There are more women entrepreneurs than ever before - nearly 13 million women-owned businesses were operating in the United States as of 2019 - but there's still a gender divide when it comes to funding startups.
Women often have more difficulties funding their businesses than men. If you're a woman launching a new company and you don't want to take on debt right away, consider applying for grants rather than small business loans. These grants can be an excellent source of funds for your startup to grow and expand.
When it comes to grant funding, there are numerous options - from government grants to those offered by women business centers. We'll walk you through the general application process for a small business grant and share some common grants available to female entrepreneurs.
What Is a Small Business Grant?
You might have a great business idea, but if you don't have the money to make it happen, it will never go anywhere. Small business grants provide the funding women business owners need to get their brands off the ground and launch their own businesses.
Grants aren't usually provided through a traditional lender, like a bank. Instead, you'll find grants through your local, state, and federal government, grant programs through women business centers and other foundations, and private organizations and corporations.
Most importantly, unlike a loan or line of credit, grants don't have to be repaid. It's basically free money to fund your business.
Below, you'll find some common small business grants offered to women business owners.
Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant
This women's clothing and accessories line is committed to offering grants to women-owned businesses, especially in the areas of environmentalism and social consciousness.
Since the late 1990s, WomensNet has provided grants to female entrepreneurs. Amber Grants are easy to apply for and applications take just a few minutes to fill out and submit. A woman-owned business receives at least $10,000 each month through the grant program and a previous grantee receives an additional $25,000 each year.
Cartier Women's Initiative Award
This international entrepreneurship program empowers women business owners through annual grants. The award focuses on three key areas: financial capital support, human capital support (such as mentoring, training, networking opportunities, and peer-to-peer sessions), and social capital support (exposure and media visibility).
Open Meadows Foundation
This foundation funds projects dedicated to promoting gender, racial, and economic justice. Not only that, but all projects vying for funding must be led by - and also benefit - women and girls. Priority is given to smaller and startup businesses with an organizational budget under $75,000.
Girlboss Foundation Grant
Since 2014, the Girlboss Foundation has awarded more than $130,000 to female business owners. In addition to funding, the foundation also plugs your business on social media and in its newsletter.
This grant targets jewelry artists, offering an annual $7,500 grant award to emerging silver jewelry artists to help them launch their brand. It's a great way to financially kick-start a career in jewelry design and comes with other benefits, as well.
Idea Café Small Business Grant Program
This resource for all business owners, including women, offers cash awards to entrepreneurs so that they can launch their companies. It's quick and easy to apply for this seed money.
FedEx Small Business Grant
Every year, FedEx offers grants up to $50,000 to small businesses, as well as up to $7,500 in print, shipping, and other business services. This popular grant, selected partially by public vote, draws thousands of applicants annually.
National Association for the Self-Employed Growth Grants
As a member of the National Association for the Self-Employed, you'll receive a multitude of benefits, including access to the NASE Growth Grants. Each month, a new grant winner is awarded $4,000 to boost their business and support its growth.
What Can You Use a Small Business Grant For?
Every grant you apply for will have its own requirements and restrictions. Read the rules and guidelines closely as you fill out your grant application.
Some small business grants might be geared specifically toward new businesses. This means that if you've ever had a kernel of a business idea or you've only recently started launching your company, these types of grants are dedicated to helping you lay the foundation for your startup.
Other grants are dedicated only to nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits are tax-exempt and have applied for and receive a special designated status from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
If you're an established company, you'll find grants earmarked for everything from business development, growth, and expansion (whether it's purchasing new equipment or growing your physical space) to research and development.
Some grants serve an emergency purpose and are designed to help your business through a crisis. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, federal and local governments - through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and other agencies and organizations - provided financial support to small businesses through grants.
How to Apply for Women's Small Business Grants
Every small business grant you apply for will have its own set of rules and requirements. Generally, this is what the application process might look like:
Find Grant Opportunities for Women-Owned Businesses
Before you can apply, first you need to find the grants aimed at female small business owners. These grant funding opportunities are out there - you just need to seek them out.
We've already listed some of the more common small business grants available to women. If you're interested in finding more grants beyond those on this list, check the SBA's Office of Women's Business Ownership (OWBO), Grants.gov, or GrantsForWomen.org. Also, be sure to check with your local chamber of commerce, business centers, women's business centers, federal agencies, and local and state business and economic development departments.
Determine Your Eligibility
Every grant is different. Review the eligibility requirements for each grant you apply for and take your business needs into consideration to make sure it's a good fit for you and your company. You don't want to apply for a grant designed for startup companies if you're running an established company that simply needs some additional working capital.
Apply for the Business Grant(s)
Next, prepare your grant application carefully. Ensure it's filled out correctly and that you've provided the grantor with every piece of information they've requested. Following directions gives you the best chance of receiving the grant.
While every grant application is different, many granting programs will want to review your business plan, so make sure you have one written and updated. They might also want to review your credit score.
If you're a finalist for a grant, some programs might reach out asking for additional information, as well.
Some grants have an application fee, so don't forget to include that with your application package.
Accept and Manage Your Grant Award
After you've won an award, the process doesn't end when the grant money hits your bank account. Depending on the terms of your grant, you'll need to manage the award money properly and often provide a detailed update to the grantor about how the funds were used.
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Pair our accounting software with our other products to create a central hub for your small business finances. Our customizable templates let you invoice customers, offer estimates and quotes, generate receipts, and more.
This accurate, centralized recording of your financial activities will make it easy to apply for many business grants.
Notice to the Reader
The content within this article is meant to be used as general guidelines and may not apply to your specific situation. Always consult with a professional accountant to ensure you're meeting accounting standards. Additionally, consult the rules and regulations of each grant you apply for, as each one will vary.