5 Useful Grants That Empower Female Entrepreneurs

grants for women starting a business

In the past few years, the number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. has been growing by leaps and bounds. According to a report by American Express OPEN, women-owned firms grew by 45 percent between 2007 and 2016, a rate five times faster than the national average.

Though starting a business has its perks, there are still major challenges for women entrepreneurs. One of the biggest is getting funding for your idea.

To help you minimize loans, we collected the best grants for women starting a business. With one of these grants, you could add your women-led firm to the 11.3 million in the U.S. today.

5 grants for women starting a business

Below you will find grants to start a business. Each grant comes from a private organization. Unfortunately, you won’t find federal grants for women entrepreneurs.

However, there are some government grants for small business owners that anyone can apply to, which you’ll learn more about below.

But first, let’s take a look at five business grants specifically for women.

1. Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program

“I want to encourage women entrepreneurs, especially those who firmly believe that business can be used to create social and environmental change,” said Eileen Fisher, who launched this program in 2004.

This grant program awards at least $10,000 each to 10 entrepreneurs every year. It’s not geared toward new ventures; rather, it helps small businesses that have already gotten off the ground.

Here are the main eligibility requirements for the Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program:

  • At least 51 percent women-owned and women-led
  • In operation for a minimum of three years
  • Revenue not greater than $1 million per year
  • Mission to effect environmental and social change

The application for this program opens every spring. As part of the application, you’ll provide your business plan and any accompanying financial data.

The grant committee is looking for growing businesses with innovative ideas. It rewards entrepreneurs with socially conscious practices.

2. Amber Foundation Grant

Since 1998, the Amber Foundation has awarded small grants for women starting a business. Each month, the organization offers a $500 grant to one recipient, plus an additional $1,000 to one winner at the end of the year.

There aren’t a lot of application requirements apart from being at least 18 years old. The Amber Foundation isn’t looking for a specific business type but instead seeks “a great story and a lot of passion.”

Applying for an Amber Grant is easy. After providing your name, business name, and website, simply answer two prompts:

  • Tell us about your business.
  • If awarded a grant, what are your plans for the funds?

You may also provide additional comments along with the $7 application fee.

The Amber Grant won’t go very far, but it offers an easy application process and fast funds. Plus, the foundation may partner you up with a personal mentor or angel investor.

3. InnovateHER Challenge

The InnovateHER Challenge is one of the few government grants for small business owners that prioritize women’s empowerment. People of any gender can apply as long as their products or services improve the lives of women.

To be eligible for this grant from the Small Business Administration (SBA), your work must positively impact women and families. You must fill a need and show the potential for commercialization.

You can’t actually apply directly to the SBA. Instead, you’ll submit your business plan to one of the administration’s local partners, such as a university or agency.

It will review submissions and choose one local winner to go on to the national competition. To find a host organization and application instructions, head to the InnovateHER website.

4. American Association of University Women (AAUW) Community Action Grants

The AAUW provides Community Action Grants to women running nonprofit organizations or non-degree research projects. Your work must promote education and equality for women and girls.

The group especially prioritizes projects that encourage girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and math subjects. Winners receive one-year grants between $2,000 and $7,000 or two-year grants between $5,000 and $10,000.

The application process is involved, so start early. You’ll provide a summary form, statement of commitment, budget plan, and a multipart proposal.

Applications are due by Jan. 15, and winners of an AAUW Community Action Grant are notified in mid-April.

5. Open Meadows Foundation

The Open Meadows Foundation provides grants of $2,000 or less to women-led projects that benefit women and girls. It’s specifically looking for work focused on activism, political change, or female empowerment.

The foundation gives priority to small organizations and start-ups. Your project must have a limited budget of $75,000 or less.

To apply, create a proposal using the foundation’s online form and email it to openmeadowsfdn@gmail.com.

Consider angel investors for women-led businesses

While angel investments aren’t grants, they can help get your business off the ground. According to Forbes, angel investors provide funding — typically between $25,000 and $100,000 — in exchange for equity.

There are several angel investing groups that specifically invest in women-led businesses. Belle Capital USA, for instance, invests in a number of women-led, high-growth companies.

Pipeline Angels is a group of women investors who back women-owned businesses. To date, its more than 200 members have provided over $4 million in funding.

Golden Seeds is another potential source of funding. If you’re a female founder, check out this list of additional resources from 37 Angels.

Where to find grants to start your business

While women-led businesses are on the rise, grants for women starting a business remain limited. But you don’t have to narrow your search to women-specific grants.

Instead, look around for general grants to start a business. You can find government grants for small business owners at Grants.gov. The Women’s Business Center also has branches around the country that connect you with local resources.

Plus, you may find grants from private organizations. FedEx, for example, awards over $120,500 in cash and prizes to 10 small business owners every year.

By relying on online resources and local agencies, you can find extra sources for funding your startup. Once you’ve secured funding, you can focus on other steps to start your successful business.

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1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Finance Lender Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)
  2. Personal Loans: Fixed rates from 5.49% APR to 14.24% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.29% APR to 11.44% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of December 1, 2017 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 5.29% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 1.34% plus 4.20% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

2 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2017, the one-month LIBOR rate is 1.23%. Variable interest rates range from 6.02% – 15.97% (6.02% – 15.97% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of your loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms and presence of a co-applicant. Fixed interest rates range from 5.99% – 16.24% (5.99% – 16.24% APR) based on applicable terms and presence of a co-applicant. Lowest rates shown are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with Citizens Bank at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, Citizens Bank checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Benefit: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
7.39% - 29.99%$1,000 - $50,000Visit Upstart
5.29% - 14.24%1$5,000 - $100,000Visit SoFi
8.00% - 25.00%$5,000 - $35,000Visit Payoff
5.99% - 16.24%2$5,000 - $50,000Visit Citizens
5.99% - 35.89%$1,000 - $40,000Visit LendingClub
5.25% - 14.24%$2,000 - $50,000Visit Earnest
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