Women business owners can benefit from diverse funding options with flexible terms, lower rates and easier qualifications. These financing options can include government-backed loans, alternative lenders and specialty programs.

Women-owned businesses may want to consider applying for a loan program that offers financial resources to help close the gender gap in entrepreneurship. This includes programs and organizations that offer mentoring, networking, education, funding and access to experts in the field. Having access to these resources can be instrumental in helping to grow and manage the business.

Most small business loans for women fall under one of three categories. They can be long-term business loans, with a set repayment schedule, which are ideal for financing larger investments such as commercial equipment or a point of sale system. Short-term loans are typically for smaller amounts and have a shorter repayment schedule. They are a good choice for meeting urgent business needs like bridging a cash flow gap or purchasing inventory.

Other types of financing for women-owned businesses include merchant cash advances and invoice financing. A merchant cash advance (MCA) isn’t technically a business loan, but it allows business owners to borrow against future credit card receipts and can be easier to qualify for than traditional loans. Invoice financing is similar to a MCA, but it involves borrowing against outstanding invoices rather than future sales.

The SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership oversees more than 160 local Women’s Business Centers (WBC) that can provide free, low-cost business advice and counseling. These centers can also connect women entrepreneurs to a network of resources for financing their business, including the opportunity to apply for government set aside contracts that are reserved for women-owned businesses.