For decades, women have struggled to receive financing to start and grow their businesses. The pandemic only exacerbated the inequities. One study shows that female business owners who ranked their overall business health as “somewhat or very good” dropped from 60% to 47% in 2020.
A solution to overcome this ongoing challenge: business grants for women.
There are numerous government agencies, nonprofits, and other entities that can help. For instance, the SBA’s Office of Women's Business Ownership (WOBO) funded nearly ~90k businesses in 2021. It also funded 14 Resiliency Demonstration Projects, totaling $2.7m, to aid female-owned businesses dealing with covid’s aftereffects.
And increasingly, there are more investments in minority business communities to help them thrive.
Six Resources To Find Business Grants for Women
Finding a grant that fits your business needs and goals isn’t easy. Some will have the grant size you’re looking for but include criteria that exclude your business from eligibility.
But don’t give up — there are several resources out there to help you find the right opportunities. Here are a few to check out.
- IFundWomen: This is a network where female entrepreneurs can collaborate and celebrate each other’s journeys. Plus, there are over a dozen grant opportunities (funded with partners like Visa and Amex) that women can find on its site annually.
- Women’s Business Centers: This has a database of local women’s business centers that help female entrepreneurs find grants and loans they qualify for. Type in your ZIP code to discover nearby locations.
- State and Local Small Business Grants for Women: Most states and some cities offer grants to local businesses. Visit your local chamber of commerce, as well as city or state websites (e.g., Florida.gov). Or search Google (e.g., grants in “city” or “state”) to find available grant opportunities.
- Grants.gov: A database of federally sponsored grants for small-business owners (not just women). Check it throughout the year to see if there’s anything you qualify for.
- GrantsforWomen.org: A place for female entrepreneurs to find and research various grants and scholarship programs.
- SBA.gov: The Small Business Administration has many resources for female-owned businesses, including grant opportunities and free business training.
How To Apply for Female-Owned Business Grants
Careful research, preparation, and organization increase your odds of receiving a grant. Here’s a quick checklist to get you started:
- Ensure your business qualifies as female-owned (must be 51% owned by women)
- Research current and upcoming grants for female-owned businesses
- Analyze the eligibility requirements to ensure you qualify (e.g., limits for annual revenue and number of employees or being in a specific location or industry)
- Review what’s needed to complete the application (e.g., financial records, business certificates, tax returns)
- Complete the application before the deadline
The process for each grant can vary, but it still helps to learn from other women’s experiences. Ecommerce entrepreneur Lanita Carter, first learned about a SBA grant opportunity from Reddit discussions.
She acted quickly. “We created a company account and provided personal and company information,” Carter recalled. “It took seven days to review the grant. Then when we least expected it, the funds were direct-deposited into our business checking account.”
However, she advises founders to be more thorough in reviewing their applications. “We didn’t provide enough insights about our business operations, which could’ve qualified us for additional funds. It was a miscalculation since I rushed to finish the application by the deadline.”
Tehmina Brohi, who received two SBA grants for her apparel maker Istani, recommends founders to continuously follow up with the grantors — especially if there are changes with their business, such as a new bank account.
“Keep track of all documentation you submit to each agency,” Brohi says. “I had to call and email SBA several times to make sure my updated documentation got to the right desk and inbox. Keep track of these communications, as you’ll need to reference them when you follow up again with the granting agency.”
As a last tip, Carter urges founders to constantly be on the lookout for new grants. “Watch relevant content on YouTube, which has a lot of free resources. [Browse] Reddit in the small business and entrepreneurs section. Many people share tips and tricks to help others succeed, especially women entrepreneurs.”
Eight Business Grants for Women
Are you a woman looking to start or scale your business? Here’s a quick overview of grants that may fit your needs.
1. Amber Grant
WomensNet first started the Amber Grant in 1998; today, it gives out at least $30k per month to female-owned businesses. Besides the monthly Amber Grant, which awards a winner with $10k, there are also business category grants that help entrepreneurs in everything from health and fitness to education and child care.
Emma Gordon, the founder of junk car dealer USSalvageYards, received an Amber Grant to launch her dream.
“I had my business idea ready, but I didn’t have the money to bring it to reality, so I was desperately looking for where I could get a loan or grant. I came across the Amber Grant one day while scrolling through social media. After more research, I knew it was exactly what I was looking for.”
Her word of advice for others considering a grant:
“To increase your chances of getting grants, make sure you provide accurate and complete information. Make sure your business plan is unique because there are so many people applying, so you need to stand out. Lastly, keep in touch.”
This initiative is an annual program assisting female entrepreneurs from any country and sector. But the main goal is to fund those looking to make a strong and sustainable social or environmental impact.
If you're planning to change the world with your business, then this may be the grant for you. Plus, the prizes are substantial:
- First-place awardees receive $100k
- Second-place awardees receive $60k
- Third-place awardees receive $30k
The grant helps Black female founders fund their business ideas. It awards $10k and $5k grants to Black female and nonbinary entrepreneurs.
Awardees also get help learning the fundraising environment to find additional opportunities to scale their businesses.
Fearless Fund and Tory Burch Foundation partnered to offer $10k to $20k grants to Black female business owners. To increase your odds, you must generate at least $100k in annual revenue and be in business for one to 5 years.
The grant was created in partnership between the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), powered by Fifth Third Bank.
Sixty-three awardees will receive $10k each. To qualify, you must be a for-profit female-owned business in operation for at least one year in a low- or moderate-income census tract.
This grant program has funded over 200 female-owned Black businesses impacted by the covid pandemic.
Grants range between $5k and $50k:
- $50k went to three winners
- $25k went to four finalists
- <$10k went to 150 businesses that launched before the pandemic
- $5k went to 50 businesses that launched amid the pandemic
One of the winners, Ashley Redwood, started Trap Cardio, a dance fitness studio in Richmond, Virginia. She initially used YouTube to offer free fitness classes to subscribers stuck at home during quarantine.
“It was hard to follow fitness enthusiasts who didn’t come from the same background or relate to my weight struggles," Redwood explained in an interview with Black Enterprise. This fueled her to start her fitness YouTube channel in 2020; it has since grown its subscribers rapidly because it targeted and related to women of color.
7. Launch Grant
The Launch Grant is a new program aimed at women beginning their entrepreneurial journeys. It gives out $5k annually to one winner. To qualify, you must share with the organization:
- Your project (e.g., its goals, launch date, how long you’ve been working on it, accomplishments, future plans)
- Your “why” (e.g., why you want to make this happen, why it’s important to you, how it’ll impact others)
- What you’ll do with the grant
- How the grant will impact your business
- How your business will make the world a better place
The Women Founders Network is a nonprofit organization that educates and invests in female entrepreneurs. Their Fast Pitch competition offers winners $55k in cash grants and $100k in professional services, which includes coaching, mentoring, and other services.
Take Your Business to the Next Level
Women have a hard enough time competing in male-dominated industries. By eliminating financial disparities, female-owned businesses have a fighting chance to launch and grow.
Whether you’re looking to overcome roadblocks caused by the pandemic or want to scale to the next level, grant opportunities can help.
Take advantage of the free money, expertise, and training available, and transform your entrepreneurial journey into the next big success story.