The SBA offers assistance for some would-be entrepreneurs with its Minority and Women's Prequalification Pilot Loan Programs. The women's program uses nonprofit intermediaries, while the Minority program uses both nonprofit and for-profit intermediaries. For-profit intermediaries may charge more for loan packaging, so this is another good place to shop for deals. Not that you can't get your money's worth--conscientious intermediaries help borrowers develop their applications, then send the paperwork to the SBA, where it's rushed through. Usually within three days, the SBA issues a letter of pre-qualification, and the intermediary helps the borrower shop for the best loan. The maximum amount for these "Prequal" loans is usually $250,000, although some SBA districts vary the limits on minority loans.