Business Funding for Women: What Kind of Funding is there for Women Entrepreneurs?

Women-owned businesses may qualify for loan programs that offer lower rates and longer repayment terms from the SBA and participating financial institutions. In addition, there are many funds and programs at regional banks that offer low-cost loans and grants to women-owned businesses.

Women are a core pillar in all business matters, but in far too many cases women face challenges and find themselves behind their male counterparts when it comes to business ownership and incomes. While there are many incredibly successful female entrepreneurs that come to mind when discussing women in business, women remain underrepresented at the workplace and often earn less than their male counterparts for the same work.

Business owners already struggle to qualify for business loans or other forms of financing as they try to build business credit and their business, especially women business owners. When loans are tough to come by, money can be in short supply and small businesses struggle.

If you are a woman looking to start or grow a business, these small business grants for women and other resources may be just what you need to get you started on your business adventures.

Small Business Grants for Women

1) Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program

This grant is one of the best known grants known for women small business owners. Founded in 2004, Eileen Fisher created this funding for businesses that have a positive and social environmental impact. Today, the company awards $100,000 in total grants annually to 10 women-owned businesses beyond the startup stage (maximum $10,000 per recipient).

In order to qualify for this grant, your business must be an IRS-recognized 501(c)(3) organization with financial statements to demonstrate one full year of operations. You must also serve a demographic related to the grant’s initiatives and executive leadership should reflect the target demographic.

Eligibility requirements:

Your business will not be eligible to apply if it promotes the views of a specific political party or religion, does not have a female executive leader, or a number of other specifications.

2) Amber Grant

The Amber Grant was founded in 1998 to honor the memory of a young women named Amber who didn’t live long enough to fulfill her entrepreneurial dreams. This program awards $4,000 to a different small business owner every month. One of the qualifying monthly winners will be granted an additional $25,000 by the end of the year. $2,000 a month to a qualifying candidate may seem like a small amount, but it can be the extra funds needed to get your business off the ground and running.

Eligibility requirements:

Pay a $15 application fee, explain your business, and describe what you would do with the grant money if you were to be awarded. The awardees are chosen by the board and they look for women who are passionate and have a good story. You must operate a business in the US or Canada.

3) Girlboss Foundation Grant

Founded in 2014 by Shopia Amoruso,the Girlboss Foundation is relatively new. The foundation awards grants to two women entrepreneurs a year with awards of $15,000 each working in fashion, design, music or art. Not to mention, they also receive exposure through their website and social channels. Applicants are chosen based on creativity and innovation, business acumen, and financial business needs.

Eligibility requirements:

Application must show samples of your work and a well thought out plan on how you would use the funding for your business.

4) Fedex Small Business Grant

This grant isn’t exclusively for women. Although, they do a fair job at splitting funds equally between men and women. There are 10 winners and receive up to $25,000. Winners also get access to free FedEx Office print and copy services on top of their cash prize. This grant recognizes small businesses all across the country. There’s a bonus from receiving a Fedex Small business grant, as a winner one will also receive free access to Fedex office print and copy services.

Eligibility requirements:

You must be in business for at least six months, have less than 99 employees, and are not a franchise, direct seller, or non-profit.

5) SBA Women’s Business Center

The small business administration and the Office of Women’s Business Ownership operates SBA Women’s Business Centers in locations throughout the country. There is a caveat with this organization, although funds are not offered directly, the SBA Women’s Business Center does aim to help women start their business and compete in the marketplace. It was designed to help women entrepreneurs with business development and get access to capital.

6) Idea Cafe Grant

Much like the Fedex grant, this is not aimed directly towards women but it is aimed at helping both male and female entrepreneurs with groundbreaking business ideas (the past three winners have been women).The grant application process is a quick and easy process, yet highly competitive and offers a grant of $1,000.

7) Grants.gov

Is a database that is a part of the federal government for sponsored grants, including grants for small businesses.

Eligibility requirements:

You must obtain a “DUNS” number (a unique nine-digit identification number), register to do business with the U.S. government through its System Award Management website, and create an account at Grants.gov.

8) Small Business Development Centers

Small business development centers don’t offer grants, but they offer free one-to-one consulting, providing you with valuable information like helping with your business plan, researching competitors in your market and your market as a whole, as well as finding financing.

9) The Open Meadows Foundation

​These awards are biannual in the amount of $2,000. This foundation supports women led businesses that do the following:

  • Operate on a budget under $75,000
  • Support women and girls

The foundation supports projects/organizations that support women and girls and that focus on community building. Small business owners with limited finances have a better chance at being awarded $2,000 from this foundation.

10) Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards

This award aims to advance women entrepreneurs all over the world, including North America. 21 Candidates, 3 from each of the 7 regions, are chosen to receive personalized business coaching prior to Awards week, media visibility, and a scholarship to attend the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship 6-Day executive program. In addition, there is substantial prize money:

  • The 7 laureates (1 from each region) will receive: US $100,000 in prize money
  • The 14 finalists (the two runners-up from each region) will receive US $30,000 in prize money

11) Tory Burch Foundation

The Tory Burch foundation offers a $5,000 grant, a trip to the Tory Burch offices, and a one-year fellowship annually to a women-owned business. The trip to the offices includes workshops and networking with business professionals and an inside track with fellow women entrepreneurs.

Eligibility requirements:

  • Must be 21 years old on the due date of the application
  • Your business must be for- profit
  • Been in business for 5 years
  • Must generate revenue of at least $75,000

12) The Halstead Grant

This grant supports the jewelry industry for women involved in making jewelry. The Halstead Grant offers up to $7,500 in awards to emerging silver jewelry artists. The application process is a 15 minute long questionnaire regarding your business. Irregardless of receiving the grant, the application process is already part of the experience as it allows you to focus on what your business is about, your strategy, and how you can grow your business off the ground.

Eligibility requirements:

You must be a student or professional jeweler, pursuing a full-time career in jewelry design, with less than three years of business operations.

13) American Association of University Women Grants

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) offers Community Action Grants ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 for projects or businesses that address the needs of women or girls in your community.

Eligibility requirements:

  • Your business idea must promote education and equality for all women and girls

Be sure to set aside some extra time if you do decide to go through with the application process as it is long and complex.

14) Economic development administration

Every state and many cities have economic development resources focused on promoting strong local economies. For example, California has several economic development districts, such as the Superior California Economic Development District, which provides financing to local entrepreneurs.

15) GrantsforWomen.org

New, smaller grant opportunities are always popping up for women owned businesses. GrantsforWomen.org can help you find new opportunities for business or for working capital that may otherwise slip by unnoticed. While this database is not business-specific, you can put in the time to find business grants and possibly help your business get off the ground.

16) Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO)

The Office of Women’s Business Ownership helps women entrepreneurs through programs coordinated by SBA district offices. Programs include business training, counseling, federal contracts, and access to credit and capital.

The OWBO oversees Women’s Business Centers (WBCs). These centers seek to level the playing field for all women entrepreneurs, who still face unique obstacles in the business world.

Businesses receiving assistance from WBCs see a significantly better success rate than those without similar support. Find your nearest center.

17) National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants

The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) runs an annual grant program that is available only to their 50,000 members. To become a NASE member, you’ll have to pay $120 per year for a basic membership. NASE offers members networking and mentorship resources, discounts on business products, and legislative advocacy.

In exchange for membership, members are also offered exclusive access to grants and scholarships. Since 2006, NASE has offered nearly $1 million in grant money to members.

Other Resources for Women-Owned Businesses

18) National Women’s Business Council (NWBC)

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.

19) Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB) Federal Contracting program

This program helps women-owned small businesses compete for federal contracts. Understand the eligibility requirements before applying.

The SBA also works with federal agencies to increase contracting opportunities and achieve the government’s contracting goals for women-owned small businesses.

Don’t forget Local Small Business Grants for Women

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.

The grants we’ve mentioned above are open to businesses nationwide, but there might also be state and local options. When starting or expanding your business, check in with your local SBDC and make an appointment with your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC). These organizations are into the local financing community and will be able to guide you if 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, which are affordable business loans for small business owners. The SBA has always been a back up for women-owned small businesses, and they have extensive resources available for female entrepreneurs.

Wrapping it up! Small Business Funding for Women Entrepreneurs

Women in business have more opportunities than ever before. With these grants, you have a little more ammunition to succeed in your business adventure. Keep in mind that business isn’t all about grants. While they help, remember to focus on your revenue, bottom line, and business credit score to keep other borrowing and capital opportunities available to you and your business. Learn more about more resources by getting in contact with us.

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