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Small Business Grants for Women

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Of the 33.2 million small businesses in the United States, nearly 13 million of them are women-owned. These businesses employ almost 10 million people and generate nearly $1.8 trillion in revenue. Despite driving significant economic growth, female-founded companies received just 2.1% of venture capital funding in the U.S. in 2022.

With more women jumping into entrepreneurship, there’s a growing need for funding to support women-owned businesses. These organizations are answering the call. 

Key Takeaways

  • Small business grants for women provide crucial financial support, enabling female-identifying entrepreneurs to kickstart or expand their businesses.
  • These grants often contribute to overcoming financial barriers, fostering economic empowerment and equality.
  • There are private and federal grant options available, as well as alternative funding options for women small business owners.
  • Women-owned businesses can gain access to resources, mentorship, and networking opportunities through grant programs, facilitating growth and sustainability.

Private Small Business Grants for Women

Amber Grant

Each month, WomensNet gives away $30,000 in Amber Grant funds to a women-owned business or nonprofit. They also award three year-end grants of $25,000 each to one of the 12 monthly winners of the Monthly Amber Grant, the Startup Grant, and the Business Category Grant.

To be eligible, you must be 18 years or older, and your business must be 50% women-owned, operating in the United States or Canada. WomensNet’s straightforward process makes it easy to apply—just share your business story and how you would plan to use the grant.

IFundWomen Grant

The IFundWomen marketplace has a mission to close the funding gap for women-led businesses. Simply fill out the Universal Grant Application, and anytime IFundWomen partners with a new brand, they’ll match that partner’s grant criteria to businesses in the database. If there’s a match, they’ll notify you immediately. 

So far, the program has deployed $170 million in grants to entrepreneurs through partnerships with brands like Visa, Caress, Johnnie Walker, BOTOX® Cosmetic, and COMCAST.

Women Founders Network Fast Pitch Competition

The Fast Pitch Competition provides $55,000 in cash grants and more than $100,000 in professional services to tech-focused B2B/B2C companies and consumer-focused businesses. To qualify, the founder/CEO must be a woman or the business must be majority-owned by a woman, and the company must be based in the U.S. It accepts pre-revenue plans but excludes life sciences, nonprofit, and cannabis/CBD companies.

Atomic Grant

Funded by Passion Collective, the Atomic® Grant program offers a $1,500 cash grant to women-owned businesses and startups. Winners also receive strategic coaching sessions and a one-year membership to Passion Collective On Demand. If you are age 21 or over and you identify as a woman, you can apply for an Atomic® Grant (no matter where you live).

NASE Growth Grant

The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) chooses four winners each quarter to receive up to $4,000 in grant support. You can use your grant award for a range of growth purposes, including hiring employees, purchasing equipment, or investing in marketing.

To apply, you must be a NASE member in good standing. NASE evaluates your application based on identifiable business need, how you plan to use the grant money, and its potential impact on overall business growth and success.

Freed Fellowship Grant

Every month, one small business owner in the U.S. wins a $500 Freed grant to invest in their business. Just by applying, you’ll get feedback on your business and two months of free mentoring in the Freed Studio virtual community. Winners get access to additional business coaching and a chance to receive an end-of-year bonus grant of $2,500.

HerRise MicroGrant

HerSuiteSpot and The Yva Jourdan Foundation partner to help women of color entrepreneurs start or grow a business. The HerRise MicroGrant selects a winner each month to receive $1,000 to use for business needs such as computers, equipment, marketing materials, software purchase, and website creation.

To apply, your business must be currently registered in the U.S., 51% owned by women of color, and have less than $1 million in gross revenue. This grant excludes nonprofits, franchises, direct sellers, authorized resellers, and independent consultants.

FoundHer Program

The FoundHer Program accelerates growth for women-founded businesses in Hawai’i. The six-month program includes a $20,000 grant, $4,000 care stipend, weekly educational workshops, a national network of business mentors and advisors, and monthly retreats.

You must be a for-profit, Hawai’i-based small business that is 50% AANHPI women-led. The program focuses in five core markets of Hawai’i’s economy: technology, fashion, health & wellness, food systems, and keiki/education. Applications for Cohort 3 are closed, but keep an eye out for the next round of applications beginning in 2024.

Cartier Women’s Initiative Award

All women-run and women-owned businesses can apply for the Cartier Women’s Initiative award, regardless of country or sector. For consideration, your business must demonstrate a strong and sustainable social and/or environmental impact. 

Grants within this program include nine regional awards and two thematic awards: the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Award (open to all genders), and the Science & Technology Pioneer Award. The next call for applications will run from May 22, 2024 through July 3, 2024.

Beyond Open Small Business Grant

This grant program focuses on diverse-owned small businesses within six underinvested areas in Charlotte, North Carolina, known as the Corridors of Opportunity. In partnership with Foundation For The Carolinas, the Beyond Open program will award three rounds of grants at around $5 million per round, for a total $15 million.

This highly competitive grant program received thousands of applications for each of the first two rounds. The final round will take place in 2024. Eligibility requirements include: at least 51% ownership by minority, woman, veteran, LGBTQ+ or persons with disabilities; physical location within one of the Corridors of Opportunity; annual revenue between $30k and $5M; fewer than 200 full and/or part-time employees, and at least one full year of operation beginning on or before August 1, 2022.

Tory Burch Foundation Fellowship

In partnership with the Fearless Fund, the Tory Burch Foundation Fellowship selects 75 women of color–owned businesses to receive $10,000 and $20,000 grants. Winners also gain access to education and community.

For eligibility, your business must be operating in the United States as a for-profit company and be at least 51% woman of color–owned. Preference goes to businesses in the first five years of operation, with a minimum annual revenue of $100,000.

Launch Program by Ladies Who Launch

If you’re a women- or non-binary-owned business in the consumer packaged goods sector, check out the Launch Program by Ladies Who Launch. The program provides a $10,000 cash grant, mentorship from industry experts, and six months of free education to support you on your business journey.

Interested businesses must have an annual gross revenue between $100,000 and $499,000 and cannot currently be raising, have previously raised funds from, or intend to seek venture capital or angel investment, or a liquidity event, in the next 12 months.

Women’s Business Development Council Equity Match Grant

For Connecticut residents, the Women’s Business Development Council gives away equity matching grants between $2,500 and $10,000 to qualified woman-owned small businesses. If awarded, you’ll need to provide a minimum match of 25% (unless located in distressed economic municipalities).

The awards committee is looking for a clear use of funds, with a direct link to growth and job creation potential. Additionally, you must have a record of annual sales between $25,000 and $2,000,000 in the last 12 months.

High Five Grant for Moms

The Mama Ladder’s High Five Grant program is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for mompreneurs to win financial support for growing their businesses. In 2023, The Mama Ladder awarded grants totaling $38,500 to 24 worthy recipients, with a grand prize of $10,000.

Anyone who is a mother and owner (or 50% co-owner) of a revenue-generating business can apply. This includes foster moms, expecting moms, stepmoms, and mothers of adult children. 

Federal Business Grants for Women

Grants.gov

Here you can search an extensive list of available grants, plus get help on how to apply, find available forms, and track your application. The database lists grants from government agencies and funding instruments from the Department of Energy, NASA, Department of State, Department of Health and Human Services, Native American tribal governments, and others.

SBIR and SBTT Programs

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs support small U.S. businesses in doing research that could lead to new products. To be eligible, a business must be organized in the U.S., mostly owned by U.S. citizens, and have fewer than 500 employees. 

STTR involves working with a U.S. nonprofit research institution. STTR has some extra requirements, like agreeing on who owns the ideas that come out of the research and specifying how the work is shared between the small business and the research institution.

Program for Investors in Microentrepreneurs

Congress established PRIME grants as part of the Program for Investment in Microentrepreneurs Act of 1999. The program gives low-income entrepreneurs access to capital to help establish and expand their small businesses. 

In 2023, individual PRIME grants ranged from $100,000 to $400,000, for a total of $8 million in awards. With emphasis on  entrepreneurs in rural areas, PRIME grants typically require at least 50% in matching funds or in-kind contributions.

Additional Resources for Female Business Owners

Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO)

The Office of Women’s Business Ownership, established by the Small Business Administration (SBA), empowers women entrepreneurs in the U.S. by providing advocacy, outreach, education, and support. Through Women’s Business Centers across the country, the office offers comprehensive training and counseling, access to credit, and marketing opportunities.

DreamBuilder 

DreamBuilder offers free online courses in both Spanish and English to help women start or grow their businesses. The program includes a step-by-step framework for launching a small business and a course specifically focused on financing, providing a personalized business plan, and a Capital Action Plan.

BELLE Capital USA

BELLE Capital USA is an early stage fund investing in fast-growing companies led by women. Their goal is to achieve top returns by working closely with these companies, helping them grow quickly, and prepare for success. The fund also encourages other women to become early stage investors, recognizing the significant impact it can have on shaping the funding landscape for startups.

Professional Associations and Industry Organizations

Joining a professional women’s organization can make a massive difference in a woman’s career. Whether you are just starting your professional journey, making a switch to a new field, or considering launching a new enterprise, it’s likely there is an organization that can help. Some professional women’s organizations focus on minorities, some on specific industries, and some are general. Examples include: 

  • Minority Business Development Agency
  • Asian Women in Business
  • Association for Women in Science
  • Financial Women’s Association 
  • American Business Women’s Association
  • Business and Professional Women International

National Women’s Business Council 

The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) advises the President, Congress, and the Small Business Administration on issues affecting women business owners. NWBC focuses on overcoming challenges like limited access to money and supports women in STEM through activities like webinars and roundtables, aiming to create a more inclusive entrepreneurial environment.

GrantsForWomen.org

This site hosts a comprehensive directory of all the organizations and foundations that offer grant funding to women. The database includes federal, corporate, private, and professional grants, plus general information about the process. 

Funding Alternatives to Small Business Grants

Aside from grants, there are a number of alternative funding options available for women-owned businesses, such as: 

  • Traditional bank loans
  • Microloans
  • Venture capital and angel investment
  • Crowdfunding
  • Asset or invoice financing
  • Bridge loans
  • Peer-to-peer lending
  • Term loans

What Defines a Woman-Owned Business?

If your business is at least 51% woman-owned and operated, it may be classified as a woman-owned business. The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) defines two options for official certification: women-owned small business (WOSB) and economically-disadvantaged women-owned small business (EDWOSB). 

Businesses may self-certify for free, or obtain certification from an SBA-approved third-party certifier for a fee. The NWBC considers both methods to be valid and equally beneficial. 

To qualify as a WOSB, a woman must hold the highest officer position, work at the business full-time, and be involved in making both day-to-day and long-term business decisions for the company. Qualifying as an EDWOSB means meeting all criteria of a WOSB, plus additional income, net worth, and asset requirements.

Obtaining this certification gives you access to federal contracts and economic resources, and adds credibility to your grant applications.

How Do I Write a Grant Proposal for a Small Business?

Applying for grants can be a bit of a waiting game. You fill out forms, submit them on time, and then cross your fingers as you wait for the decision from the committee or organization handling your request.

The key to a successful grant application is to follow instructions to a T. Failure to do so could mean removal from the consideration process. If you find the process a bit daunting, consider reaching out to a grant writer.

Follow these tips for a successful grant proposal: 

  • Make sure you meet the minimum eligibility requirements
  • Understand and tailor your application to the goals, values, and objectives of the institution offering the grant
  • Have a clear goal for why you want the funds and how you’ll use them
  • Build your company’s credibility through clear and thorough documentation, including business records, testimonials, and research to back up any claims

The Bottom Line

Women-owned businesses are on the rise. While female-run companies still receive disproportionately lower funding than their male counterparts, many businesses, foundations, government agencies, and organizations want to give more opportunities to women. Applying for and winning a grant specifically for women could boost your business financially, and also give you access to mentoring, exposure, and other resources for growth.

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