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Small Business Grants for Women

women-small-business
Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

Updated August 7, 2020
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Free money to start a small business? Sounds pretty great. Grants provide money that, unlike loans, you don’t typically have to pay back. Business owners can use this money to take their businesses to the next level. And if you’re a female entrepreneur, you may qualify for female-owned business grants that provide capital you can use to do so much in your business, from launching it to expanding to a new location. Below, you'll find a list of available small business grants for women. However, if you're newer to the process or not ready to apply, we'll also cover:

Small Business Grants for Women Entrepreneurs

We researched more than a dozen different types of small business grants for women based on factors like how to qualify, how much you could receive, and other benefits beyond financial assistance. What follows is what we found as far as information on options for small business grants and grant resources for women, including:
  • GrantsforWomen.org
  • AAUW Career Development Grants
  • Cartier Women’s Initiative
  • The Amber Grant
  • Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program
  • The Eileen Fisher Grant
  • The Red Backpack Fund
  • The Ms. Foundation for Women Grant
  • Grants.gov
  • National Institutes for Health
  • Small Business Administration
  • Female Founders Veteran Small Business Award
  • The Solutions Project Grants

Grants for Women Starting a Business

There are many grants for female entrepreneurs, but many are reserved for those who have been in business for at least a year or two. If you’re just starting your business, it’s a good idea to look for grants that specifically cater to startups.You can start your search on GrantsforWomen.org, where you’ll find a giant database of small business grants, large and small, for women.

AAUW Career Development Grants

If you haven’t yet launched your business but plan to further your education before you do, AAUW offers grants of $2,000 to $12,000 to women with Bachelor’s degrees looking to advance or change careers.

Grants for Women Entrepreneurs

If you’ve already launched your business and are looking for funding to take it further, these grants offered by private companies may be worth exploring.

Cartier Women’s Initiative

The Cartier Women's Initiative provides grants of either $30,000 or $100,000 to women looking to make a difference in the world. In addition to the funds, winners also receive business and financial coaching.Qualifications:
  • For-profit
  • Early-stage (between one and three years of operations)
  • Revenue generated for at least one year
  • Should not have raised more than $2 million in dilutive funding
  • Must meet at least one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 
  • A woman must fill the primary leadership role
  • Founder must be a female who is the largest shareholder
  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • Must be able to commit to the program

Amber Grant

The Amber Grant honors the memory of a young woman, Amber Wigdahl, who died at 19 before realizing her business dreams. The grant awards $10,000 to female entrepreneurs each month, as well as $25,000 annually.Qualifications:
  • Must be a woman-owned for-profit organization

Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program

This Fellows Program, sponsored by the Tory Burch Foundation, provides women running early-stage businesses with a one-year fellowship, $5,000 grant, workshops at the Tory Burch offices, and the opportunity to pitch their businesses.Qualifications:
  • 21 years of age or older and legal resident of the U.S.
  • For-profit organization in early stage (one to five years of operations preferred)
  • Revenues of at least $75,000 in the past 12-months

The Eileen Fisher Grant

Another clothing retail brand, Eileen Fisher, awards $100,000 total to 10 women-owned businesses that focus on environmental or social change.Qualifications:
  • 501(c)(3) non-profit organization or have fiscal sponsor
  • Provide direct services
  • Focus on one of the following:
    • Increasing women’s participation in decision-making
    • Training women and girls in climate change adaptation, mitigation and advocacy
    • Engaging women in the sustainable economy
  • Program run by a female
  • Able to provide financial statements for one full year of operations.

The Red Backpack Fund

Sponsored by Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, The Red Backpack Fund will give 1,000 $5,000 grants to women impacted by COVID-19.Qualifications:
  • Majority women-owned businesses and non-profits in the U.S. 
  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • Annual revenues less than $5M 
  • At least one paid employee and fewer than 50 individuals on staff 
  • Incorporated as a legal entity and able to demonstrate that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing hardship.

The Ms. Foundation for Women Grant

The Ms. Foundation offers project-specific and general grants to grassroots, tribal, state, and national non-profit organizations that are transforming policies and cultural beliefs.Qualifications:
  • Non-profit organizations based in and working in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and U.S. territories.

Federal Grants for Women

In addition to private companies offering grants, there are also government grants for women starting a business or growing one.

Grants.gov

This large database of government grants is where all federal agencies post their grants and application processes.

National Institutes for Health

The NIH has thousands of grants posted in its database, some of which are open only to women.

Small Business Administration

In addition to providing a variety of resources and loan options for women entrepreneurs, you may be able to find a local government grant for women owned businesses through the SBA.

Grants for Female Veteran Business Owners

Getting even more niche, there are also small business grants for veterans, some of which are open to women only.

Female Founders Veteran Small Business Award

The StreetShares Foundation awards three women a total of $25,000, as well as provides them the opportunity to pitch their ideas to investors.Qualifications:
  • Veteran, reserve, or transitioning active duty member of any of the United States Armed Forces, a spouse of a military member or the child or immediate family member of a military member who died on active duty 
  • At least 21 years old
  • Must own at least 51% of the business entity 
  • Low-income or otherwise lack financial means and want to start or grow an early-stage business or non-profit venture

Grants for Minority Women Business Owners

You may also consider minority small business grants to help fund your business.

The Solutions Project Grants

The Solutions Project offers a variety of grants for women of color involved in community organizing, policy work, fossil fuel infrastructure resistance, Indigenous-led movements, innovative community development projects and democratically controlled rural electric cooperatives.Qualifications:
  • Vary by grant

What Are Small Business Grants for Women?

Small business grants, like most small business loans, are lump sums of money you can use to do things like launch a business, buy equipment, hire staff, or grow your business. Unlike business loans, however, you do not usually have to pay back grants. While there are grants for anyone who owns a business, some are targeted specifically to women who run a business. Why? Women sometimes don’t have the same opportunities that men do in the business world, so many companies and government organizations want to provide them with the opportunity to get a leg up.

What Can You Do with Grants for Women?

Some grants may stipulate that the funds be used for specific projects or purposes. For example, a grant given to women in technology may want the money to be used for research and development to solve a particular technology problem. Other grants simply require that you use them for your business. That can include things like:
  • Launching a business
  • Buying equipment like a computer, commercial mixer, or cash register
  • Hiring employees
  • Covering inventory
  • Expanding into larger commercial real estate
  • Creating a product prototype
  • Adding a new product line
  • Investing in marketing
It’s a good idea before applying for a grant to know exactly what you plan to do with the grant money, should you win it.

Tips for Applying for a Grant

Grants are notoriously difficult to receive, primarily because there is so much competition for them. While some organizations offer $10,000 or more, there are smaller grants that, while providing less financial compensation, may be easier to get.

Getting Organized

Read through all qualifications and deadlines up front so you don’t waste time applying for grants you aren’t eligible for. Grants have different deadlines, so it may be helpful to keep a spreadsheet of grants, requirements, and deadlines so you can stay on top of filling out applications on time. Allow plenty of time for research, putting together a budget, and filling out paperwork. You may be able to use some of this information for future grant applications, so keep it handy in a folder to speed up subsequent applications.

Sharing What’s Great About Your Business

As you fill out a few grant applications, you may become better at understanding what they look for. Generally, an organization wants to see your business plan and understand what you will do with the funds to start or grow your business. Your proposal should tell your business’ story: the challenge you’re looking to overcome, and why you’re so passionate about it. Don’t be shy about tooting your own horn! This is your chance to show why your company shines and why it’s deserving of this grant. It can be helpful to look at past grant winners to see what types of businesses have been awarded grants in the past.

Reviewing for Perfection

If you fill out the application yourself, have a co-worker or friend review and proofread it to make sure it’s error-free. If the process of applying for grants is overwhelming, or if you’re not seeing success after a few attempts, consider hiring a grant writer. Grant writers excel at gathering the necessary information for applications, as well as writing letters or essays that might sway judges to award you the grant money. The expense could pay for itself once you receive those funds.

Other Financing Options for Women

If you don’t find the right small business grant for women, you still have other financing options. There are many small business loans for women that offer low interest rates and favorable terms to those female entrepreneurs that qualify. Keep in mind that sometimes, an application for small business loans can take weeks or months to process, so if you need funds faster, one option could be a business credit card or an alternative loan with a faster turnaround—but be aware those options may come with downsides, like higher interest rates.

Grants Can Provide Women With Much-Needed Capital

Many business owners take out loans to fund their business growth, but those, of course, require repayment, and that eats into your profits. Others simply bootstrap and do what they can with the money they earn. But having an influx of cash that doesn’t have to be paid back could help you take your business to new heights. Consider what limits you currently have in your business. Maybe you would like to invest in a new product that could help you increase sales. Or perhaps you have been doing everything in your business and know that a second set of hands would let you focus on running your business while an employee takes care of customers. Whatever your dream, a small business grant for women can help you realize it.Want to explore your small business loan options? Lantern can help you find the right loan for you.
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About the Author

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory is the President of Egg Marketing, a content marketing firm based in San Diego. She’s written several business books, and has been published on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and Cision. She enjoys writing about business and personal credit, financial strategies, loans, and credit cards. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.
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