How Does the SBA Help Women Entrepreneurs Finance Their Business Ventures?

By Claire Ehmann, Acting Associate Administrator for the Office of International Trade &
Christina Hale, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women's Business Ownership

In honor of Women’s History Month, this is the final blog in our series to highlight what the SBA does to help women business owners succeed globally. We have already discussed how to start a new business and the ways to expand an existing one, but the bottom line is that none of this is impossible without the proper funding, so how can women business owners access that much-needed capital?

The biggest challenge that women business owners face is accessing the capital and funds needed to be able to keep their businesses afloat and help them thrive as the years pass. This is why one of the Biden-Harris Administration’s main priorities is leveling the playing field when it comes to accessing capital. As our Administrator has said, “When women have economic power, they are more empowered to have an impact in their homes, in their communities, in their countries, and globally.”

We know from SBA research that, unlike other businesses, women-owned employer firms use a wide range of capital to start, but women are less likely to use bank loans compared to their male counterparts. An early relationship with a bank may be critical for future business financing, so there is a clear opportunity for us to help facilitate bridges between female founders and the lending community.

Under the leadership of Administrator Guzman, the SBA is driving change by modeling equity in our own lending, investment, and federal grant programs, including the Small Business Innovation Research program and Small Business Technology Transfer program, the world's largest source of early-stage public finance. We're doing the same with our Small Business Investment Company program, which provides a government-guaranteed loan to match privately raised capital. 

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, SBA-backed 504 and 7(a) loans to women-owned small businesses are up 70 percent, totaling $5.1 billion in lending to women-owned businesses in FY23. In addition to this, the women's share of the SBA’s lending has grown by nearly 6 percentage points, from 15.6% to 21.3%.

To expand beyond our borders, we have an export grant program – the State Trade Expansion Program or STEP. Through participating states and territories, STEP provides grants that help small businesses cover the costs associated with a wide variety of export development, including learning how to export, finding foreign buyers, and pursuing international e-commerce.

As for our export financing programs, the SBA has a suite of three export loan guarantee programs for small businesses that support export needs ranging from working capital and purchase order financing. The value of our export loans is that they provide small businesses with a competitive edge as they seek out new customers and service existing clients. 

We are very proud that the SBA’s core export loans already help a high proportion of women-owned and minority-owned businesses gain much-needed access to capital. We know that we can build on the track record and do more by growing awareness of all our programs.

However, we know that not all businesses are ready for SBA export loans. If you are starting a new business, a microloan may be the right place to start and can also be used for trade. Many of our microlenders are in Women’s Business Centers or other organizations focused on helping to increase access for underrepresented groups. As a new business, you may wish to explore microloans through SBA’s Certified Development Companies. Women’s Business Centers are also focused on helping women gain financial intelligence, receive guidance on creative capital, and make connections to grow. 

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