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 email@example.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.
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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