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If you’re a entrepreneur, raising capital is undoubtedly a big part of your job. To help female entrepreneurs succeed, some nonprofits and private organizations provide small business grants. Grant competitions are an excellent opportunity for women business owners. These awards are free money that you don’t have pay back, unlike small business loans and credit cards. Some grant options are open to all entrepreneurs and others are targeted specifically at women business owners.
Just keep in mind that competition for grants is very high. Very few businesses actually end up winning a grant. But if you know where to look and understand the benefits available, you can put your best foot forward. Here’s a comprehensive guide on the the top small business grants available for women, plus information on how to apply.
Although every small business grant is unique and has its own set of requirements, there are a few general steps you can follow to identify and apply for the grants that are most applicable to your business:
Remember, it’s never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket. In addition to grants, you should consider small business loans for women, venture capital firms and women-only business accelerators, and other funding options that might be relevant to you.
Many small business grants are for both men and women business owners. But some are open only to women. The grants and resources below are great options for women entrepreneurs looking for the best funding options available for them.
If you’re looking for federally sponsored grants, the best place to start is Grants.gov. This site serves as a database of all federal grants, including those that are specifically available for small business owners. To search for this type of grant, visit the official government grants website and check out their section for grant applicants to see if you’re eligible.
It’s important to note that this database includes a variety of different types of grants, so you may need to sort through different options to find those that are the most relevant to small business owners. Keep in mind that there are no small business grants for women on this site that aren’t also open to men, but this site can still serve as a great starting point for women looking for federal grant resources. Over a dozen federal government agencies participate in the database.
The InnovateHER challenge is a competition put on by the Small Business Administration (SBA). The challenge is open to businesses that offer products or services that impact the lives of women and families in a positive way. You must first enter and a win a local InnovateHer Challenge before advancing to the national semifinal round. The top three national finalists in 2017 competed for prizes of $40,000, $20,000, and $10,000 to put toward their businesses.
To learn more about this opportunity, contact WomenBusiness@SBA.gov.
Fashion designer Eileen Fisher launched the Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program in in 2004. Today the company awards $100,000 in total grants annually to 10 women-owned businesses beyond the startup stage (maximum $10,000 per recipient). They’ve announced that they will re-launch the grant program in 2019 with new rules.
For this award, Eileen Fisher is looking for businesses that have a positive social and environmental impact. For instance, the 2016 grantee winner, AEST, makes energy-saving cookstoves and smoke-free briquettes from agricultural waste.
If you’ve been in business for at least three years, you’re eligible for this small business grant for women entrepreneurs. Learn more about eligibility and the application process here.
The Amber Grant was launched by Womensnet.com in 1998 to honor the memory of a young woman, Amber, who died before she could fulfill her entrepreneurial dreams. The grant was formed to help women entrepreneurs reach their goals when Amber could not.
This program awards a $1,000 grant to one qualifying woman business owner each month of the year. One of the monthly qualification grant winners will be awarded an additional $10,000 in at the end of the year. These grant awards are small, but can be very helpful for those working to get their business off the ground. Remember, there’s no expectation that this funding will be paid back.
The application cut off for each monthly grant is the last of every month, so if you want a shot at winning the Amber Grant you have the opportunity to apply at any time of the year! All you have to do to apply is tell your story and pay a small application fee ($15). You can learn more about the application here.
The IdeaCafe Grant awards $1,000 grants to small business owners. Although the funding isn’t technically a small business grant for women only, the vast majority of the winners have been female entrepreneurs. This is a great grant to apply to if you’re a relatively new startup looking for funding. This grant is also available for those that have an idea for a business but haven’t actively started building it yet.
You may know the Girlboss brand by its leader Sophia Amoruso, the creator of Nasty Gal and now Girlboss’ media empire. Amoruso and Girlboss went on to create the GIRLBOSS Foundation and now awards two small business grants for women entrepreneurs each year.
Each small business grant winner receives project funding of $15,000 and online exposure via Girlboss’ site and various digital channels. The Girlboss biannual grant is exclusively open to women business owners in the fashion, music, and art industries.
Applications are judged by a selection committee made up of Girlboss staffers and led by Sophia Amoruso. Applications are judged on factors like creativity and innovation in the field, business acumen and forward planning, financial need, and proposed work place.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative Award is awarded once a year to 18 female entrepreneurs around the world. The Cartier award grant is intended for women business owners in the early stages of development of their business.
Each of the 18 small business grant award finalists will receive a spot in the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship 6-Day Executive Program (ISEP), as well as the opportunity to participate in entrepreneurship workshops, business coaching seminars, and networking opportunities.
Finally, all 18 finalists will receive either a first prize of $100,000 in prize money and one-on-one business mentoring, or a second prize of $30,0000 in prize money.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive resource for grants for women, Grantsforwomen.org is a great resource. Grants and Scholarships for Women is actually a database found at GrantsforWomen.org.
You can search this database of scholarship opportunities and grants for women, but be forewarned—most are for non-business purposes.
Although the FedEx Small Business Grant isn’t technically a small business grant for women entrepreneurs only, women small business owners are encouraged to apply. Since 2013, FedEx’s grant has awarded $250,000 in small business grants to entrepreneurs all over the country.
Each year, 10 winners receive funding from FedEx. One winner receives a grand prize $25,000 grant and $7,500 in FedEx services, one winner receives a silver prize of $15,000 plus $5,000 in FedEx services, and eight winners earn a bronze prize of $7,500 plus $1,000 in printing services.
The very first prize winner of the FedEx Small Business Grant was a woman: Nicole Snow, Founder and CEO of Darn Good Yarn.
The Halstead Grant is a small business grant for women entrepreneurs specifically in the jewelry industry. The grant is awarded to emerging female jewelry designers in the United States—specifically geared toward businesses under three years old. Those that apply should be prepared to
Winners are awarded a $7,500 cash grant, with $1,000 toward Halstead jewelry supplies.
The Open Meadows Foundation is an organization that provides grants towards women-backed projects that promote gender, racial, and economic justice. Applicants must be women and the businesses must benefit women and girls.
The grant provides $2,000 to eligible projects that have limited access to financial resources to grow. Specifically, Open Meadows only considers organizations that have no more than $75,000 in budget resources. This grant is a great opportunity for those that are just getting their business off of the ground.
When you’re searching for the best small business grants for women, be sure to check out the above options. They’ve all been around for some time now, and have helped female entrepreneurs reach their business funding goals time after time.
But when you’re seeking a grant, watch out for scams. If you’re asked to pay money or sign up for some kind of subscription to access a listing of small business grants for women, beware.
Your best bet in seeking a grant to start or expand your business is to talk to your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) or SCORE office. These organizations are plugged into the local financing community and will be able to guide you if, indeed, there are any small business grants for women in your area from local corporations, philanthropic or economic development organizations.
You might also want to look into SBA loans for women: affordable business loans for female small business owners. The SBA has always been a champion of women-owned small businesses, and they have the most extensive resources available for female entrepreneurs. Still unsure if a grant is the right choice? We’ve included a helpful flowchart below to see if you’re ready to take the next step to entrepreneurship!