Top Tips to Fund a Woman-Owned Business

When it comes to businesses, the future truly is female. So, its important to understand how to fund a woman-owned business. For now, there are some funding plans that give special treatment to woman-owned businesses looking for funding.

Women-owned businesses are experiencing tremendous growth; according to The 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report from American Express, between 2014 and 2019, the number of women-owned businesses increased by an impressive 21 percent—significantly higher than the 9 percent rate of growth for businesses overall.

And those women business owners are driving serious results. In that same period, total employment for female-owned businesses rose 8 percent (compared to a 1.8 percent increase for businesses overall) and had a total revenue growth of 21 percent. And the number of women-owned businesses generating 1 million or more per year in revenue? They had a 20 percent growth rate.

Those are impressive numbers. But despite the growth, results, and success of women entrepreneurs and their businesses, there’s still one area where they lag behind their male counterparts—and that’s funding. In 2019, only 2.7 percent of total venture capital dollars went to female-owned businesses.

Luckily, there are a number of financing options, grants, and business loans for women that are aiming to close that gap, support female entrepreneurs, and help women secure the working capital they need to bring their business vision to life.

Let’s take a look at some of the best funding options available for women to start and grow their businesses:

Grants

Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program

If your business is focused on environmental justice, the Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program is an opportunity you’ll definitely want to explore. Since 2004, the women’s fashion company has been supporting female entrepreneurs through their grant program—and in recent years, have narrowed down their scope to focus exclusively on female-owned businesses fighting the climate change crisis.

The Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program awards $200,000 each year, with individual grants ranging from $10,000 to $40,000.

You can learn more about eligibility requirements and how to apply here.

Amber Grant

If you have an inspiring story behind your business, you may want to apply for the Amber Grant. Launched by WomensNet in 1998 to honor the memory of Amber Wigdahl, a woman who unfortunately passed away at the age of 19 before being able to transform her entrepreneurial dreams into a reality, the Amber Grant awards $4000 to a female entrepreneur each month. All you have to do to apply is share your story and pay a small application fee.

You can learn more about the Amber Grant and how to apply here.

The Girlboss Foundation Grant

Launched in 2014 by Sophia Amoruso, founder of Nasty Gal and author of #GIRLBOSS, the Girlboss Foundation awards two $15,000 each year to female and female-identifying entrepreneurs working in creative fields: specifically design, fashion, art, and music. Grant recipients will also receive additional exposure opportunities through the Girlboss platform and community.

You can learn more about the Girlboss Foundation Grant here.

Cartier Women’s Initiative Award

If you’re just getting your business off the ground, the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award is a program worth exploring. Each year, Cartier chooses 21 businesses led by female entrepreneurs in the early stages of their development and growth—and awards them between $30,000 and $100,000. In addition to the capital, finalists also get ongoing support to continue growing and developing their businesses, including one-on-one business and financial coaching.

You can learn more about the application process for the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award.

Grants.gov

Grants.gov is a database of all available federally sponsored grants—and that includes small business grants.

It may take a bit of searching (because this database features federal grants of all types, not all of them are relevant for small business owners), but if you’re eligible for a federal grant, that searching is certainly time well spent.

Now, to be clear, there are no small business grants for women only through Grants.gov; because they’re federal grants, both male and female-owned businesses are eligible to apply. But if you’re interested in securing federal grant money to help take your business to the next level, this is a great place to start.

You can explore Grants.gov—and start looking for the right small business grant for your business—here.

Fund a Woman-Owned Business

Women’s Business Centers

The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) sponsors Women’s Business Centers to support female entrepreneurs and help them gain access to capital (currently, there are 137 of these small business development centers for women spread across the country). The way Women’s Business Centers support female business owners varies by location; some centers lend capital directly to businesses while others help female entrepreneurs find grants and small business loans they may be eligible for.

You can find the Women’s Business Center closest to you by entering your location into this map tool..

SBA loans

Women also have the ability to apply for funding directly through the Small Business Administration. The SBA offers a variety of small business loans, including SBA 7(a) loans (which tend to have lower interest rates) and SBA Express Loans (which, as the name implies, can help you secure capital for your business more quickly than other SBA loans).

You can learn more about the various SBA loans available to small businesses here.

Bank loans to Fund a Woman-Owned Business

Applying for a traditional bank loan is another option for women business loans. If you have good credit and an established relationship with a bank, this may be an option—just keep in mind that, particularly with larger banking institutions, it may take quite some time to go through the approval process and secure cash in hand.

Online lenders

If you need to get access to capital quickly, securing a loan from an online lender can be a faster alternative to a bank loan. Unlike small business loans through the bank, where the approval process can take weeks (or even months), many online lenders can approve your loan in as little as 24 hours—and get you the capital you need in just a few days.

There are a huge variety of online lenders and loan types available for female business owners—and some are better than others—so just make sure to do your research and work with a reputable lender that offers a competitive interest rate.

How to stay organized while you’re securing funding

Ready to explore some of these women business loans, grants, and other funding opportunities for your own business? Here are a few tips to help you get (and stay!) organized as you explore the opportunities available you you and your business:

  • Create a spreadsheet. When you’re applying for a variety of women business loans, grants, and other financing opportunities, there are a lot of details to manage—and if you’re not staying on top of those details, it can be easy for things (like application deadlines) to fall through the cracks. Make sure you’re tracking the application process—and the status of each application—on a spreadsheet; that way, you know what you’ve applied for, where you stand with each application, and any necessary follow-ups.
  • Be targeted with your approach. There are a lot of opportunities out there to secure funding for your woman-owned business. But not every opportunity is necessarily the right opportunity for you. Instead of applying to every possible loan, grant, and financing opportunity available, take time to do your research, see which opportunities are a true fit for you and your business, and then focus your energy there. By taking a more targeted approach, you might not get to apply for as many funding opportunities—but you can spend your time and energy focusing on the opportunities that are most likely to get you the capital you need.
  • Set reminders to stay on top of deadlines. You might be the perfect fit for a grant—but if you miss the application deadline, you’re not going to get the funding you need. In addition to tracking application deadlines on your spreadsheet, set reminders (either on your phone or calendar app) to make sure you get your applications submitted before their deadlines.

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