12 Grants for Womenpreneurs

Did you know that women launch new businesses twice as much as men? It’s true! Women-owned businesses are expected to create up to 5.5 million jobs by 2018, which is an impressive figure. Still, owning a business as a female can be a challenge. Women often must start their businesses with less capital than their male counterparts, and the average revenue for female-owned businesses is less overall than male-owned ventures.

Despite these challenges, women forge ahead in all industries. If you’re planning to start your own business, consider applying for a small business grant to help you get an edge. The following resources and grants for women starting and growing a business may prove useful in the months ahead.

Research a Variety of Opportunities

There are countless grants available covering all types of businesses, so do your research to make a list of those for which you may qualify. Start-ups are eligible for both federal and private grants, with federal grants ranging from commerce to agriculture. Many of these grant opportunities are not limited to women, but it doesn’t hurt to expand your options by applying for multiple grants.

You may also apply for federal grant money if you have an existing business. The U.S. government does not offer grants specifically for women, but you can search for keywords related to your business at grants.gov.

Another resource is your state’s Women’s Business Center. The Women’s Business Center is organized by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and has state-specific grant information readily available to help you narrow down your search. Many states even feature a Minority and Women-Owned Business Lending Program for those who are unable to obtain traditional bank loans.

In addition to the government and private organizations, many corporations also provide grant money to businesses that align with their respective mission and goals. For example, Capital One helps provides grants of up to $10,000 to qualifying applicants through the company’s Count Me In partnership. Consider your favorite companies and research whether they offer grant programs for women in business. You might be surprised at what you can discover.

Develop Your Business Plan

Regardless of the grant program you choose, you will need to develop a business plan to submit along with your application. Requirements can range from a simple business statement to a comprehensive business plan, so it’s always best to be prepared, especially if you’re applying for multiple grants.

Your business plan should include details about your business’s products or services, its potential market and how it will sustain itself over time. In some cases, you may need to include a marketing plan, a business budget and recommendation letters from professional partners, colleagues and peers.

Gain Women-Owned Small Business Status

While qualifying for the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) status through the SBA isn’t required to apply for grants, it does improve your chances, especially with government grants. The WOSB Program is a self-certification process designed to expand opportunities for federal contracts and to help level the playing field for women in business. Businesses must be at least 51 percent owned by women to qualify.

If the woman controlling the firm’s management is economically disadvantaged, she may also qualify for Economically Disadvantaged WOSB status (EDWOSB). Achieving either of these statuses gives you opportunities specifically set aside for WOSB and EDWOSB status holders.

The Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant

The Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant awards $100,000 to up to 10 women. The grant supports innovative, female-owned companies beyond the start-up phase that are ready to expand their business. The grant also emphasizes companies with potential for positive environmental and social impact.

For a company to be eligible to apply for the Eileen Fisher grant, the business must be women-led by a majority, be founded on creating social and environmental change, have operated for at least three years and have revenues not exceeding $1 million per year at the time of the application. Applicants are evaluated based on their business plan feasibility, alignment with the Eileen Fisher mission and leadership practices, funding need, growth phase, entrepreneurial passion and willingness to participate in the Eileen Fisher grant community.

Grant application cycles begin each spring, so check the Eileen Fisher website regularly for when the application goes live.

InnovateHER Challenge

Sponsored by SBA, the InnovateHER Challenge is a women-only grant that allows entrepreneurs to pitch business ideas to a panel of judges. The process encourages applicants to showcase products and services that have a measurable impact on people’s lives, particularly women and families. Ideas must have commercialization potential and fill a need in the current marketplace.

More than 120 local competitions are held each year for the InnovateHER Challenge. The SBA selects finalists to attend a live pitch competition to compete for cash prizes, including a $40,000 first-place prize.

FedEx Small Business Grant

The FedEx Small Business Grant distributes funds to both men and women with a public vote determining the winner of the competition. In 2017 there were more than 4,500 entries, setting a record for the grant contest. Ten winners were previously selected to share a prize pool of $120,500. Winners also receive credit to use toward FedEx Office business and print services. The sole grand-prize winner takes away $25,000 in grant money and $7,500 worth of FedEx services.

The FedEx Small Business Grant is open to U.S.-based small businesses that have been operating for at least six months with fewer than 99 employees. Participants may enter the grant contest by entering their contact information and writing a short profile about their business. Photographs, including the company logo, are required. Applicants are also encouraged to submit a 90-second video to supplement their entry.

Amber Grants

Since 1998, the Amber Grants have been helping women fulfill their entrepreneurial dreams. This grant is suitable for female entrepreneurs trying to start a small, local business. Amber Grants are awarded each month with WomensNet judges selecting a recipient for the $10,000 grant. One of the Amber Grants recipients will be selected for the $25,000 grant at the end of the year.

To apply for an Amber Grant, you will need to share your business ideas in a way that doesn’t sound too corporate. Instead, speak from the heart, no matter how big or small your business dream might be. You will need to disclose what you plan to do with the funds and pay a seven-dollar application fee to enter.

Idea Cafe Grant

The Idea Cafe’s Small Business Grant is a great program for female entrepreneurs in the early stages of launching a business. There’s no formal business plan required, just an innovative business idea. Recipients receive a $1,000 grant along with national recognition and free publicity, which makes applying for the grant worth the effort.

Past grant recipients have included bakeries, country stores, boutiques and web magazines. Anyone who has a creative business idea is eligible.

Zions Bank Smart Women Grant

As part of its ongoing commitment to support women’s financial independence, Zions Bank offers grant money to women in Utah and Idaho for their efforts in bringing value to their communities. Microgrants are awarded to those promoting female empowerment in underserved and low-income populations. Since 2004, these microgrants have totaled more than $235,000. Six women were awarded $3,000 grants in 2017.

The six categories Zions Bank considers when awarding its $3,000 grants are small business start-up and expansion, community development, continuing education and teacher support, child or elder care, health and human services and arts and culture. Any female-owned business or organization in Idaho or Utah falling under one of these categories may apply.

Mission Main Street Grants

Finance leader Chase and tech giant Google have partnered to provide over $3 million in grant money to up to 20 businesses each year through the Mission Main Street Grants. While the grants aren’t specifically reserved for women, both women and minorities have had much success in obtaining funding through Mission Main Street Grants. In fact, half of the companies receiving grant money are either owned or co-owned by women. Four of the 20 recipients are minority-owned businesses.

Applicants share their business stories while customers vote. The finalists are decided by a panel of judges who select 20 grant recipients from thousands.

Huggies MomInspired Grant Program

Reserved just for moms, the Huggies MomInspired Grant Program awards business resources and grants to help develop start-up businesses and original product ideas. Twelve moms are awarded $15,000 grants annually and are asked to share their progress on a quarterly basis. Recipients must also contact Huggies first before selling the business.

A judging panel reviews submissions and evaluates them over a six-week period based on each one’s worth and individual qualities. Finalists are invited to participate in a brief phone interview with the judging panel, after which a final decision is made.

Open Meadows Foundation Grant

The Open Meadows Foundation awards grant money to women as a way of promoting gender, racial and economic justice. Projects must be led by females and benefit women and girls to qualify for each $2,000 grant. Applicants must reflect the diversity of the community served by the project, promote community building and have limited finances.

Start-ups and small organizations are given priority for the Open Meadows Foundation Grant, and recipients can only receive the grant one time. Proposed businesses are reviewed twice per year, both in the spring and fall, and it can take up to three months to decide on the finalists.

Halstead Grant

Do you design and sell silver jewelry? Then you may qualify for the Halstead Grant. Each year, the Halstead Grant awards up to $7,500 to an exceptional silver jewelry designer as well as $1,000 in jewelry supplies, a trip to Halstead headquarters and a feedback report from the judging committee. Eligible applicants must be U.S. citizens who have started their business within the last three years.

Applicants must also submit a portfolio with answers to a series of questions outlining their business plans. These questions help gauge your pricing strategy, your current production capacity and the signature elements of your silver jewelry collection. The top 10 finalists are recognized with smaller cash prizes, individual feedback and signature trophies.

Belle Capital Grants

Belle Capital USA seeks to invest in underserved capital market companies across the U.S. As such, they seek to become the premier source of “human and financial capital to the underserved market of women-led companies.”

Belle Capital acknowledges that women-owned or women-led companies are the fastest-growing sector of new businesses in the country. According to research, women-led companies have a lower failure rate and greater capital efficiency despite the fact that they receive less investment capital to start with. Belle Capital wants to change that.

Currently, Belle Capital’s objective is to invest in up to 15 high-growth companies and recruit female board and management talent by working with corporate founders. The size of the grants Belle Capital offers varies but includes access to angel investment funds to help start or expand your business.

37 Angels

The organization 37 Angels recognizes the challenges women entrepreneurs face when it comes to securing small business loans. The organization invests up to $150,000 in each company with most angel investments totaling $25,000 each. Applicants can apply for funding online, but they must be willing to start the process with a 20-minute phone call to determine if there is a mutual fit.

The 37 Angels community focuses on investing in 10 high-potential startups annually. Every two months, eight companies are selected out of 400 applicants to pitch to investors, which alone is worth the application. The great thing about 37 Angels is that you will receive an investment decision four weeks after your pitch. If you want a streamlined funding process that doesn’t require a long waiting period, 37 Angels is the resource to beat.

Women in business may face more challenges when it comes to securing capital and growing their business, but grant programs help bridge the gap to help women succeed on their own merits. If you need additional financial support to get your business off the ground, consider taking out a loan through an online lender.


Want to dig deeper?