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Small Business Grants for Women

10+ min read • Jul 12, 2022 • Lauren Ward

More than 11.6 million businesses are owned by women in the US. But the amount of funding they receive to launch or grow those businesses is miniscule compared to their male counterparts: in fact, only 4.4% of small business loan funds are issued to women-owned companies. 
To help combat this major economic disparity, many companies and organizations offer small business grants for women. Here are some top picks available, as well as alternatives to explore. Get inspired to grow your company, whether you need a small business idea or already have a concept in motion.

Amber Grants for Women

The Amber Grant is a monthly grant-making program funded by WomensNet. Each month, the organization’s small-business grants program gives $10,000 to at least one female business owner. On top of that, they’re awarding an additional $25,000 to one of those 12 monthly winners at the end of 2022. The minimum requirements to apply include:

  • Business is at least 50% women-owned
  • Business is based in the US or Canada
  • Applicant must be at least 18 years old

Applications are accepted through the last day of each month. After that, the WomensNet Advisory Board chooses five finalists, which are then discussed and voted on to choose a winner. The finalists are announced on the 15th of each month and the winner is announced by the 23rd. 

The WomensNet website also features resources for small business owners, grant application tips, and interviews with previous grant winners. It’s an inspiring place for any business owner.

She’s Next From Visa

Each year, Visa offers the She’s Next grant program for companies run by Black women founders. These grants for small business startups and established companies alike are awarded on an annual basis. Sixty grant recipients each receive a $10,000 grant, as well as a one-year IFundWomen annual coaching membership.

The program includes 6 cities in the US: Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, and Detroit. Additionally, Visa is expanding the grant program globally to offer funding to women entrepreneurs in MENA (including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates) and in Vietnam.

In total, the She’s Next program has made nearly 150 grants totaling $1.6 million in funding to women-owned businesses. There’s also a fashion-specific version called She’s Next in Fashion, which applies to women business owners in the fashion and beauty industry.

Tory Burch Foundation Annual Fellows Program

The Annual Fellows Program from the Tory Burch Foundation is designed to help early-stage companies owned by women founders. The program includes a $5,000 grant to be used for business education. On top of the funding, the fellowship has both live and virtual education courses as well as a robust networking community. Each fellow also gets to take a trip to New York City and visit the Tory Burch offices for additional learning and networking. 

Applicants must be at least 21 years old, identify as a woman, and own at least a 51% stake in the business. She must also be a legal US resident and proficient in English. The company must be between 1–5 years old and already be generating revenue (typically at least $75,000 annually). Any industry is eligible, as long as the company operates as a for-profit.

Fearless Fund

Fearless Fund makes small business grants for Black women and women of color who are seeking pre-seed, seed level, or Series A funding—the program is run by women of color as well. There are a few different grant programs available.

Fearless Strivers Grant Initiative: The fund awards 11 grantees $10,000 grants as well as digital tools. Businesses can be located in Atlanta, Birmingham, Dayton, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, or St. Louis.

WOC Grant Program: The Fearless Fund partners with the Tory Burch Foundation and The Cru to award grants between $10,000–20,000. Eligibility requirements include revenue generation (recommended minimum of $100,000), 1–5 years in business, and a woman of color as owner.

Cartier Women’s Initiative

The Cartier Women’s Initiative provides funding for women-led and women-owned businesses around the world. Any sector is eligible, so long as the company aims to have a social and/or environmental impact. There are 3 tiers of financial award grants available: $30,000, $60,000, or $100,000. The Initiative also provides human capital and social capital support. 

Eligibility requirements include:

  • For-profit companies
  • Early-stage (1–6 years)
  • Less than $2 million in fundraising
  • Positive impact, based on at least United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
  • Applicant must be a woman who holds a primary leadership position at the company
  • Majority ownership must be maintained by founders
  • English proficiency
  • Applicant must be 18 years or older

Women Founders Network Fast Pitch Competition

The Women Founders Network Fast Pitch Competition awards $55,000 in cash grants and over $100,000 in professional services each year. There are 2 company categories: tech/tech-enabled or consumer/consumer packaged goods/non-tech. 

Here’s what you need to be eligible to apply:

  • Business must have a woman as founder, co-founder, CEO, or majority owner
  • Must participate in the Fast Pitch event
  • Maximum $750,000 in outside funding (not including research grants or PPP loans)
  • US-based business
  • Pre-revenue companies allowed
  • No life sciences, nonprofit, or CBD/cannabis companies

Thes grants can be used for small business startups, since pre-revenue companies are eligible to compete—but there does need to be some sign of customer interest.

Caress Dreams Fund

The Caress Dreams Fund program works with dozens of women of color entrepreneurs and awards each one a $5,000 grant. Grant recipients also receive coaching and creative services to implement their own fundraising campaigns. The 12-week fundraising program runs each fall and participants also get a 1-year coaching membership. 

In order to apply, the business must:

  • Be owned and operated by a woman of color
  • Have an annual revenue of at least $10,000
  • Be located in the US 
  • Have an owner who identifies as a woman and is at least 18 years old
  • Have an active digital presence and supporting media

Caress and IFundWomen of Color also provided 200 small business grants for women during the COVID-19 pandemic, which totaled $500,000.

Comcast RISE

The Comcast RISE program stands for Representation, Investment, Strength, and Empowerment and provides multi-year grants to businesses that are majority owned by women or people of color. To date, the program has provided more than $60 million in grant dollars as well as marketing and technology services. 

In addition to the majority ownership requirement, business applicants must also meet the following: 

  • Independently owned and operated (no franchises)
  • Registered in the US
  • Operating for at least 1 year
  • Located within the Comcast Business or Effectv service area footprint

The annual deadline to apply is typically the middle of October, but it’s smart to check on any changes each year.

Jane Walker First Women Grant Program

The Jane Walker First Women Grant Program is another IFundWomen partnership, this time with the Johnny Walker Whiskey brand. The program will fund 30 women-owned businesses in the following industries: entertainment and film, music, sports, STEM, journalism, and hospitality. Each recipient will receive a $10,000 grant and a 1-year coaching membership with IFundWomen.

Grants.gov

Still wondering “How do I get a grant for a small business?” Good news: it’s possible to search for government opportunities via the federal website Grants.gov. You can search by a variety of filters including keywords or eligibility based on location, nonprofit or Native American tribal status, small businesses, and more. 

Grants could be made by the federal government or distributed to state and local government and agencies. While not every opportunity is directed specifically to women, there could be multiple grants available for all small business owners—including female owners. Plus, available grants are always changing, so you can always check back for new opportunities. 

Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (SBTT) programs help businesses support federal research and development needs. While not designed specifically to support women entrepreneurs, both programs do encourage women and socially or economically disadvantaged individuals with innovation and research and development capabilities to apply.

There are more than 5,000 grants awarded each year, and basic eligibility criteria include:

  • For-profit, US-owned and operated company
  • Under 500 employees
  • Funds must be used for research and development

Once awarded, funds from these programs may be used for the first 2 phases of development: first is the concept development phase, which lasts between 6 months and a year with amounts ranging from $50,000–250,000. Phase 2 is the prototype development stage, which lasts for 24 months. Funding amounts range from $500,000 to $1 million. (The third phase is commercialization—but funding cannot be used for this stage.)

What Can You Use Small Business Grants For?

Uses for small business grant funds depend on the requirements of the individual grant program. Oftentimes, the funds may be used for however you see fit as a business owner. However, federal research and development grant programs have strict requirements on how the funds may be used. 

No matter what grant program you apply for, here are some stipulations you may need to meet once you receive the grant funds.

Updates to the Grantor: Some grantmaking organizations may require you to provide updates based on your business progress, particularly if the funds are meant to be used in a specific way. 

Contingencies: You may also find grants that require contingencies to raise additional or matching funds on your own in order to receive the original grant funds. This is most common with state or local grants, although some private programs use grants as a kickoff to additional fundraising efforts. 

Federal and state restrictions: The strictest grant requirements come in the form of federal and state grants because they’re not designed to grow businesses. Instead, they are designed to achieve specific program goals.

Alternatives to Business Grants

There are a number of alternatives to business grants to help launch or grow a woman-owned business, particularly in the form of small business loans for women. Unlike grants, business loans must be repaid in full, including interest. Some may involve additional fees as well.  

The below options aren’t limited just to women, but you may find them particularly useful as a woman business owner:

Online business loans: An online business loan is ideal to apply for when you need cash quickly for your business. There typically aren’t restrictions on how you can use the funds. Loan terms range from 1–5 years and, depending on your business, can go as high as $2 million. Lenders review your credit score, time in business, collateral, and financial statements. 

SBA loans: SBA loans are backed by the federal government, although you still apply directly through a private lender. There are many different types of SBA loans depending on your needs. Two of the most popular options include:

  • SBA 7(a) loans: These have a broad use, such as purchasing land, paying for construction, buying or expanding a business, refinancing debt, or operating expenses. 
  • SBA 504 loans: These are used for buying property, like real estate, machinery, or land, or for renovating an existing property. 

Startup business loans: Startup business loans are used to help launch a business in its early stages. You may need some revenue under your belt in order to qualify–but it’s still possible for early companies to qualify. 

Both grants and small business loans can help you  fund your company’s next steps successfully—and Lendio can help pair you with the best business loan available for your company.

 

*The information provided in this post does not, and is not intended to, constitute business, legal, tax, or accounting advice and is provided for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact their attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor to obtain advice on any particular matter.

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Lauren Ward

Lauren Ward is a personal finance and tech writer with a passion to help consumers make smart financial decisions. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Time and MSN. When she's not writing, she loves gardening and playing board games with her family.