Small Business Grants for Women
Starting and growing a business can be a challenging task, particularly for women entrepreneurs who often face additional obstacles in accessing funding and resources. Fortunately, there are a variety of small business grants and other resources available specifically for businesses owned by women. Furthermore, there are additional grant programs which are offered only to Black women business owners.
An Overview of Grants Available for Women-Owned Businesses
When it comes to grants for women-owned small businesses, it's important to understand the different types of grants available. These grants can vary in terms of eligibility requirements, funding amounts, and application processes. Some grants may be targeted towards specific industries or stages of business development, while others may be open to a wide range of applicants. Additionally, there are also grants available for non-profit organizations that are led by women. These are the main types of grants that are available to women who run a small business:
- Federal grants: These grants are provided by the government and can include programs such as the Small Business Administration (SBA) grants and the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) grants.
- State grants: Many states have their own grant programs for small businesses, which can include funding for women-owned businesses.
- Local grants: Cities and counties may also have grant programs for small businesses, including those owned by women.
- Industry-specific grants: Some grants are targeted towards specific industries, such as technology, agriculture, or manufacturing.
- Non-profit grants: Some grants are specifically for non-profit organizations that are led by women.
List of Small Business Grants for Women
- Amber Grant
The Amber Grant Foundation offers a unique opportunity for women entrepreneurs with its monthly grant program. Every month, the foundation awards two $10,000 grants to different women-owned businesses. At the end of each year, two of the 24 monthly grant winners are then awarded an additional $25,000. The foundation also offers a variety of additional grants throughout the year. The application process is relatively simple, requiring applicants to explain their business, describe how they would use the grant money, and pay a $15 application fee. The foundation's advisory board chooses the winners, looking for women with passion and a compelling story. And because there's no time in business requirement, this is a great option for those looking for startup business grants for women. Businesses operating in the U.S. and Canada are eligible to apply.
- Cartier Women's Initiative Award
The Cartier Women's Initiative Award program is an annual initiative that aims to support early-stage women-owned businesses that are focused on social, economic, and environmental development. Three grants are awarded to businesses in nine different regions around the world. The first-place business is awarded a $100,000 grant, second place receives $60,000 and third place gets $30,000. Winners also receive executive coaching and the opportunity to participate in a variety of training workshops.
- Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer programs
The Small Business Administration (SBA) facilitates these two competitive programs, which provide grants to small businesses that contribute to federal research and development. Eleven federal agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, and Health and Human Services, post business grant opportunities on their websites. Entrepreneurs can search current grant opportunities on the SBIR website. To qualify, the business must operate as a for-profit enterprise with no more than 500 employees and meet other eligibility requirements.
Through the Small Business Innovation Research program, companies can apply for a $150,000 grant to establish research and development goals, with the potential to receive up to $1 million in funding over two years.
For the Small Business Technology Transfer program, eligible companies can receive up to $250,000 during the startup phase and an additional $750,000 if research results are positive.
- FedEx Small Business Grant
The FedEx Small Business Grant is an annual program that awards up to $50,000 to 10 small businesses. In 2022, the contest provided a total prize pool of over $300,000. In addition to the financial award, winners also receive money to use toward FedEx Office print and business services. The application process requires an explanation of the business, how the grant money would be used, photos of the business and an optional short video explaining the business. To be eligible, the business must be a for-profit enterprise with fewer than 99 employees and at least six months of operating history.
- National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants
This grant program is offered by the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE), a nonprofit trade association. The association awards $4,000 per month in growth grants to small businesses that can be used for a variety of business needs, including marketing, advertising and hiring employees. To apply for this grant, the business must be a NASE member in good standing for at least three months. Annual members can apply at any time.
- Women Founders Network Fast Pitch Competition
The Women Founders Network Fast Pitch Competition is an annual event open to early-stage, women-owned businesses with high growth potential. The business must have a founder/co-founder/CEO who is a woman or be majority-owned by a woman, be based in the United States and have no more than $750k in outside funding. The top five finalists pitch their companies to Angel and VC investors for the chance to win over $55,000 in cash prizes and over $100,000 in professional services.
- IFundWomen Universal Grant Application Database
IFundWomen is a grant marketplace that specializes in funding and coaching for women-owned businesses. With its universal grant application, entrepreneurs can submit one application and be matched with various enterprise partners' grants that align with their business. When a match is made, entrepreneurs will receive a notification and invitation to apply. Previous grant partners have included companies such as Visa, Neutrogena, and American Express, making this a great resource for businesses looking for funding from a variety of sources.
- Halstead Grant
The Halstead Grant is an annual award for entrepreneurs looking to break into the silver jewelry industry. The winner receives a $7,500 startup grant, as well as $1,000 in jewelry merchandise. Five finalists and semi-finalists also receive $250 or $500 and help with promoting their businesses. Both men and women-owned businesses are eligible for this small-business grant. To apply, the entrepreneur must answer 15 business-related questions and submit a design portfolio. Applications are due August 1st each year.
- Fast Break for Small Businesses
The Fast Break for Small Businesses is a grant program that awards $10,000 grants twice a year, funded by LegalZoom, the NBA, WNBA and NBA G League and managed by the Accion Opportunity Fund. In addition to the financial award, winners also receive LegalZoom services worth up to $500. Entrepreneurs can sign up on LegalZoom's website to be notified when applications open. The program is designed to help small businesses with the funding they need to grow and succeed. The program is open to businesses of all types and sizes, and is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs looking for funding and resources to take their business to the next level. It's important to note that the availability of grants can change over time, so it's important to research and apply for grants on a regular basis. Additionally, many grants have deadlines, so it's important to keep track of application deadlines and plan accordingly.
- The Red Backpack Fund
The Red Backpack Fund is backed by Sara Blakely, who founded Spanx. Her foundation has been dedicated to elevating and supporting women through entrepreneurship. The foundation donated $5 million to support female entrepreneurs in the wake of COVID-19 and has teamed up with GlobalGiving to establish The Red Backpack Fund. GlobalGiving is providing at least 1,000 grants of $5,000 each to female entrepreneurs in the U.S. to help alleviate the impact of the crisis.
- Program for Investors in Microentrepreneurs (PRIME)
The SBA typically does not offer grant funding directly to small businesses. However, with the PRIME program, the SBA provides federal grants to microenterprise development organizations so that they can offer training, technical assistance and coaching to disadvantaged small-business owners. These grants are available to nonprofit, private, state, local or tribal-run organizations, including those that focus on working with women-owned small businesses. For example, the Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative Corporation was awarded a $200,000 grant in 2022. This program provides an excellent opportunity for small business owners and entrepreneurs who are looking for resources and training to grow their business and overcome obstacles.
- Women's Business Centers
The Small Business Administration (SBA) sponsors over 100 Women's Business Centers throughout the country, which are designed to assist women entrepreneurs with business development and access to capital. These centers offer a range of services, such as business counseling, training programs, and networking opportunities. Some centers, such as the California Capital Financial Development Corp., lend money directly, while others help entrepreneurs find small-business grants and loans that they may qualify for.
- Economic Development Administration
Every state and many cities have economic development resources focused on promoting strong local economies. These resources can provide assistance to local businesses, such as help with accessing state and federal funding. For example, the California Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development helps small businesses apply for federal and state grants.
- Small Business Development Centers
There are hundreds of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) around the country, typically housed at colleges and universities. SBDCs offer free, one-on-one business consulting, such as help with developing a business plan, researching markets and finding financing - including grants, business loans and crowdfunding. Some SBDCs offer training on certification programs like the SBA 8(a) Business Development Program and Minority and Women Business Enterprise Certifications. These programs can help businesses level the playing field when competing in the public and private sector.
- Office of Women's Business Ownership (OWBO)
The Office of Women's Business Ownership (OWBO) is an organization within the Small Business Administration (SBA) that helps women entrepreneurs through programs coordinated by SBA district offices. These programs include business training, counseling, federal contracts, and access to credit and capital. The OWBO oversees Women's Business Centers (WBCs) which aim to level the playing field for all women entrepreneurs who still face unique obstacles in the business world. Businesses that receive assistance from WBCs have a significantly higher success rate than those without similar support.
- 8(a) Business Development Program
The 8(a) Business Development program is a SBA initiative that helps small, disadvantaged businesses compete in the marketplace. Women-owned small businesses can check with WBCs and local assistance resources for guidance, and also use the SBA's Lender Match tool to find capital. Additionally, entrepreneurs can take advantage of SBA loan programs, with partners that offer advice and counseling to help choose the right path for their company.
- Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB) Federal Contract Program
This program helps women-owned small businesses compete for federal contracts. Business owners should understand the eligibility requirements before applying. The SBA also works with federal agencies to increase contracting opportunities and achieve the government's five percent contracting goal for women-owned small businesses. Entrepreneurs should keep an eye out for matchmaking events targeting both the federal and private procurement.
- National Women's Business Council
The National Women's Business Council is a non-partisan federal advisory council serving as an independent source of advice and counsel to the President, Congress, and the U.S. Small Business Administration. The council is the government's only independent voice for women entrepreneurs, tackling important and relevant economic issues that affect the growth and success of women-owned businesses. The council conducts research, provides policy recommendations, and serves as a resource for information and data on women-owned businesses. It is a valuable resource for women entrepreneurs looking for guidance on navigating the business landscape and accessing resources to grow their businesses.
- Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE)
The Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) program, sponsored by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, offers two low-cost training programs for women veterans or the spouses of veterans. The program provides skill-building courses, networking opportunities, mentorship, and more to help women start and grow their businesses.
- Ms. Foundation for Women
The Ms. Foundation for Women offers several awards to women-owned businesses that work towards the advancement of women and girls. Past recipients have had businesses focused on preventing domestic violence, reproductive health, affordable childcare and other issues related to women's rights. Alongside funding, the foundation provides mentorship, networking opportunities, and trainings to its grantees.
- Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program Grants
Each year the Tory Burch Foundation chooses 50 women as Foundation Fellows. These women take part in professional development and networking opportunities in addition to being awarded a $5,000 grant to apply towards their business education. These women are presented with an opportunity to share their business plan with potential investors. To be eligible, you must be a woman-identifying entrepreneur owning the largest or equal stake in a qualifying business that is majority (51% or more) owned and controlled by women. The business must be for-profit, generating at least $75,000 in the past year. See full details on their website.
- The Dream Big Awards
The Dream Big Awards, presented by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, recognizes and celebrates the best American small businesses. The winner of the Small Business of The Year award receives a $25,000 cash prize, a one-year Chamber of Commerce membership, a promotional video about their business, and a feature article in CO magazine. Additionally, there are eight other awards that include categories such as Minority-Owned Business Achievement Award, LGBTQ-Owned Business Achievement Award, Woman-Owned Business Achievement Award, and Community Support and Leadership Award. To qualify, businesses must have been operating for at least one year, primarily within the United States, and have less than 250 employees or have gross revenues of less than $20 million for each of the two previous years.
- 37 Angels
37 Angels is an organization made up of female angel investors that invest in women-owned small businesses. The organization recognizes the disadvantages that female entrepreneurs face in the loan market and seeks to close that gap. To help women keep their companies afloat, 37 Angels offers grants as large as $150,000.
- The Girlboss Foundation Grant
The Girlboss Foundation Grant program is a semi-annual initiative that provides financial assistance to female entrepreneurs in the creative industries, such as arts, design, music, and fashion. To be eligible for the grant, applicants must be the owner of a women-led business operating within these fields. Successful applicants will be awarded a grant of $15,000 to support their business venture, in addition to marketing-related benefits, such as being featured in Girlboss.com's newsletter and social media platforms. Since its inception, the organization has distributed over $130,000 in grants to female entrepreneurs. Interested individuals can find more information about the application process on the Girlboss website.
- Eileen Fisher Women-owned Business Grant
The Eileen Fisher organization, a women's clothing brand founded four decades ago, awards $200,000 in grant funding each year to eligible women-owned The Eileen Fisher Women-owned Business Grant is a funding opportunity for women entrepreneurs who are making a positive impact on society through their business. The organization awards a total of $200,000 in grants each year, with individual grants ranging from $10,000 to $40,000. To be eligible, businesses must be majority-owned by women, and must align with the organization's mission to promote the participation of women in decision-making, sustainable economy, and adapt to climate change. The application process is open to all businesses that meet the criteria and can be found on the Eileen Fisher website.
- State Trade Expansion Program (STEP)
The State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) is a service provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that allows state and territory governments to award financial assistance to small businesses engaged in export development. Women-owned exporting businesses can apply for grants to aid in learning to export, participating in foreign trade missions, creating international marketing strategies, and more.
- Challenge.gov Competitions
Challenge.gov is a website that lists over 30 competitions for businesses and organizations to compete for cash prizes. These challenges cover a wide range of areas, including clean energy innovation, climate change mitigation, healthcare, and the arts.
- State Business Incentives Database
This is a valuable resource for small businesses starting within the United States. It can be time-consuming to search through all 50 states for funding opportunities, but the State Business Incentives Database has done the hard work for you by listing over 2,300 different types of business incentives such as tax credits, loans, tax exemptions and grants.
- American Association of University Women (AAUW)
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is a non-profit organization that funds women's graduate education. The AAUW offers Community Action Grants for one- or two-year community-based projects. Although these grants are primarily focused on education, businesses that have activities or programs that "promote education and equity through projects focused on encouraging girls to select, before entering college, the physical sciences or engineering as a career" may apply. The AAUW awards more than $6 million in funding annually.
Small Business Grants for Black Women
Black women entrepreneurs, are trailblazers in the business world, breaking down barriers and paving the way for future generations. However, starting and growing a business can be a daunting task and often Black women entrepreneurs face unique challenges that can make it even more difficult. That's why there are a number of grants available specifically to support Black women in their entrepreneurial endeavors. For a list of these grants, visit Small Business Grants for Black Women
How to Find Local Grants
In addition to the above list, there may be harder to find local small business grants for women available. Here are some ways you can seek out these grants in your local area.
- Reach out to local business development centers or chambers of commerce: They can provide information on grants and other funding opportunities available in your area.
- Consult with female professionals in your industry: They may be aware of grants specific to your business sector.
- Take advantage of networking opportunities: Attending networking events, joining industry groups, and using LinkedIn can put you in contact with other woman business owners who may know of funding opportunities.
- Be proactive and take advantage of the resources available: By doing so, you can increase your chances of successfully obtaining a grant and growing your small business.
Tips and Advice when Applying for Grants
Applying for a grant can be a very competitive process, so it's important to make sure your application stands out. Tips for a winning grant application:
- Research grants carefully to ensure you are applying for the appropriate grant for your business.
- Tailor your grant proposal to the specific requirements of the grant.
- Provide clear and concise information about your woman-owned business, including a detailed business plan.
- Provide specific examples and evidence of how the grant will help your business grow and succeed.
- Make certain your application is well-organized and easy to read.
- More tips at Grant Writing
Other Resources and Support Services
There are resources and support services available to women-owned businesses. These can include business counseling, training programs, and networking opportunities. These types of resources can provide valuable support and advice to entrepreneurs as they work to establish and grow their businesses.
Business counseling can help entrepreneurs develop a business plan, create financial projections, and identify potential sources of funding.
Training programs can provide valuable skills and knowledge, such as marketing and financial management.
Networking opportunities can connect entrepreneurs with other business owners and industry experts, providing a valuable source of support and advice.