A Comprehensive Guide to Grants for Women in Business

Last Updated Sep 1, 2020 | Published on Aug 4, 2020 | Small Business

Table of Contents

  • The Importance of Grants for Women in Business
  • 7 Places to Look for Grant Opportunities
    • Grants.gov
    • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
    • Local Women’s Business Center
    • SBIR.gov
    • GrantsforWomen.org
    • Challenge.gov
    • The Open Society Foundations
  • 13 More Specific Types of Small Business Grants for Women
    • Grants.gov
    • Cartier Women’s Initiative Award
    • Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs
    • #GIRLBOSS Foundation Grant
    • Amber Grant Foundation
    • American Association of University Women Community Action Grants (AAUW)
    • Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program
    • Idea Cafe Grant
    • FedEx Small Business Grant
    • 37 Angels
    • The Halstead Grant
    • Open Meadows Foundation
    • National Association for the Self-Employed Growth Grants
    • Visa Everywhere Initiative
  • Tips to Qualify for Small Business Grants for Women
  • Small Business Loans for Women-Owned Businesses

Did you know that women-owned companies represent 42% of all businesses in the United States? It’s no doubt that this number has skyrocketed over the past few years.

The 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report noted that the number of companies owned by women increased by 21% from 2014 to 2019. The same study also showed that approximately 13 million women-owned businesses are generating $1.9 trillion in revenue.

With the rate that it’s going, you’d think that small business loans are readily available for women entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

Small business grants for women are a great opportunity for women in business to secure funding. If you win a grant, you’ll receive free money that you don’t have to repay. To know more, here’s an in-depth guide on grants for women in business and where to find them.

The Importance of Grants for Women in Business

three people sitting in front of table laughing together

Women-owned businesses find it particularly difficult to qualify for traditional loans. In a perfect world, gender shouldn’t be a factor when it comes to qualifying for loans. However, studies show that female entrepreneurs find it more challenging to secure funding compared to male business owners. According to Biz2Credit’s research, the average loan size for women entrepreneurs was 31% less compared to their male counterparts.

Grants for women-owned businesses are more like gifts rather than a loan. This makes it an excellent source of financing for women in need of additional working capital.

7 Places to Look for Grant Opportunities

Here are some of the places to start your search for grant opportunities for women-owned businesses:

1. Grants.gov

With over 2000 U.S. government grants on Grants.gov, it makes sense to start your search for federal grants here. To qualify for these grants, you need your DUNS number, EIN or SSN, and set up an account on the System for Award Management (SAM).

2. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

The SBA helps small business owners succeed by improving their access to financing options like small business loans and grants. You can check out SBA’s grants page to find grants suitable for your business.

3. Local Women’s Business Center

The Small Business Administration supports women in business through the Women’s Business Center. They offer development training and easier access to funding. You can find your local Women’s Business Center here.

4. SBIR.gov

If your business deals with technology, you can check out the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. This program offers grants for small businesses revolving around research and development. You can check their Solicitation Listing page to look for existing grant opportunities.

5. GrantsforWomen.org

GrantsForWomen.org offers grants, scholarships, and funding for women. They keep an updated list of small business grants for women in business.

6. Challenge.gov

The U.S. General Services Administration uses Challenge.gov to ask small businesses for help in solving problems. Members of the public, including small business owners, can compete for different “challenges”. These challenges are similar to grants and the application process can be lengthy, but the rewards make it worth it.

You can check Challenge.gov’s recent challenges in 2019 to get a glimpse of the type of competitions the government releases. You can also check out their website for a list of current challenges you can join.

7. The Open Society Foundations

George Soros founded the Open Society of Foundations to fund businesses and organizations that work for the “justice, democratic governance, and human rights”. Be sure to check out their grant page for more information on active grants.

13 More Specific Types of Small Business Grants for Women

If you’re struggling to qualify for a small business loan from banks, grant competitions are another option. Grants are “free” money that you won’t have to repay, unlike small business loans. Some grants are open to all entrepreneurs while others are specifically for businesswomen.

Grants seem like a perfect way to secure funding, but know that you’ll face tough competition when you apply for grants. Only a few businesses end up winning one. But if you understand your options, you can increase your chances of winning a grant.

To help you get started, here are the most popular grants for women-owned businesses:

1. Grants.gov

The government is the first place you should check out before you pursue other grants. Grants.gov lists all federal-sponsored grants, including small businesses. It’s best to begin your search here so you can choose from a wide variety of choices specific to your industry. You can even download their mobile app on Google Play or Apple Store for your convenience.

To apply, you need to get a DUNS number for your business. A DUNS number is a nine-digit identification number unique to your business. The next step is to register to do business with the U.S. government through its System Award Management website and create an account on Grants.gov.

2. Cartier Women’s Initiative Award

The Cartier’s Women’s Initiative Award is a yearly grant given to 21 businesswomen all over the globe. This grant is mainly for newly established companies, between one to three years old. The business doesn’t have to be profitable, but it should be generating enough revenue. Many entrepreneurs vie for this grant because the top seven finalists will get $100,000 along with one-to-one mentoring from an expert in your industry. The remaining applicants will win $30,000.

All 21 finalists will earn a spot in the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship 6-Day Executive Program (ISEP). They will also attend various entrepreneurship programs, networking opportunities, and business coaching conferences.

3. Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs

The Small Business Administration oversees the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. These programs provide grants to small companies that contribute to federal research. You can choose from 12 federal agencies, including the departments of Health and Human Services, as well as Agriculture, and Defense. These departments post grant opportunities on their website, but to make it easier for you, you can find grant opportunities on the SBIR website. To qualify for these grants, your business must be a for-profit business with 500 employees or less.

4. #GIRLBOSS Foundation Grant

#GIRLBOSS is a relatively new grant program that supports businesswomen in the creative field. Every year, this foundation gives away $15,000 to two deserving companies, along with exposure on Girlboss’s website and social media platforms.

Since this grant targets creative female entrepreneurs, you need to submit samples of your work to qualify. Also, you need to provide a comprehensive business plan on how to use the money, how it will help your company, and more.

5. Amber Grant Foundation

The Amber Grant was created by Womensnet.com to honor the memory of Amber, a young woman who passed away before she could achieve her dreams of running a business. This grant awards $4,000 to different women-owned companies every month. Among the 12 grant winners, one lucky business will get an additional $25,000.

To apply, you only need to explain your business, describe what you want to do with the money, and pay a $15 application fee. The Amber Grant Foundation looks for women with a good story and a passion for what they do.

6. American Association of University Women Community Action Grants (AAUW)

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) offers Community Action Grants for community-based projects. While these grants focus more on education rather than entrepreneurship, you may qualify if your business idea involves education and equality for women and girls.

To qualify for a community action grant, applicants should be women U.S. citizens or permanent residents. U.S. based nonprofit organizations and businesses are the only ones that qualify.

7. Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program

If you’ve done your research on grants for women, you’ve come across the Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program. Established in 2004, this grant is one of the most popular women-centric grant programs.

Eileen Fisher, a women’s clothing brand, has awarded grants to women-owned nonprofit companies that are beyond the startup phase. If you aren’t a nonprofit, you should be a business with a fiscal sponsor to qualify. This program awards $20,000 to 10 per recipient every year.

To apply, your company should be an IRS-recognized 501 (c) (3) organization. You’re also required to submit a year’s worth of financial statements. And lastly, your business should positively impact the economy and/or women’s rights.

8. Idea Cafe Grant

The Idea Café Grant is open to men and women-owned businesses and they offer $1,000 for each recipient. It’s easy to apply for an Idea Café Grant, but it’s highly competitive. If you’re confident that your business idea offers creative solutions to everyday problems, you’ll have a higher chance of qualifying.

You don’t need to purchase or submit a business plan to apply. All you have to do is to sign up as an Idea Café Regular and then you can apply for their grant.

9. FedEx Small Business Grant

Just like the Idea Café Grant, FedEx Small Business Grant isn’t exclusive for women entrepreneurs. However, they make it a point to fairly distribute the awards to both men- and women-owned businesses. FedEx Small Business Grant gives 10 lucky winners up to $25,000 for first place winners. Additionally, the winners also win free access to FedEx Office print and copy services.

The application process for this FedEx grant is relatively simple. They will only ask for your business name, time in business (should be more than six months), and the number of employees (you should have less than 99 employees). Your company should not be a franchise, a direct seller, or a nonprofit. You also need to submit a business plan, a business story, and the use of funds if you win.

10. 37 Angels

A group of women investors realized that only 13% of angel investors are women, so they created the 37 Angel. These grants come with an accelerator program to help women-owned businesses succeed. Technically, the working capital you receive from 37 Angels is similar to an investment. But the money you receive from this grant may be just what you need to grow your business.

Unlike other grants, you don’t have to formally apply to get a grant; instead, 37 Angels is more of a networking opportunity. Join the 37 Angels network and engage in various educational opportunities to find what you need to grow your business.

11. The Halstead Grant

The Halstead Grant provides grant opportunities for women-owned businesses in the jewelry industry, especially to new female jewelry designers with companies under three years old. Lucky winners will receive $7,500 plus $1,000-worth of Halstead jewelry supplies and publicity within the industry.

To qualify for The Halstead Grant, you need to answer several questions about your company’s goals and strategies. Those who didn’t win the grant will still receive general feedback on their business plan so you’ll have a better chance of winning the next time you apply.

12. Open Meadows Foundation

Open Meadows Foundation awards $2,000 biannually. They mainly award grants to women-owned smaller businesses with an operating budget of less than $75,000 a year. Companies with limited financial resources have a greater chance of winning. You can apply for a grant by filling out an online form and emailing it to Open Meadows Foundation, along with other requirements.

13. National Association for the Self-Employed Growth Grants

The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) focuses on providing tools, assistance, and resources to entrepreneurs looking to run their businesses successfully. Winners will gain access to members-only resources. NASE also offers Growth Grants, a business development grant where recipients can receive up to $4,000. You can use the funds for business development expenses, such as expanding facilities, hiring employees, marketing, advertising, and other needs.

To qualify for a NASE growth grant, you should be a member in good standing. You should also provide a detailed explanation of how you plan to use the funds and how it would help your business. You may also be required to submit supporting documents like a business plan or financial forecasts. To know more about the NASE grant recipients, be sure to visit their website.

14. Visa Everywhere Initiative

Visa Everywhere Initiative is another grant that rewards both men- and women-owned companies. However, this grant is mainly for startups and fintech companies that solve potential payment and commerce challenges. Visa awards $10,000 to $50,000 for every grant winner. You can apply for Visa Everywhere Initiative on their website by answering a challenge question.

Visa also offers a Women’s Global Edition where two women-owned businesses will win $100,000 each for answering a fintech and a social impact challenge. You may need to rack your brain to win this grant, but it can be a great funding opportunity for women-owned fintech companies.

Tips to Qualify for Small Business Grants for Women

person using MacBook

Keep the following tips in mind if you want to increase your chances of qualifying for a grant:

Create a Business Plan

Most grants require applicants to submit a business plan, especially if your company hasn’t been established yet. Your business plan should contain the following:

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Market Analysis
  • Organization and Management
  • Service or Product Line
  • Marketing and Sales
  • Funding Request
  • Financial Projections

Hire a Grant Writer

Business owners can’t always devote time and effort in applying for small business grants. If you have a lot on your plate, you can hire a grant writer to do the heavy lifting. Grant writers can take care of the grant application process. They charge a small fee and/or a percentage of the grant money.

Don’t Apply for the Wrong Grant

Not all grant applications are the right fit for your company. Identify the grants that work best for you and focus your efforts on creating a strong application. If you apply for the wrong grant, you’ll risk wasting time and money on a failed application.

Research, Research, Research

Portals like Grants.gov can help you find grants that are a good fit for your business. Another way to know more about grants is by attending business conferences and asking your peers in the industry.

Keep Track of All Grant Applications

Get organized and stay on top of your grant applications by creating a spreadsheet of the grants you’ve applied for. Take note of any upcoming deadlines and additional requirements.

Small Business Loans for Women-Owned Businesses

As you can see, winning a grant isn’t that easy. Make sure that your company has enough working capital while you continue to apply for grants. When it comes to your finances, it’s not a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket. Other than grants, consider applying for small business loans for women and other financing options that make sense for your business.

It’s no secret that bank loans have stringent loan application requirements. Fortunately, alternative lenders like Alternative online lenders can easily provide small business loans to small businesses in the United States, men- or women-owned.

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