We'd all like to believe that regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender, all entrepreneurs have equal access to financing for their businesses. Sadly, that has undoubtedly remained untrue. Lenders of small business loans have been proven to approve more loan requests by white male entrepreneurs than any other group.
Despite this unnerving truth, minorities have been making huge strides in the business world over recent years. From 2002 to 2007 the number of minority-owned businesses increased by approximately 50 percent, and that percentage only continues to grow.
Although we're seeing huge growth for minority-owned businesses, there's still a lot that remains to be changed. As a means of helping to level the playing field for all entrepreneurs, there have been many programs and organizations that are tailored to specifically help minority-entrepreneurs obtain funding.
Check out the financing options for minorities listed below.
1. SBA Loans
The SBA 8(a) program was put in place to directly help businesses that are at least 51 percent owned and controlled by a person who's been at a disadvantage due to their ethnicity or race. The focus of this program is to help these individuals gain access to the economic mainstream of American society by providing business training, counseling, marketing assistance and more. Those who've been accepted into the program also have a better chance of getting accepted for an SBA 7(a) loan.
While the SBA Community Advantage Loans and the SBA Microloan program are not specifically designed to help minority run businesses, they are still worth looking into if you are in need of a smaller loan or are in an underserved market. Both programs have historically made a concerted effort to serve minority-owned businesses.
Although there are many grants made available to small business owners, most are highly sought after and competitive. After you've sifted through the options and have found one you'd be eligible for, you have to fill out the application, which involves strict guidelines. If you hope to get chosen for the grant, your application has to stand out amongst many other companies fighting for the same cash.
Aside from the competitive nature and strict application guidelines, a grant can be a viable way to fund your business since you don't have to pay it back. However, it is important to pay attention to each grant's individual guidelines since they can be pretty specific about what the money can be used for.
To improve your chances of getting chosen for a grant, look for those that have been specifically created for minority-owned businesses--such as the Tribal Energy Development Capacity Grant, POWER (block grants) and more. By looking for those niche grants that match your particular business demographics, you'll face less competition and increase your chances of being selected for funding.
3. Programs and Organizations
There are multiple programs and organizations out there that specifically focus on helping minority entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Not only do they provide education courses, counseling, and connections to contracting opportunities, but they can also point you in the direction of lenders who are more likely to be supportive of minority-owned businesses. Mentors through these organizations can also often help you through the loan application process.
Check with your local small business development center to see what program exists for minority business owners in your area.
4. Union Bank
Union Bank offers a Business Diversity Lending program to those who are of Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, African American, Asian, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Hispanic or Latino descent. This program is designed to give these minority entrepreneurs a leg up by helping them qualify for the financing they need.
In order to qualify for this program you must be considered a minority under the bank's terms, have been in business for two years, your annual sales cannot exceed $20 million and you cannot be asking for more than $2.5 million.
Alternative Lending Options
If you were unable to receive funding through any of the options listed above, don't throw the towel in just yet. Instead, check out alternative lending options with less stringent requirements. Online lenders are making it easier for those with less working capital and low credit scores to receive funding. They also provide funding much faster.
You may also consider looking into angel investors or venture capitalists. But regardless of the avenue you go down, make sure you fully understand the guidelines of each financing option and what each will cost your business in the long term.