Raising capital is the biggest job an entrepreneur faces. And when you’re a female entrepreneur, you should definitely look into small business grants as they’re more like free financing and not like a business credit card or loan you have to pay back. Therefore, it is key you know that most government agencies, nonprofits, and also private organizations offer small business grants to women entrepreneurs.
Yes, the competition to land a small business grant is incredibly challenging but it isn’t impossible if you try. And the result will be well worth it. But, how do you even get started?
How to get a small business grant for women:
No small business grant is like the other, however, there are some steps you can follow when searching and applying for small business grants to women.
- Research…a lot. Head over and research online portals, like Grants.gov, in order to identify grants that can work for your business. Attend small business conferences and chat with industry peers as they can include you on small business grant opportunities that aren’t well known.
- Check if you’re eligible. There are usually specific eligibility requirements that you need to review before applying. These rules include education level, when your business was founded, and so on. Be sure to study the requirements so you aren’t wasting time applying for a small business grant that isn’t even the right fit.
- Apply on time. You need to find a way to make sure your application stands out from the competition so schedule time to apply for grants. Don’t rush the process!
- Track your application status. Organize the grants you have applied for in a spreadsheet and any deadlines for upcoming grants so you remain organized and focused.
As the saying goes, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” You can also look into small business loans for women, women-only business accelerators, and other funding options on the table.
Review these 10 places for small business grants for women:
Grants.gov is a database of federally sponsored grants, including small business grants, however they are for both men and women. In order to apply, you need to check their section on grant applicants to review the questions to know if you are eligible. Note that you need a unique nine-digit identification number (DUNS number).
If you want to view grants specifically for small businesses, just filter the results on the left hand side of the page under “eligibility.”
2. Cartier Women’s Initiative Award
Once a year, 21 female entrepreneurs receive the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award. The top 7 finalists receive $100,000 and one-on-one mentoring. Whereas the remaining 14 receive $30,000 in prize money. This award is granted for women business owners who are in the early stages of development of their business, between one to three years old. Follow the application process here.
All 21 finalists also receive an INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship 6-Day Executive Program (ISEP) and entrepreneurship workshops, business coaching seminars, and networking opportunities.
Grantsforwomen.org is a great resource if you’re looking for comprehensive grant resources as it is a database of opportunities across all industries for women. The benefits received vary with each opportunity presented so you will need to review their website to follow the instructions to apply.
However, please note that most of these grants are intended for non-business purposes.
4. IdeaCAFE Grant
Both men and women are eligible for the IdeaCAFE grant – a small business grant for anyone who owns or plans to start their business. So if you are in the beginning stages, this is a great grant to look into, all you need to do is to fill out the free application online but note that the application deadline is in January. The benefits include $1,000.
5. #GIRLBOSS Foundation Grant
Entrepreneur Sophia Amoruso began the Girlboss Foundation awards back in 2014 and each year, female and female-identifying entrepreneurs earn a bi-annual grant in the creative industries (fashion, design, music and the arts). The benefits include $15,000 grant and online exposure on Girlboss’ site.
In order to apply, you have to include an example of your work and you can apply here. A committee of Girlboss staffers will judge your work and they base their choice on creativity, innovation in the field, business planning, and financial need.
6. Amber Grant
The Amber Grant started in 1998 by Womensnet.com to honor of a young woman, Amber, who passed away before she could fulfill her entrepreneurial dreams. Amber Grant aims to help female entrepreneurs reach and recognize their goals when Amber could not.
Each month, one female business owner receives a $2,000 grant and one winner receives an extra $25,000 at the end of the year. To apply, you need to pay a $15 application fee and explain your business and say what you plan to do with the money. All you need to do is tell a good story.
The deadline is always on the last day of each month so you have 12 chances at landing a grant.
7. Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant
In 2004, fashion designer Eileen Fisher created the Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program. The benefits include a maximum of $10,000 per recipient for 10 women-owned businesses yearly. This small business grant is for women making positive social and environmental impact.
If you have been in business for at least three years, then you qualify for this small business grant. You can learn more about it here.
8. National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants
Annually, the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) awards numerous grant prizes of $4,000 each to its members. To become a member, you need to pay a $120 membership fee per year. As a member, you receive networking opportunities, mentorship resources, discounts on business products, and legislative advocacy.
In order to qualify for their Growth Grants program, along with being an NASE member, you have to show a specific business need that the grant can help. So showing how the grant helps your business’s growth and success, you need to include a resume and a business plan.
9. The Halstead Grant
In 2006, the Halstead Grant was launched for small business grants for women entrepreneurs in the jewelry industry. You need to submit a portfolio and answer questions about your business plan. Winners receive $7,500 and an additional $1,000 toward Halstead jewelry supplies. If you don’t win, you will receive feedback on your business plan from the judges which can be a huge help going forward.
10. FedEx Grant
The first winner of the FedEx grant was Nicole Snow and even though this isn’t necessarily just for women entrepreneurs, women small business owners are heavily encouraged to apply. Since 2013, this grant awards 10 winners funding: a grand prize $25,000 plus $7,500 in FedEx services, a silver prize of $15,000 plus $5,000 in FedEx services, and eight winners receive $7,500 plus $1,000 in printing services.
Look at State and Local Small Business Grants for Women
The 10 options above are a great starting point when searching for small business grants for women. However, make sure you are aware of possible scams, especially ones asking for money or for you to sign up for a subscription.
The grants we listed are available nationwide and have been vetted. Note, there are state and local options that can apply to you as well. Be sure to schedule an appointment with your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) or SCORE office. These organizations apply to local financing and can guide you on available small business grants for women in your area.
You can also look into SBA loans, which are affordable business loans for small business owners. SBA has a number of resources available for female entrepreneurs.