It's no secret that securing a small business loan is an uphill battle. Of all the businesses that apply, only a few ever receive the money they need from banks and small business lenders, leaving the rest of them to find alternative sources of capital.
For female entrepreneurs in the still male-dominated business world, getting a loan can be even more difficult. A recent study by the California Reinvestment Coalition found that small business loans given to female-owned businesses in California have dropped 70 percent since 2007, and it's likely that other states have also seen a drop in small business lending to women. Even if a female business owner is financially secure, it's more than likely that she'll be turned away.
"We tried to get a loan from a few different banks that advertised wanting to help small businesses," said Hannah Lavon, co-founder of Hooray Hoopla, parent company of accessories retailer, Vs. Stuff. "But we were turned away because they said we had to be in business for at least five years, even after showing our finances." [How to Apply for a Small Business Loan]
BusinessNewsDaily spoke with several financial professionals and female entrepreneurs, who provided the following tips for women-owned small businesses looking to secure a loan:
Build relationships in your business community
Small business lenders want to know that the companies they're investing in are headed for success. That's why it's so important to establish yourself within your local business community before you try to apply for a loan.
"It is essential for female business owners to build relationships in their business communities," said Anne Hopkinson, owner of Haydenville Broomworks. "Part of being a trusted small business is building these relationships, and this can take time."
To get started, Hopkinson recommended looking for small business support groups in your area, such as university mentorship programs or small business development centers. Many advisers at these organizations work with lenders, and their professional relationships can benefit you in the loan application process.
Suzie Ford, co-founder of NoDa Brewing Company, stressed the importance of working closely with small business professionals in your community, such as CPAs and financial lenders.
"There is so much information available online, but that can sometimes become overwhelming," she said. "Seek out trusted and experienced advisers from the beginning, and surround yourself with a great team."
Have your financial information organized
Nothing will get your loan application denied faster than having your finances in disarray. Monica Guevara, manager of lending services at Business Outreach Center Network, reminded applicants that lenders need to verify all the information you give via documentation, so having the necessary statements and reports organized and ready for review will demonstrate that you've done your homework.
"Make sure you're paying your bills on time, reporting all your income, and able to explain how you will use the loan," Guevara said.
Lenders also generally require that recipients have some sort of collateral to put down on their loan, so be sure you have some money put away before you apply.
Explore your lender options
As with any other major financial decision, it's always a good idea to explore all options before deciding on a final choice. Greg Simmons, PNC Bank's southeast SBA sales manager, said that business owners should spend time shopping around for the lender that suits their needs.
"Even though a loan request may be eligible, not all banks have the same appetite for industries, projects or rates," he told BusinessNewsDaily. "Consider the costs of a full relationship, not simply the rate of the loan."
While chain banks are certainly a good place to start your loan research, independent lenders are another option to keep in mind.
"Authorized small business lenders can be much more personal, and therefore more likely to give you the money," Lavon said.
Seek out women-specific lending programs
No matter where they apply for a loan, female entrepreneurs face a lot of competition. However, some lenders have implemented loan programs dedicated to women-owned businesses to make it a little easier for these business owners to receive funding.
"We've historically seen women underrepresented with co-ed funds, and the emergence of funds that are earmarked specifically for women is a new and exciting trend," said Marina Lee, founder of Women In Tech Network and Startups Edge.
Lee suggested applying for general loans and women-centric programs simultaneously to increase your chances of receiving the money.
Know what you need and prove you'll use it well
Being able to explain to a lender the exact proposed amount and purpose of your loan is perhaps the most important factor in getting approved, next to proving financially stability. Vague loan requests often make a lender wary, so being prepared with specific information can only help you in the loan application process.
"The business owner should understand not only how much funds are needed, and for what, but that the funds are very likely to produce results based on their knowledge and experience," Guevara said.
"Be prepared with full financial information and current debt service for your business," Simmons added. "Know specifically what your request is for and what benefit it will bring your company."
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.