Historically, women-owned businesses have had a more difficult time obtaining credit. In fact, it’s estimated that in general female business owners are 15%-20% less likely to be approved for financing, and the businesses that are approved receive about 80% less capital than men do. And while online loan companies have their own scoring models which are often a much better option for female entrepreneurs, there are many business grants offered specifically to women-owned businesses that have the potential to be a far more effective capital injection.
Similar to business loans, grants provide you with a lump sum of money upon approval. However, unlike financing products, they do not have to be repaid. Although grants are competitive and can be difficult to obtain, it’s worth looking into every relevant option to see how much free money you qualify for. Luckily, there are numerous resources and organizations that are committed to helping female entrepreneurs obtain the capital they need to help their businesses flourish.
How to Get a Business Grant for Women
Business grants can be difficult and sometimes frustrating to obtain. However, if you do your research, double-check the qualifying criteria, and ensure your applications are submitted in a complete and timely manner, receiving grant money as a female-owned business is absolutely attainable.
1. Spend Time on Research
One of the most important steps in applying for a grant is understanding the options that are available. There are many grants offered to women-owned businesses and each grant has its own purpose and donor. Identifying the options that best align with your business will give you the best chance of receiving approval, so it’s worthwhile to spend ample time researching the grants you plan to apply for.
2. Double-Check Your Eligibility
Because grants are often designed to serve very specific demographics, industries, or both, it’s crucial to understand your eligibility. Rather than applying for as many grants as possible and hoping that something works out, start by making a list of all of the grants that your business is eligible for. From there, you’ll have a much easier time understanding what is required for each relevant application so that you can create a system for prioritizing and submitting your grant requests.
3. Create a System for Applications
If you are applying for multiple grants, it is important to keep track of all due dates and application criteria to ensure that each application is submitted on time. Not only will this help you put your best foot forward, but it will also make the process more efficient as many grants that serve the same demographic or business segment have similar requirements. Understanding what is asked in each grant application prior to submitting often allows you to reuse content on multiple applications.
Grants.gov centralizes more than 1,000 different grant programs across federal grant-making agencies to award more than $500 billion each year. These grants are offered to both male and female-owned businesses in various industries and the amounts vary depending on the specific grant. You can search through the grants by clicking on the link above, and clicking on the “Search Grants” tab.
Grantsforwomen.org maintains a comprehensive directory of all business grants available to women. The millions of dollars allocated each year are investments in the talent, creativity, intellect, and determination shown by women in various industries and fields of study. Visit the site and navigate to “Opportunities” to explore grants offered by some of the top organizations, foundations, venture capital funds, and other funding options for women.
3. Girlboss Foundation Grant
Since launching in 2014, the Girlboss Foundation has awarded over $130,000 in financial grants to female-identifying entrepreneurs. Grants are awarded on a biannual basis, and each grant amounts to $15,000. On top of that, the beneficiaries receive exposure through the Girlboss platform and community, as well as local and regional press coverage.
4. Amber Grant
The Amber Grants began in 1998 and were launched by WomensNet to honor the memory of a young woman, Amber Wigdahl, who passed away at the age of 19 – unable to fulfill her entrepreneurial dreams. Each month, these $4,000 grants are offered to a female-owned business. Additionally, recipients are eligible for an additional $25,000 grant at the end of the year, chosen by popular vote.
5. Cartier Women’s Initiative
The Cartier Women’s Initiative is an annual international entrepreneurship program focused on driving change by empowering female entrepreneurs. Founded in 2006, the program is open to women-run and women-owned businesses from any country or sector that aims to have a strong and sustainable social and/or environmental impact. The Cartier Women’s Initiative recognizes 21 regional finalists each year. Awardees receive personalized advice, expert support, and media coverage, and $30,000 dollar grants, aside from the seven finalists that are chosen (1 from each region) to receive a $100,000 grant.
6. Small Business Innovative Research Grants
Small Business Innovative Research grants offer funding to turn your research and development into products and services with global impact. SBIR hosts a showcase for small businesses with innovative technologies and awards grants that typically amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Eligibility requirements for the SBIR/STTR programs are unique and do not correspond to those of other small business programs, so we advise staying up to date with current programs.
7. Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program
The Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program issues 50 grants of $5,000 every year to women-owned businesses. Along with the grant funding, Tory Burch also offers one year of fellowship mentoring, aimed at helping the awardee’s business thrives. The foundation also hosts a plethora of public, tailored resources.
8. Local and State Business Grants
While federal grants may receive most of the attention, local and state-level grants can be a great option too. After all, with a much smaller applicant pool, you may be more likely to be awarded the grant. Additionally, you may be able to leverage personal connections that could help your application stand out. To find state and local grants, visit the organizations’ website. There are also many national, state, and local businesses that offer grants and networking can help you discover ones that are commonly overlooked.
Other Non-Grant Business Financing Options for Women
Grants can be a great jump start to your business, but they can also be very difficult to obtain. If you have an urgent need for capital or you do not feel confident in your grant application, there are a number of other ways that you can access additional capital for your business.
Small Business Loans – Although small business financing needs to be repaid, loans are typically much easier to obtain and are subject to your timeline, rather than the dates specified on the grant application.
Funding from Family and Friends – If you have family or friends that will invest in your business, this is a great way to get funding without losing equity or taking on higher interest debt.