Grants for women are among the many types of funding available to start or grow a small business. And, unlike loans, business grants for women do not have to be repaid. This is a definite plus for any woman who is a recipient of grant money. However, this type of funding is typically very challenging to obtain. Women in business should know what to look for and how to apply to greatly improve the chances of getting a grant.
Where do I look to find grants for women?
So you’ve decided that a grant may be a great way to help fund your new enterprise, and you’re not sure where to start your search. Fortunately, it has never been easier to get information about what is available in terms of grant money thanks to the Internet. Start with an online search for grants for small business owners. There are a lot to choose from. Some of these are specifically small business grants for women.
Conduct additional searches for grant opportunities within your industry and within your local area. There may very well be organizations in your community or state that have grant programs. Also, it’s worth checking out all of your affiliations including schools and non-profits that you support.
Visiting your local Small Business Administration is also worth the effort. They keep lists of grant opportunities and have a wealth of resources to help you in the grant application process.
Once you have a list of potential grant opportunities, it’s time to start your outreach. In some cases, you can get the information you need online and even download applications. However, you may need to make calls to start the application process. Most grant applications have specific guidelines and timelines that you have to follow. Pay close attention to these to increase your chances of being a grant recipient.
It’s also important to note that there are private companies and individuals who specialize in grant writing that help businesses apply for grants. If you don’t want to go it alone or simply don’t have the time, this might be an option worth considering.
- 2017 InnovateHER Challenge
- Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs
- SBA Women’s Business Centers
- Small Business Development Centers
- Amber Grant
- Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant
- FedEx Small Business Grant
- Mission Main Street Grants
- IdeaCafe Grant
- The Halstead Grant
- Open Meadows Foundation
What are grants?
Grants are non-repayable funds that are often disbursed by government departments, foundations, trusts, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, or sometimes even individuals. Typically, a grant proposal and an application must be filled out to qualify for a grant. And, the funds given as a grant usually have to be used in specific ways – such as for a designated project or business need.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides considerable information about grants for women, as well as for all types of small business owners. The SBA itself doesn’t provide any grants but there are some grants offered by the Federal government that have been authorized and appropriated through bills passed by Congress and signed by the President. The majority of these are for non-commercial organizations such as non-profits and educational institutions in areas such as medicine, education, and technology development.
Other grants for women can be found through state and local government programs. Many of these require recipients to match funds or combine the grant with other types of financing such as loans.
While not specifically for women, the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) is one grant program that helps qualified small businesses that are focused on research and development. The program was designed to encourage high-tech innovation, and is limited to American-owned and independently operated, for-profit businesses that have the principal researcher on their payroll and less than 500 employees.
There are currently twelve Federal departments and agencies that are required by the government to reserve a portion of their R&D budgets for SBIR grants to small businesses.
Why do women need specific business grants?
With so many businesses now being started by women, many wonder why there are still programs to support female entrepreneurs. The answer lies in the fact that, although there are many successful businesses being launched by women, there still is gender discrimination, gender underestimation, and gender harassment. Combined, these issues affect many women, and collectively they are still considered disadvantaged and a minority group.
Grants for women, especially business grants for women, help to level the playing field by providing financial assistance that enables them to compete in today’s marketplace. The concept is not unlike that of affirmative action which has helped other minority groups.
Millions of dollars each year are dispersed to women as investments in their entrepreneurship, intellect, creativity, and talent. The organizations that offer small business grants for women are firmly in support of the idea that women are important contributors to the economy and can enrich the culture and society on a local, national, and even international level.
Because grants for women have played such a pivotal role in so many women’s lives, there are more and more grant opportunities each year from a very wide variety of organizations, corporations, and government agencies.
Types of grants for women
Besides the Federal grants that are available through government agencies, there are also a variety of other grant opportunities for women including:
- Private grants:
This type of grant is typically funded by an individual or family who has a vested interest in promoting certain activities through their generosity. In some cases, there is a foundation set up to oversee the disbursement of grants and awards with an overseeing board of directors. Some of the most notable of these individuals who have set up private grant programs include Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey.
- Corporate grants:
Companies also often have grant programs that are designed to help business owners. These grants are a form of public relations for the companies that give them away. Recognizable companies including Kelloggs, Microsoft, Ford, Cisco, General Electric, Boeing, and many other Fortune 500 corporations offer grants. As well, there are plenty of smaller companies that do, as well.
- Professional grants:
Non-profits and universities provide grants to many individuals who are usually connected somehow to the organization. These can be particularly useful for women who have close affiliations with their alma mater or to a particular cause that they support. Two of the organizations that offer professional grants are the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and the American Association of University Women (AAUW).
How to apply for business grants for women
Unlike other types of financing that can be obtained relatively quickly, grants usually take time – sometimes many months. So, it’s always wise to be patient when you’re applying for grants. Time for filling out forms, submitting them, and then waiting for a committee or organization to approve a grant can be a long and drawn out process.
However, if you have the patience, they can be well worth the wait. The key to your success is to follow the guidelines of the organization that is administering the grant.
Start with determining if you’re eligible.
It only makes sense to apply for grants for women that you are eligible for. Don’t count on any grant committee being flexible when it comes to requirements. These requirements often include:
- Citizenship Status
- Financial Need
- Type of Business
- Location of Business
Carefully read the application requirements.
You may be asked to provide a resume, diploma, photos of your retail space, a statement of need, or any number of other documents. Remember, if you neglect to provide this information, it’s almost a sure bet that your grant application will be thrown out.
Have a business plan.
For many small business grants for women, a business plan is required. This should include everything from financials to a well mapped out marketing plan. Once again, the Small Business Administration can help you with this.
Ask about deadlines.
Some grants require multiple submissions with different deadlines. You will want to make sure that you meet each deadline for each set of paperwork required. You may also want to find out the definition of the deadline. Is it when the paperwork is postmarked or the day the application is received? Many potential grant recipients have lost out by simply not getting their paperwork in on time. Don’t let it happen to you!
Most organizations offering grants will clearly spell out how they will make an announcement about grant recipients. Keep track of these dates, especially if you’re applying for multiple grants. Some grants will be announced on an organization’s website while others will be announced through email or standard mail.
Don’t get discouraged.
It’s never a good idea to place all of your hopes on a single grant opportunity. Most grants have many applicants, and most recipients of grants for women find that they have to apply for several before winning one. The key is to be persistent and to not give up. There is money available if you stay focused on obtaining it.
Other sources of funding for your small business
Business grants for women are a cost-effective way to fund your venture, but they can be challenging to obtain. In most cases, you’ll also need to consider other options for funding. This can include loans and investor financing.
- SBA loans
One of the most common sources of small business financing is through the Small Business Administration. They offer several loan programs designed to help small businesses grow. Their microloan program provides government-backed loans through intermediary lenders up to $50,000. There are also larger loans available through their 7(a) Loan Program. The maximum loan amount through this program is $5 million.
- Private bank loans
Some community and national banks offer specific loans and other financial solutions for women with businesses. Many of these lenders work with the National Association of Women Business Owners and also offer training, cash grants, and national recognition awards on an annual basis.
- Peer-to-peer loans
This is a fairly new option for acquiring business financing, but it is becoming more popular thanks in large part of several providers that enable individual investors to join forces to lend money to small business owners through online platforms.
- Alternative business loans
If you don’t have ideal credit and haven’t found success with grants, you may still be able to obtain funding through alternative small business loans for women. Kabbage, unlike traditional banks, does not use a business’s credit score as the primary criteria for determining approval for funds. Rather, they look at a broad spectrum of data which includes eBay ratings, UPS reports, PayPal numbers, shipping analytics, and more. For women-owned businesses, Kabbage can be a viable option for getting the funds required to hire help, buy equipment, purchase inventory, or jump-start marketing and advertising efforts.
- Loans from family or friends
Sometimes the best place to look for financing a new business is at home. Supportive loved ones might be the perfect choice depending on their availability to cash, their desire to help, and their level of interest in your business. And, the perks of a private loan are obvious – typically lower interest rates and no credit check! But, it’s always wise to consider that there may be strings attached to any loan you take from a loved one. To prevent any possible problems, it’s always a good idea to draft and sign a detailed loan agreement with the terms clearly spelled out.
When you’re in need of funds for your woman-owned business, it’s always worthwhile to consider your options. For many, cash comes from a variety of sources including grants for women and small business loans for women. So, it pays to check out all the possibilities, and then to take the time to fill out applications carefully whether they are for loans or grants. With a little patience and a polished application, you may just get the financial support you need to turn your business dream into a reality!