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Top Small Business Grants and Grant Databases for Women

Susan Guillory
Susan GuilloryUpdated August 29, 2022
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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:
  • What a small business grant is
  • What you can do with a female-owned business grant
  • Tips on applying for a small business grant for women

What Are Small Business Grants for Women?

Small business grants 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 have to pay back grants.While there are small business grants for anyone who owns a business, some grants are for female-owned businesses alone. 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.There are many grants for female entrepreneurs. However, small business grants for women are frequently reserved for established businesses. So, if you’re just starting, it’s a good idea to look for grants that are specifically for startups.Remember: You aren't restricted to female-owned business grants. There are grants for small business owners, minorities, and veterans that may also be worth exploring.  Recommended: How to Start a Minority Woman-Owned Business

5 Small Business Grants for Women

After extensive research, we narrowed our list to five small business grants for women entrepreneurs. However, new ones pop up all the time, so this list is not exhaustive.Here are our five top small business grants for women.

1. Amber Grant for Women

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. One $25,000 winner will be selected from the monthly winners each year.Qualifications:
  • Must have a business or business idea. The Amber grant is unique because it’s not limited to women who already have an established business. If you’re able to explain how you plan to start and grow a new business, you can apply for this grant. 
  • Requires a $15 application fee
Note: The Amber Grant is provided by WomensNet, an organization dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs achieve their business goals.Recommended: 13 Ways to Fund a Startup

2. Cartier Women’s Initiative

The Cartier Women's Initiative offers female-owned business 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.The Cartier Women’s Initiative currently offers two grants for women business owners:The Science and Technology Pioneer Award: Awarded to women entrepreneurs who are leaders and innovators in science and technology. This grant is open to any women in any sector and country. The winner will receive $100,000 and the two runners-up will receive $30,000.The qualifications for the Science and Technology Pioneer Award are as follows:
  • A woman must be the: 
    • Primary leader at the company
    • Founder and majority shareholder of founder equity
  • The business must be: 
    • Developing a new technology, process, or scientific discovery 
    • A for-profit business
    • An early-stage business with a proof of concept or prototype that’s already in existence or currently in the works. The final product must not have been commercialized for more than five years.
    • Meet at least one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals
  • The applicant must: 
    • Be at least 18 years of age by the application deadline
    • Have a good command of the English language; the grant requires Level B2 and above per the Common European Framework of Reference
    • Commit to participating in the fellowship program
Regional Awards: This small business grant is awarded  to 21 women across the globe with early-stage companies that are generating revenue. Cartier is looking for women entrepreneurs who leverage an existing technology, model, or process in an innovative way. The seven winners will each receive $100,000 and 14 runners-up will receive $30,000.The qualifications for the Regional Awards are:
  • A woman must be the: 
    • Primary leader at the company
    • Founder and majority shareholder of founder equity
  • The business must:
    • Be for-profit
    • Be in the early stages with a proven business model, with one and five years of operations
    • Have generated revenue for at least one year
    • Not have raised more than $2 million in dilutive funding
    • Must meet at least one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • The applicant must:
    • Have a good command of the English language; the grant requires Level B2 and above per the Common European Framework of Reference
    • Be at least 18 years of age
    • Be able to commit to the fellowship program

3. Jane Walker First Women Grant Program

Jane Walker, a part of the Johnnie Walker whisky company, works with the First Women Campaign and IFundWomen to provide small business grants for women. The grant provides $10,000 and a year-long coaching membership through IFundWomen.Qualifications:
  • A person who identifies as a woman must have at least half ownership in the company
  • The person applying must be at least 21 years
  • The business must: 
    • Have been in operation for at least two years and make at least $25,000 in revenue annually
    • Be willing to push boundaries and fight for diversity
    • Be in one of the following categories:
      • Entertainment and film
      • Hospitality
      • Journalism
      • Music
      • Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)
      • Sports

4. 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, a $5,000 grant, workshops at the Tory Burch offices, and the opportunity to pitch their businesses.Qualifications:
  • The business must: 
    • Be a for-profit organization in early stage (one to five years of operations preferred)
    • Generate revenues of at least $75,000 in the past 12-months
  • The applicant must:
    • Identify as a woman
    • Be 21 years of age or older and legal resident of the U.S.
    • Own the biggest or equal stake in a business that is owned or controlled by women
    • Be proficient in English

5. Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers not quite grants but government contracts to two types of businesses: Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses (EDWOSBs). This removes additional competition for contracts by limiting eligibility to a small but highly qualified group.WOSB Qualifications:
  • Be certified as a WOSB
  • Meets SBA size standards
  • At least 51% of the business is owned by U.S. citizens who are women
  • Women manage daily operations and long-term decision making
EDWOSB Qualifications:
  • Meets all WOSB qualifications
  • Be run by one or more women who independently have net worths of less than $750,000
  • Be run by one or more women with $350,000 or less in adjusted gross income over the past three years
  • Be run by one or more women no more than $6 million in personal assets
Recommended: SBA Loans: How Do They Work?

4 Databases of Resources and Grants for Women Business Owners

We not only looked for individual grants but also for resource databases for female small business owners. Below are an additional four resources for finding funding.
  1. 37 Angels: While 37 Angels is an investment company, they have compiled a list of other funding and development options. This list includes bootcamps, venture capitalist firms, and other organizations assisting female entrepreneurs.
  2. This site provides a database of grants and other types of funding for women, not just those in business but also those attending school or in need of funds for different reasons.
  3. IFundWomen: IFundWomen offers many crowdfunding resources, grants, coaching, and networking opportunities. They also provide unique opportunities within specific fields and AAPI-, Black-, Latinx and Hispanic-, and queer-owned businesses. In addition, they offer a universal application, so one 20-minute application qualifies you for most of their grants.
  4. National Women's Business Council: The NWBC offers a list of resources female business owners may find helpful, including grant opportunities for women entrepreneurs.

What About Federal Grants for Women Business Owners?

According to the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, "Despite what the late-night infomercials want you to believe, the federal government does not provide grants for business expansion and growth. There is no 'free' money for you to start or grow a business." Though does exist, it's simply a database. Additionally, it only focuses on government-funded programs, not personal business or projects.However, some states, such as California, offer small business grants and other types of funding. You may also be able to find assistance through your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC). 

What Can You Do With Small Business Grants for Women?

What you can do with a female-owned business grant is determined by the organization offering the grant.Some grants may stipulate funds be used for specific projects or purposes. For example, a tech-focused grant provider may want the money to be used for research and development to solve a particular technology-related problem. Other grant providers allow you to use them for any business expenses, including:
  • Adding a new product line
  • Buying equipment like a computer, commercial mixer, or cash register
  • Covering inventory
  • Creating a product prototype
  • Expanding into larger commercial real estate
  • Hiring employees
  • Investing in marketing
  • Launching a business

Tips for Applying for a Female-Owned Business Grant

Grants are notoriously difficult to receive, primarily because there is so much competition for them. Here are five tips to get you started on your grant application journey.

1. Get Organized

When considering applying for grants, the first thing to do is to get all your ducks in a row. Some best practices for this are:
  • Read through all qualifications and deadlines upfront.
  • 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.
  • Note: Very few grant-giving organizations require an application fee. If the one you're interested in is asking for such a fee, do some additional digging to ensure the grant is legitimate. For instance, Amber Grants for Women requires a small fee to help keep the grant active; however, you can contact them to ask about waiving your fee.
You may use some of this compiled information for future grant applications, so keep it handy in a folder to speed up subsequent applications.

2. Don't Ignore Small Grants

Small grants can add up quickly. For instance, a $1,000 grant could allow you to get a new computer; $500 could fund a ticket to a networking event where you meet other business owners and investors; $250 is enough for an email marketing software subscription. 

3. Write a Grant Proposal

While some grant applications are as simple as filling out an online form, much of the time, you need to create a full grant proposal. This isn't necessarily an intuitive process and can take a long time, so taking a grant writing class or hiring a grant writer may be advisable.Generally, a grant-giving organization wants to see your business plan and understand what you will do with the funds to start or grow your business. Often, your proposal should tell your business’ story, including the challenge you’re looking to overcome and why you’re so passionate about it.Remember to tailor each grant proposal to the funding organization. While some of your information (such as your budget) may be reusable, parts of it may not. Read all the fine print before applying.

4. Share What’s Great About Your Business

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.

5. Review Your Application for Perfection

Have at least one person proofread, whether you hire a grant writer or fill out the application yourself. When all other things are equal, would you choose a job applicant who had a typo over one who didn't? It's the same with grant applications!

Grants Can Provide Women Entrepreneurs With Necessary Capital

Having an influx of "free" cash could help you take your business to new heights. Consider what limits you currently have in your business. For example, maybe you would like to invest in a new product. Or perhaps you have been doing everything in your business and know a second set of hands would let you better focus on running your business. Whatever your dream, a small business grant for women can help you realize it.

Other Financing Options for Women Business Owners

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, applying for and getting a small business loan can take weeks or months to process. If you need funds faster, you could try a business credit card or an alternative loan with a quicker turnaround. Still, be aware those options may come with downsides, like higher interest rates.Want to explore small business loan options? Lantern can help you find the right loan for your needs. Fill out our simple form to see your rates and get matched with small business lenders in our trusted network. 

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

About the Author

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

Su Guillory is a freelance business writer and expat coach. She’s written several business books and has been published on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and SoFi. She writes about business and personal credit, financial strategies, loans, and credit cards.
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