15 Small business grants women entrepreneurs can apply for
In the rapidly changing modern economy, entrepreneurs need access to fresh capital for new products, research goals, and fluctuating inventories. While large companies that have fared well on the open market for several years can rely solely on profits to reinvest, new businesses need to be resourceful. There are start-up costs like furniture and equipment, business insurance, and inventory. Then they may need financing to get through the first few slow quarters.
This is especially true for small businesses. While it can be difficult for startup companies to become profitable, small businesses led by women are at a disadvantage.
Women entrepreneurs face funding challenges
Data from the loan market suggests that female entrepreneurs are less likely to receive conventional business loans than their male counterparts. This trend also pertains to women who apply for the government-supported loans of the Small Business Administration.
On average, women who manage to secure a loan also receive smaller sums than male borrowers. This means that businesses with female owners struggle to obtain credit, which is a necessary part of being competitive in any market. Economists, sociologists, and market analysts have examined many factors to learn why women entrepreneurs struggle to obtain credit. Some researchers believe that women may be more averse to financial risks than men, and others state that women simply apply for fewer loans. These are important topics to consider, but the lower loan amounts for women clearly show that bias is a critical factor.
Fortunately, several lenders and corporations have acknowledged female entrepreneurs' disadvantages. They have attempted to reduce gender inequality and build the economy with these 15 small business grants and funding opportunities for women.
Amber Grants are available for female entrepreneurs who are planning to launch small, local businesses. Amber Grant awards have just been expanded to include a $10,000 Amber Grant each month, two $25,000 annual Amber Grants, a $10,000 Startup Grant each quarter, a $10,000 Non-Profit Grant each quarter, and a $10,000 Business Category grant in a specific category of business each month. To apply for an Amber Grant, you simply need to explain the purpose of your business, and you fill out one application to be considered for all Amber Grants.
Ladies Who Launch
Ladies Who Launch’s Launch Program offers a $10,000 cash grant plus six months of mentorship, education, community and amplification to grant awardees. Women- and non-binary-owned businesses in the consumer packaged goods industry (including household goods, food and beverages, apparel and more) with annual gross revenue between $100,000 and $499,000 are eligible. Get the details here.
SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant
The SoGal Foundation notes that Black women founders are the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs – ever. Yet less that 0.5% of venture capital funding goes to Black women entrepreneurs. To change that. SoGal Foundation, along with several partner organizations, offers $10,000 and $5,000 cash grants to Black and non-binary business owners. Winners also receive assistance navigating future funding opportunities. Applications are rolling, so you can apply whenever you’re ready.
Visa’s She’s Next
She’s Next is a business grant program for Black women-owned businesses offered through Visa. Some of the qualifications to apply include: you must be a black woman and business owner, have been in business for at least two years, be a B2C company, and have a minimum revenue of at least $24k. The program awards $10,000 and a year-long coaching membership to 60 black women-owned businesses in six cities across the U.S.. To learn more about qualifications, visit the Visa She’s Next program website.
In 2022, She’s Next launched She’s Next in Fashion, which provided a total of over $500,000 in cash grants to 50 new small businesses in the fashion and beauty sectors. Learn more about that program here.
Small Business Innovation Research
If you have a cutting-edge idea that you believe will satisfy the needs of the market, apply for a Small Business Innovation Research grant to establish research and development goals. The SBIR program is structured the three phases. In the first phase, awards usually range from $50,000 to $250,000 and are intended to help businesses establish the technical and commercial viability of their offering. Once your company completes Phase I successfully, you can apply for Phase II awards of $750,000 for two years for research and development. In Phase III, companies commercialize their offerings and may be eligible for Federal contracts.
Small Business Technology Transfer Program
Similar to the SBIR program, the federal Small Business Technology Transfer Program provides funds for research and development needs. To obtain a research grant from the federal government, your company must have fewer than 500 employees. You can earn up to $250,000 during the startup phase, and you can receive an additional $750,000 if your research yields positive results.
Ms. Foundation for Women
The Ms. Foundation offers several different awards to women who own businesses that further the advancement of women and girls. In the past, recipients of the award have had businesses that work to prevent domestic violence, advocate for reproductive health, promote access to affordable childcare, and more. In addition to funding, the foundation provides grantees with mentorship support, networking opportunities, and trainings. Learn how you can apply on the foundation’s website.
Cartier Women’s Initiative Award
Since 2006, Cartier has been awarding 21 female entrepreneurs with the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award. Each year, winners receive one-on-one expert coaching, business workshops, media coverage for the entrepreneur and their business, and prizes ranging from $30,000 to $100,000. To learn more about how you can apply for this grant, visit the Cartier Women’s Initiative website.
IFundWomen Universal Grant program
The IFundWomen program partners with tons of organizations to bring grant opportunities to women-owned small businesses. You can peruse their site to find applications for all kinds of grants, or you can apply directly to IFundWomen, which has a grant pool of over $8M.
Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program Grants
Each year the Tory Burch Foundation chooses 50 women as Foundation Fellows. These women take part in professional development and networking opportunities in addition to being awarded a $5,000 grant to apply towards their business education. These women are presented with an opportunity to share their business plan with potential investors. To be eligible, you must be a woman-identifying entrepreneur owning the largest or equal stake in a qualifying business that is majority (51% or more) owned and controlled by women. The business must be for-profit, generating at least $75,000 in the past year. See full details on their website.
If you’re looking for funding opportunities for your business, GrantsForWomen.org is a good place to start. The website is a database of grants specifically for women. They also have lots of information about the different types of grants available, such as private, corporate, federal, etc. Not all grants are specifically for business owners, but they offer funding options in a wide range of industries.
37 Angels is an organization made up of female angel investors that invest in women-owned small businesses. The organization recognizes the disadvantages that female entrepreneurs face in the loan market and seeks to close that gap. To help women keep their companies afloat, 37 Angels offers grants as large as $150,000.
Belle Capital is an investment firm focused on companies led by women. Their mission is to help mitigate the unfair gap in funding that women receive compared to men. Although women continue to prove themselves as successful entrepreneurs; their businesses even proving to do better than that of their male counterparts in some cases, they still receive less funding than men. To learn more about Belle Capital’s investment criteria, visit their website.
FedEx Small Business Grant
FedEx has demonstrated through its previous grant competitions that it is fair with its distribution of funds to women and men. To determine the winner, FedEx allows the public to vote for their favorite company in the competition. The winners with the most votes receive a $50,000 grant, FedEx Office® print services credit worth $4,000, and more.
Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE)
V-WISE offers two low-cost entrepreneur training programs to women veterans or women who are spouses of veterans. It is sponsored by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. While not a grant program, V-WISE offers valuable skill-building courses to help women start and grow businesses. The V-WISE program is a 15-day online course that costs $75, and the V-WISE IGNITE program is an accelerated course that lasts one day and costs only $25. Both V-WISE and V-WISE IGNITE offers agendas full of networking opportunities, training with expert instructors, mentorship and more. Visit the website for details.
Hiscox Small Business Insurance
Ready to make your business dream a reality? Expanding your existing business or side hustle? Make sure to check out small business insurance options from Hiscox to help protect everything you've worked hard to build.
Originally published in 2017 but updated in July 2023 to include current grant opportunities and links to current websites.