The 11 Best Small Business Grants for Women Entrepreneurs

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If you’re an entrepreneur, raising capital is a big part of your job. Small business grants are an excellent resource for women business owners, since these awards are essentially free money that you don’t have pay back, unlike other financing options like small business loans and credit cards. Some grant options are even targeted for women business owners specifically, which makes them man excellent source of capital for female entrepreneurs.

Because small business grants provide resources for entrepreneurs, they’re in high demand, as you might expect. Although some people believe that financing a small business is as easy as obtaining a free grant from the government (if only!), that’s actually the case. Small business grants for women are actually few and far between, and the ones that do exist can be quite competitive. But if you know where to look and understand the benefits available, you’ll be better equipped to earn the funding you’re looking for.

Here’s a comprehensive guide on the the top small business grants available for women, plus information on how to apply.

How to Apply for Small Business Grants for Women

lthough 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:

  • Do your research. Follow relevant industry blogs and check out online resources like grants.gov to identify grants that could be a good fit for your business. Attending small business conferences and chatting with peers in the industry can also be a great way to learn about funding options that might be relevant to you.
  • Check your eligibility. Most grants have specific eligibility requirements. These rules can relate to demographic, education level, the age of your business, and other factors. Paying attention to these requirements could save you from spending time applying for a grant that might not be the right fit.
  • Apply for grants. Block off time in your weekly or monthly schedule to apply for grants for your business. Although it can feel tough to find time to squeeze in applications, the payoff for winning financing for your startup can be huge.
  • Track your applications. Creating a spreadsheet of the grants you have applied for and any upcoming deadlines is a great way to stay organized and motivated throughout the process.

Small Business Grants for Women

Although there are many available grants that female entrepreneurs can apply for, there are some business grants that are specifically targeted toward women. The grants and resources below are great options for women entrepreneurs looking for the best funding options available for them.

1. Grants.gov

  • What it is: A database of federally sponsored grants, including grants for small businesses.
  • How to apply: Visit the official government grants website, Grants.gov, and check out their section on grant applicants to see if you are eligible.
  • Potential benefits: Benefits vary across the different types of grants.

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.

2. InnovateHER Challenge

  • What it is: A competition open to businesses that offer products that positively impact the lives of women and families.
  • How to apply: First compete in a local InnovateHER challenge before advancing to the national competition.
  • Potential benefits: The top three winners in past years have competed for prizes of $40,000, $20,000, and $10,000.

The InnovateHER challenge is a competition put on by the Small Business Administration. 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.

3. Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program

  • What it is: Small business grants for women-owned businesses making positive social and environmental impact.
  • How to apply: Complete the application here.
  • Potential benefits: A maximum of $10,000 per recipient for 10 women-owned businesses each year.

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).

Although they don’t designate which women-owned businesses are eligible, they’re 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.

4. Amber Grant

  • What it is: A small business grant for women business owners created in honor of a young woman who died before she could fulfill her entrepreneurial dreams.
  • How to apply: Tell your story and pay a $15 application fee.
  • Potential benefits: The program awards one $1,000 grant to a woman business owner each month. One winner will also be awarded an additional $10,000 at the end of the year.

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. One of the monthly qualification grant winners will be awarded an additional $10,000 in at the end of the year. The grant awards are small, but can be very helpful for those working to get their business off the ground. 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.

5. IdeaCafe Grant

  • What it is: Small business grant available for anyone who owns their own business or plans to start one.
  • How to apply: Fill out the application here.
  • Potential benefits: $1,000 grants for small business owners.

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.

6. #GIRLBOSS Foundation Grant

    • What it is: A biannual grant for female entrepreneurs working in creative industries.
    • How to apply: Fill out the application here and include an example of your work.
    • Potential benefits: A $15,000 grant and online exposure via Girlboss’ site.

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.

7. Cartier Women’s Initiative Award

      • What it is: A grant awarded to 18 female entrepreneurs around the globe each year.
      • How to apply: Follow the application instructions here.
      • Potential benefits: All 18 finalists will receive either a first prize of $100,000 and one-on-one mentoring or a second prize of $30,000 in prize money.

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.

8. GrantsforWomen.org

      • What it is: Database of opportunities for women across industries.
      • How to apply: Use the database to identify relevant opportunities and follow their application instructions.
      • Potential benefits: Benefits vary with each opportunity.

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.

9. FedEx Small Business Grant

      • What it is: Business grants for small businesses.
      • How to apply: Follow the application rules here.
      • Potential benefits: Ten winners will receive grants for their businesses and FedEx printing and business services.

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!

10. The Halstead Grant

      • What it is: Small business grant for women entrepreneurs in the jewelry industry.
      • How to apply: Submit a portfolio and answer a series of questions outlining a business plan.
      • Potential benefits: A cash grant of $7,500 plus $1,000 toward Halstead jewelry supplies.

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.

11. Open Meadows Foundation

      • What it is: An organization that provides grants towards women-backed projects that promote gender, racial, and economic justice
      • How to apply: Follow the instructions found here.
      • Potential benefits: The organization provides $2,000 to eligible projects that have limited access to financial resources.

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.

Our advice?

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!

Grant flowchart

Rieva Lesonsky

Contributor at Fundera
Rieva Lesonsky is a small business contributor for Fundera and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company. She has spent 30+ years covering, consulting and speaking to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs.

 

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