Where female entrepreneurs can get a business loan

One of the greatest challenges for female entrepreneurs is securing finance. Boost your company's growth with these business loans

In the run-up to International Women’s Day 2019, the government-backed Rose Review found that only one in three UK entrepreneurs were female. It also highlighted that access to loans and other capital was a major barrier to business success for women.

One year on, the Progress Report rounds up initiatives that have been introduced. Key advances include an Investing in Women Code and an increase in investment vehicles to promote more funding going to women entrepreneurs.

But when it comes to securing a loan, it’s much the same for any small business owner: shop around, be honest with your provider and look beyond the headline figures. It does help your chances if your business is in a certain industry like the tech sector or if you’re aiming to make a positive impact.

The business loans listed below aren’t exclusively for women – though some providers include them in pages titled ‘business loans for women’, which is misleading.

They may not have specific offerings, but these companies have shown at least some interest in encouraging women entrepreneurs. We’ve gone for providers that have pro-women initiatives like female entrepreneur campaigns, dedicated funds and focused social media coverage.

High street banks

Some business owners feel more comfortable with the traditional banks, so we’ve got three of the UK’s biggest providers for you.

Barclays

Type of finance: Business loan

Loan amount: £1,000-£25,000 (up to £100,000 unsecured)

Repayment period: 1-10 years

The Barclays business loan has 9.9pc APR representative on loans of £1,000-£25,000. Loans over that amount will have their APR outlined on application. With the latter, you can pick your repayment term and have a six-month repayment holiday. These six-month repayment holidays are also available on the secured £25,000 option.

You’re eligible to apply if you’re a sole trader, partnership, limited company, charity, club or association.

In terms of pro-women credentials, Barclays co-launched the Female Founders Forum which organises women focused events.

Santander

Type of finance: Business loan

Loan amount: £2,000-£25,000

Repayment period: 1-5 years

To be eligible for the Santander small business loan:

  • You must have a Santander business current account
  • You must have a good credit history
  • You must not have been declared bankrupt or had an Individual Voluntary Arrangement in the past six years
  • Can’t have been a disqualified director or a director of a failed business in the past six years
  • You must be a sole trader, or your business is a partner, limited liability partnership, private limited company or a trust

You’ll bag preferential rates if you have a 1|2|3 Business World account. It has 7.9pc APR compared to 8.9pc on the standard business account.

The Spanish-based bank launched the Women Business Leaders’ Mentoring programme in January 2020 to match 180 mentors with mentees. It’s for businesswomen who feel they would benefit from mentoring and for male and female entrepreneurs who believe they’d make great mentors.

Santander is a signatory member of the UK government’s Investing in Women Code, aiming to improve the tools and resources available to women entrepreneurs.

RBS/NatWest

Type of finance: Business loan

Loan amount: £1,000-£50,000

Repayment period: 1-10 years

The RBS/NatWest small business loan offering is more geared towards businesses with a turnover of less than £2m but those who have a higher turnover can apply too. You don’t have to worry about arrangement fees or early repayment fees either.

NatWest’s CEO is Alison Rose who conducted the aforementioned Rose Review so the bank is naturally supportive of female entrepreneurs.

Earlier this year, RBS launched a £1bn female entrepreneurship funding to be distributed through NatWest, supporting female entrepreneurs in the UK to scale and grow.

They say it’s the largest intervention by a UK lender focused specifically on female-led businesses. At the time, it announced a target to support and inspire 500,000 people to consider starting a business – and at least 60pc will be female. The goal is to help create at least 50,000 new businesses by 2023.

The final string to their bow is the Back Her Business crowdfunding scheme. It lists female-led businesses that are looking for funding that any member of the public can contribute to.

Alternative finance

Alternative finance options come as a combination of business loans and merchant cash advances.

Merchant cash advances typically have repayment timescales from six to nine months. You keep all your non-card income, but you must accept card payments if you want to use one as that’s how your repayments are based. It’s a better solution for seasonal businesses with an uneven cash flow.

Esme

Type of finance: Business loan

Loan amount: £10,000-£250,000

Repayment period: 1-5 years

Esme’s business loan isn’t specifically aimed at women, but gender parity is discussed in their blog posts containing advice for female entrepreneurs.

The NatWest-backed firm offers up unsecured loans with a fixed interest rate – plus they have no set-up fees and no early repayment charges.

It has separate loans for limited companies and sole traders. Limited companies can get unsecured loans from £10,000 to £250,000 while sole traders can apply for unsecured loans from £25,500 to £250,000.

To be eligible you’ll need to be actively trading for 18 months with a turnover of more than £15,000 per annum.

Fleximize

Type of finance: Business loan

Loan amount: £5,000-£500,000

Repayment period: 1-24 months unsecured; 1-48 months secured

Fleximize business loans can be secured or unsecured and after a few successful payments, you can top up your loan amount. Not only that, you can reduce the fee if you repay early.

You’ve got no hidden fees to be concerned about, which is especially useful if you want to come back for more funding. To be eligible, you must have been trading for at least six months with a monthly turnover of £5,000.

Like Esme, it features female focused content on the blog section of its website along with a section on business loans for women.

The Start Up Loans Company

Type of finance: Business loan

Loan amount: £500-£500,000

Repayment period: 1-5 years

Again, these aren’t geared specifically towards women, but they do have a focus on supporting women, as seen on other parts of the Start Up Loans Company website.

Borrow at a fixed rate of 6pc per annum with no set-up or early repayment fees. Successful applicants get 12 months of free mentoring and exclusive business offers on top of the loan.

You must be a new business to apply or have been trading for less than two years.

Boost Capital

Type of finance: Small business loan, merchant cash advance

Loan amount: Business loans and merchant cash advances start at £3,000

Repayment period: Dependent on the product

Boost Capital has their general small business loans against a heading of ‘Business Loans for Women’.

For the merchant cash advance, you need to have been trading for nine months or more, your monthly turnover must be at least £6,000 and your monthly card sales total needs to be at least £3,000.

To take out a small business loan, you must have been trading for two years or more with an annual turnover of at least £70,000.

You’ll get a decision in principle on your application within 24 hours. The basis of the approval decision is on the health of business (recent bank statements) rather than your credit score.

SME Loans

Type of finance: Business loan, merchant cash advance

Loan amount: £1,000-£500,000; £5,000- £500,000

Repayment period: 1-5 years

Again, SME Loans lists its generic small business loan with ‘for women’ on it, displayed on a different part of the site.

However, before International Women’s Day 2019, they created a series of interview-style features with women entrepreneurs. They also published a longer feature looking at the Top 15 business networks for women.

As for the finance, a minimum monthly turnover of £5,000 is required for business loans and merchant cash advances, and you must have been actively trading for six months.

When you apply you’ll need to disclose the amount you want to borrow, average monthly card sales, the name of your business and the number of years you’ve been trading.

Liberis

Type of finance: Business cash advance

Loan amount: From £2,500-£300,000

Repayment period: Based on your card transactions

On the Liberis business cash advance, you can be accepted in as little as 24 hours.

Generally, the loan is for companies who have been in business for at least four months, but they try and be flexible. So, if you’re a newer company, it’s worth applying anyway. It’s easy to access repeat funding too – done online or over the phone.

You’ll need to have card takings of at least £2,500 so that you can make repayments.

Liberis post blogs around International Women’s Day; this year posts are in line with the #EachforEqual theme.

More help for female entrepreneurs

Loans are just one concern – check out our women in business archive for more insight. Or you can read about the gender pay gap and find networking events for female entrepreneurs at the Women’s Business Council and the Women in Business Network.

Further reading

How to tap into funding for female entrepreneurs