about these lenders and their loan product options below.

Business lines of credit

Best for: Businesses that need ongoing access to capital or that have an open-ended project.

A business line of credit is an account that allows you to draw money up to a set limit. Similar to a credit card, each time you pay down your balance you can draw up to the limit again, and fees and interest payments are based on your account balance. Unlike business credit cards, which generally have higher interest rates, business lines of credit tend to have lower interest rates and allow you to make cash withdrawals without any limitations and write checks from your account.

You can take out a business line of credit through a bank, credit union or online lender. Qualification is based on your personal credit.

5 best small business loans for women

To select the top five small business loans for women, we looked at a number of lenders and chose a mix of online and traditional bank lenders. While traditional lenders may be more difficult to qualify for, the two we have listed are among the most active SBA lenders, making them a potentially compelling option for women business owners.

Additionally, the lenders we selected had to meet the following criteria:

  • Transparent websites. These lenders clearly list necessary information on their websites so small business owners can easily find what they need.
  • Wide range of amounts and term lengths. Many of these lenders offer a range of loan products as well as amounts and term lengths, which means they can cater to a range of small business owners’ needs.
  • Lender credibility. These lenders have all been in business for at least a decade and have established themselves in the space through things like positive customer reviews and high approval counts.

1. Kabbage

Type of financing

Rate

Amount

Min. credit score

Best for...

Business line of credit

Monthly fee is 1.25% to 10.00% of principal

Up to $250,000

None

Ongoing access to capital

Although Kabbage often refers to its financing product as a loan, it is technically a line of credit, one the company says is commonly used by women business owners for inventory purchases, office expansion, marketing campaigns, equipment purchase and hiring employees. Kabbage’s monthly fees for business lines of credit start at 1.25% and are only charged based on the amount you draw.

Kabbage offers a simple online application process, and you can manage your line of credit account from a mobile device.

2. Smartbiz

Type of financing

Rate

Amount

Min. credit score

Best for...

SBA loans

5.04% to 10.29% APR

$30,000 to $5,000,000

650 for a $30,00 to $350,000 loan

675 for a $500,000 to $5 million loan

Faster processing on SBA loans

According to Smartbiz, 30% of its 7(a) SBA loans are granted to women-owned businesses. The national average is only 14% for SBA lenders.

Smartbiz helps expedite the application process by submitting your application to an online marketplace of multiple SBA lenders at once. Prequalification is available within five minutes, and funding is available in as few as seven days upon approval.

3. Wells Fargo Bank

Type of financing

Rate

Amount

Min. credit score

Best for...

Equipment Express Loan

5.50% to 9.50% APR for vehicle loans

6.00% to 12.25% for equipment loans

$10,000 to $100,000

Not disclosed

Purchasing vehicles or equipment

In 2013, Wells Fargo Bank committed to lending $55 billion to women-owned businesses by the year 2020. The bank offers several small business loan products, including its Equipment Express Loan. The interest rate on the bank’s secured vehicle loans starts as low as 5.50%.

However, you’ll need to be an existing customer of the bank to apply. Wells Fargo small business loans are only available to customers who have had a checking or savings account with the bank for a minimum of one year.

4. Celtic Bank

Type of financing

Rate

Amount

Min. credit score

Best for...

Express Loan

Variable

$20,000-$150,000

Not disclosed

Wide variety of loans

Celtic Bank is perhaps best known as an SBA lender, but the Utah-based lender offers a variety of loans well-suited to all types of businesses, small to large. The Celtic Express loan offers loans between $20,000 and $150,000 for up to 120 months.

To be eligible, the business must be a for-profit, owner-operated enterprise. Loan proceeds may not be used for construction or tenant improvements. Newer businesses are considered, but you must have a location identified and be able to start operations at funding.

5. OnDeck

Type of loan

Rate

Amount

Min. credit score

Best for...

Short-term loan

11.89% APR and up

$5,000 to $500,000

600

Business owners with lower personal credit scores

OnDeck is an online lender that has funded over $6 billion in small business loans for women. The lender offers business loans for women with bad credit, with a minimum credit score requirement of just 600. However, its APRs start relatively high, at 11.89% and up.

In order to qualify for a loan with OnDeck, your business must be at least a year old and earn at least $100,000 a year in revenue. Those who qualify may receive funding within as little time as 24 hours.

Alternative financing options for women-owned businesses

Grants for female business owners

Small business grants can provide you with funds to start or expand your business — and, unlike loans, they don’t have to be repaid. Grantors who fund women-owned businesses include the federal government, local governments and private funds. The amount of money available and the requirements to qualify will vary depending on the source of the funds.

Here are a variety of women-owned business grants to consider:

  • Amber Foundation Grant. Grants of $4,000 are awarded on a monthly basis to women-owned businesses of all kinds. Monthly grant winners are eligible for an additional $25,000 grant at the end of the year.
  • Cartier Women’s Initiative. This grant is for women-owned, women-run businesses focused on sustainable social and/or environmental impact. Applicants in a select group receive one-on-one business training and cash awards of $30,000 or $100,000.
  • Girlboss Foundation Grant. Grants are available up to $15,000 for women entrepreneurs working in the areas of design, fashion, music or the arts.
  • NASE Growth Grants. The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) offers $4,000 grants for female business owners. You must become a NASE member to apply.
  • SBA. Though there technically are not Small Business Administration grants for women (or anyone else), the SBA does facilitate federal grants for all types of business owners through the Small Business Innovation Research and the Small Business Technology Transfer programs.

Equity financing opportunities

Venture capital firms and individual investors, sometimes known as “angel investors,” differ from lenders. Instead of offering debt, these venture capitalists offer to make a long-term investment in your company in exchange for equity. They may also require some form of ownership and/or a seat on your company’s board of directors.

Here are some investing groups and firms that cater to women-owned businesses:

Additional resources for women-owned businesses

  • SBA Women’s Business Centers: The SBA offers over 100 office locations throughout the U.S. where women can receive free training, workshops, mentorship and more. Use the SBA directory to find your nearest location.
  • Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program: This federal program sets aside contracting opportunities for women applicants in industries where women’s businesses are underrepresented or disadvantaged. Those industries include construction, manufacturing, publishing and more.
  • National Women’s Business Council (NWBC): This federal advisory committee advises the president, the U.S. Congress and the SBA on matters affecting women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses. The NWBC hosts round-table events around the country to gather input and promote women’s STEM-focused and rural-owned businesses.
  • DreamBuilder: This free online program offers interactive courses for women on how to start, build and finance your business. Courses are available in Spanish and English.
  • National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO): NAWBO is an advocacy organization that promotes networking events for women entrepreneurs, provides online resources and has local chapters throughout the U.S.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.