There are a variety of small business grants specifically for female entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses. These grants primarily come from private sources, and they tend to be competitive and offer relatively modest amounts of money. Meanwhile, government assistance for women-owned businesses or firms being started by women often focus on education and networking to access investors and lenders. Here is an overview of resources available to female entrepreneurs.
Growth of Women-Owned Businesses in the U.S.
According to one recent study, the number of women-owned businesses soared 21% from 2014 to 2019, to nearly 13 million women-owned firms. Further, revenue from all women-owned businesses in the U.S. during the period climbed 21% to $1.9 trillion. Perhaps even more significantly, the study found that the annual growth rate in the number of women-owned firms was double that of all other businesses, resulting in women owning about 30% of all U.S. businesses.
Much of this growth has come despite the fact that women-owned businesses were not generally funded by grants. Guidant Financial in a 2020 survey of women-owned firms found these businesses were primarily funded with cash, savings, 401(k) rollovers, family and friends, SBA loans and home equity loans.
Grants for Women-Owned Businesses
There are several grant programs specifically for women starting or running their own businesses.
WomensNet awards a dozen $4,000 Amber Grants For Women annually, plus one for $25,000, to women-owned businesses. The criteria include that businesses be 50% owned by women who exhibit passion, business savvy and vision.
Asian Women Giving Circle
The Asian Women Giving Circle supports Asian-American women-led projects in New York City. Grant recipients use arts and culture to encourage progressive social transformation and raise awareness of issues affecting Asian-American females and families. Past recipients include documentary films, film festivals and multimedia performances.
Cartier Women’s Initiative
The Cartier Women’s Initiative is an international competition that awards $100,000 to each of seven women-owned businesses in different regions of the globe. Fourteen more finalists get $30,000 each. All 21 finalists also receive coaching, scholarships and other benefits. Successful applicants are women-run and women-owned businesses in any industry that seek to make strong and sustainable social or environmental impacts.
The Los Angeles-based Girlboss Foundation awards two $15,000 grants annually to female entrepreneurs in design, fashion, music and the arts. This one is only for established businesses – not startups – located in the United States. Selections are judged by “creativity and innovation, business acumen and planning and demonstration of a financial need.”
Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program
Women entrepreneurs selected for a Torey Burch Foundation fellowship receive a $5,000 grant to help defray the costs of business education. The fellowship also includes training and opportunities to network with potential investors. To be eligible, a women entrepreneur must own a majority stake in a for-profit early-stage business in any industry with revenues of at least $75,000 revenues in the past 12 months.
Eileen Fisher Grants
This program has funded more than 70 women-owned and women-led businesses that use their products and services, including clothing, beekeeping and electronics recycling, “to create a positive impact on people and the planet.” Amounts of the grants, which are funded by the Eileen Fisher women’s clothing company, range from $5,000 to $30,000.
Grants for Women
The site Grantsforwomen.org lists dozens of sources of financial assistance for women-led organizations. Many are education grants or scholarships and others are only for nonprofit organizations – generally those that advocate on issues such as domestic violence and workplace harassment. Others assist businesses with networking with potential lenders or equity investors.
The Small Business Administration
Businesswomen can receive valuable support in non-grant ways. For example, the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Women’s Business Ownership oversees a national network of 125 Women’s Business Centers can help women entrepreneurs identify and apply for any government grants that may be available in their location. Many of these centers offer training and counseling in a number of languages and dialects, helping reach underserved markets with various programs.
Other Programs Available to Small Business Owners
There are programs that, while not specifically for women, aim to support small businesses. For example, the SBA coordinates the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs that offer grants to small businesses that contribute to research and development. These grants come from 12 federal agencies, whose websites post the opportunities.
The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest resulted in the company awarding more than $250,000 to 12 businesses across the U.S. in 2020. Eligible applicants for the grant money must be for-profit enterprises, have fewer than 99 employees and have been in business for at least six months.
While not restricted to women, another useful resource is grants.gov, which functions as a clearing house for grant opportunities.
The Bottom Line
The relative lack of grants specifically for women-owned businesses means seed money is coming from other sources. There are grants available for businesswomen and other non-grant resources that can extend the current surge in the number of women-owned enterprises. Be sure to check for resources in your state and local areas.
Tips for Women-Owned Businesses
- Consider working with a financial advisor experienced in working with entrepreneurs. Finding the right financial advisor who fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with a local advisor who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- If your business is struggling as a result of the pandemic, the government’s coronavirus economic support includes paid sick leave, an employee retention tax credit, a tax deadline extension and many other forms of aid for businesses.
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