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by Mike Vestil 

Grants for Women-Owned Businesses: What You Need to Know

In this article, readers will learn about the various types of grants available for women-owned businesses, including federal, state and local, female-focused, and industry-specific grants. The article will also provide information on eligibility criteria and resources to locate grant opportunities.

Additionally, the article will cover alternative funding options such as small business loans, crowdfunding, angel investors, and incubators, as well as providing case studies and success stories of women-owned businesses that have benefited from grant funding.

Understanding Grants for Women-Owned Businesses

Grants for women-owned businesses are an essential resource for fostering the growth and success of female entrepreneurs. When properly allocated and utilized, these grants can contribute significantly to the prosperity of the global economy by empowering women to establish and expand businesses.

Definition and Purpose of Business Grants

A business grant is a monetary award provided by an organization, such as a government, nonprofit, or private institution, to financially support a business or entrepreneur. Unlike loans, grants do not need to be repaid, making them an attractive funding source for new or growing businesses.

The purpose of a business grant is to promote economic growth, provide resources for specific projects or initiatives, and support entrepreneurs with innovative ideas. The grant process often involves a competitive application, where entrepreneurs and business owners submit a proposal outlining their business plan and objectives. After evaluation, the grant provider selects the strongest proposals to receive the funding.

Grants dedicated specifically for women-owned businesses aim to level the playing field in a traditionally male-dominated landscape. Historically, women have experienced significant obstacles when accessing capital, resources, and opportunities necessary for business success. Women-specific grants seek to bridge this gap, empowering female entrepreneurs to create new ventures, grow existing businesses, and contribute to overall economic progress.

Eligibility Criteria and Requirements for Women-Owned Businesses

To qualify for a grant intended for women-owned businesses, the company must be at least 51% owned, operated, and controlled by one or more women. Additionally, there may be other requirements depending on the provider, such as business size, industry, location, and financial need. Before applying, entrepreneurs should carefully read the grant guidelines to ensure their business aligns with the eligibility requirements.

Some grant providers may also require the submission of various documents to verify eligibility. These can include:

  1. Proof of business ownership and registration, such as Articles of Incorporation or a business license.
  2. Biographies or resumes of the female entrepreneurs leading the business.
  3. A business plan detailing the company’s objectives, financial projections, market analysis, and strategies for growth.
  4. Financial statements or tax returns to demonstrate the company’s financial health and need for funding.
  5. A concise explanation of how the requested grant funding will be used to support the business’s goals and growth.

The Importance of Supporting Female Entrepreneurs

Supporting women-owned businesses holds tremendous importance for social and economic advancements. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, there are currently 12.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, which collectively employ over 9 million people and generate $1.8 trillion in annual revenue. Grants for women-owned businesses play a crucial role in bolstering these contributions to the economy.

In addition to stimulating economic growth, supporting female entrepreneurs can lead to increased innovation and diversification in the business landscape. By providing women with the resources they need to succeed, businesses can introduce new products, services, and perspectives that might not have otherwise emerged.

Supporting women-owned businesses also has positive social implications. As business ownership often serves as a pathway to financial independence, grants can help elevate women’s economic standing, fostering gender equality and female empowerment.

Finally, women-owned businesses often set a precedent for future generations of female entrepreneurs, inspiring girls and young women to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions. By contributing to the growth and success of women-owned businesses, grants can fuel the aspirations of future female leaders, ensuring a cycle of continued innovation, economic growth, and social progress.

Types of Grants Available for Women-Owned Businesses

Federal Grants

One of the primary sources of financial assistance for women-owned businesses comes from federal government grants. These grants often focus on specific business sectors and are designed to promote innovation, economic development, and job creation.

One of the most comprehensive federal grant databases is Grants.gov. This website offers a searchable database of various types of financial assistance options available from the federal government. While not all of these opportunities are specifically for women-owned businesses, many of them focus on industries or sectors where women entrepreneurs are underrepresented, such as technology or science.

Another popular federal grant program for women-owned businesses is the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. SBIR is a research and development grant program that is dedicated to supporting small businesses in the research and development of innovative solutions to economic, technological, and societal problems. The program provides financial support for businesses undertaking research that has the potential to lead to successful commercial products.

State and Local Grants

State and local governments also provide grants and financial assistance programs to women-owned businesses. These programs are typically offered by economic development agencies or other government entities focused on supporting small businesses and entrepreneurial efforts. Each program varies in terms of eligibility criteria, available funding, and types of projects or industries supported.

Some examples of state and local grant programs include the New York State Entrepreneurial Assistance Program, the California Small Business Technical Assistance Expansion Program, and the Texas Women’s Business Assistance Program. These programs may offer direct grants, mentorship and instruction, or other resources to help women-owned businesses succeed.

Female-Focused Business Grants

Several organizations offer grants and financial assistance programs specifically for women-owned businesses. These programs help level the playing field and give women entrepreneurs the resources they need to be successful in their entrepreneurial pursuits.

One such organization is the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), which offers a variety of grants and resources specifically for women business owners. These grants can range from training and mentorship to seed funding for growing businesses.

Another example is the EILEEN Women-Owned Business Grant Program, which is funded by the Eileen Fisher clothing company. EILEEN offers grants twice annually to women-owned businesses that meet certain criteria, such as having a positive social impact and having a viable plan for growth.

Industry-Specific Grants

There are also numerous industry-specific grants for women-owned businesses. These grants are tailored to support businesses operating within specific sectors and can help female entrepreneurs access resources and funding specific to their industries.

For instance, some grants focus on supporting women entrepreneurs in the technology sector. One example is the Women’s Funding Network’s Women in Technology (WIT) grants, which provide funding and mentorship to women-led tech startups.

Other industry-specific grants cater to women-owned businesses in the arts and humanities. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) are two federal agencies that offer grants to support women entrepreneurs in these sectors. These grants often support projects such as art exhibitions, cultural programs, research initiatives, and more.

In conclusion, there are several types of grants available for women-owned businesses, ranging from federal to industry-specific grants. By conducting thorough research and applying to applicable grants, women entrepreneurs can access essential resources to help their businesses succeed and grow.

Finding and Applying for Grants

Resources and Tools to Locate Grant Opportunities

Grants can provide valuable financial assistance for businesses, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and individuals. To identify suitable grants, it’s important to first consider a few key factors, such as the purpose of the funding, the location of the grantee, and the amount needed. Once these are established, below are some resources to help locate the right funding opportunities.

  1. Small Business Administration (SBA) Resources: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is an excellent resource for finding grants, particularly for small businesses. The SBA maintains a comprehensive database of federal, state, and local grant opportunities that can be filtered by industry, location, and eligibility criteria. The SBA also provides educational resources and guidance on writing grant proposals, understanding eligibility requirements, and navigating the application process. The SBA website (www.sba.gov) is the best place to start your search for grants.

  2. Grants.gov Database: Another valuable federal resource is Grants.gov (www.grants.gov). This website is a searchable database of all federal grant opportunities, managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Interested applicants can search for grants by category, agency, or keyword and can register to receive personalized email notifications about new grant opportunities that match their interests. Grants.gov also offers a step-by-step guide to applying for grants, as well as helpful tips for preparing successful grant applications.

  3. Foundation Directory Online: A valuable resource for locating grants from private foundations is the Foundation Directory Online (FDO), accessible at www.foundationcenter.org. The FDO is a comprehensive database of over 140,000 grantmakers in the United States, providing detailed information about each funder’s areas of interest, application guidelines, and contact information. A subscription is required for full access to the directory, but many public libraries and nonprofit resource centers offer free access to patrons.

How to Apply for Grants

Once appropriate grant opportunities have been identified, the next step is to prepare and submit a compelling grant application. Below is a general overview of the key steps involved in this process:

  1. Understanding Grant Requirements and Expectations: Before beginning a grant application, it’s essential to thoroughly review the funding announcement or request for proposals (RFP) to understand the goals of the grant program, the eligibility requirements, and the selection criteria. Make sure that the project or organization aligns well with the grantor’s priorities and demonstrate a strong connection between the proposed activities and the desired outcomes.

  2. Creating a Compelling Grant Proposal: The most critical component of any grant application is the proposal itself. A well-written grant proposal should clearly outline the problem or need, explain how the project or organization plans to address this issue, and describe the intended outcomes and benefits. The proposal should be concise, compelling, and evidence-based, using data and research to support the proposed activities and demonstrate their potential for success.

  3. Assembling Required Documentation: Most grant applications require additional documentation, such as a project budget, financial statements, letters of support, or proof of tax-exempt status. Be sure to compile and submit all required materials in accordance with the grantor’s guidelines to avoid delays or disqualification.

Common Mistakes and Best Practices in Grant Applications

When applying for grants, it’s crucial to avoid common pitfalls and adhere to best practices to maximize the chances of success. Some common mistakes and recommendations for grant applicants include:

  1. Failing to follow application guidelines: Carefully read all grant application instructions and adhere to them precisely. This includes following formatting requirements, submitting all required documents, and adhering to application deadlines.

  2. Underestimating the competition: Grants can be highly competitive, so it’s essential to submit a polished, persuasive proposal that stands out. Ensure that the proposal is well-written, organized, and error-free, and that it convincingly addresses the grantor’s priorities and criteria.

  3. Overpromising results: Be realistic about what can be achieved with the grant funding and establish measurable, attainable goals. Grant reviewers will be skeptical of overly ambitious claims that are not substantiated by evidence or past performance.

  4. Neglecting to proofread and edit: A poorly written or disorganized proposal can reflect negatively on your project or organization. Take the time to carefully proofread and edit your proposal, and consider seeking feedback from colleagues, mentors, or grant writing professionals.

  5. Not allowing enough time: Grant applications can be complex and time-consuming, so plan ahead and allocate adequate resources to complete the application by the deadline. Rushing to submit a last-minute application may lead to oversights, errors, or incomplete documentation that could jeopardize your chances of success.

    Alternative Funding Options for Women-Owned Businesses

Securing funding for a business can be a challenging and stressful process, especially for women entrepreneurs who may face specific challenges and biases in obtaining financing. Below are some alternative funding options for women-owned businesses that can help meet their financial needs and support their business endeavors.

Small Business Loans

One of the most conventional methods for obtaining funds is through small business loans. Traditional lenders, such as banks and credit unions, offer a variety of loans specifically tailored for small businesses. Given that small business loans are not typically issued for a predefined purpose, entrepreneurs can utilize these funds for start-up costs, working capital, business expansion, or any other business-related expense.

Women entrepreneurs should consider applying for small business loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) programs designed to support women-owned businesses. The SBA aims to create more opportunities for women entrepreneurs by providing them access to capital, federal contracts, and networks of mentors and consultants.

Women-Owned Business Loan Programs

There are several loan programs tailored to women-owned businesses that can provide funding to qualified applicants. Some examples of such programs include:

1. SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program: This initiative provides women entrepreneurs with funding and resources to help them win federal contracts through a competitive set-aside process.

2. National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO): NAWBO is a membership-based organization that provides networking, mentorship, and educational opportunities for women entrepreneurs. It also offers access to various loan programs and financial resources through its partnerships with banks and financial institutions.

3. Small Business Administration (SBA) 7(a) Loan Program: The 7(a) loan program is the SBA’s most popular loan program and is designed specifically for start-ups and small businesses with limited access to other financing options. Women entrepreneurs looking for funding may consider applying for an SBA 7(a) loan, which can be used for a variety of purposes, such as purchasing equipment, working capital, or refinancing debt.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a relatively new and popular method of acquiring funds for business ventures. Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow entrepreneurs to present their business ideas and projects to the public, who can choose to make financial contributions in exchange for rewards, equity, or simply to support the cause. Crowdfunding can be an excellent alternative source of funding, as it allows entrepreneurs to bypass traditional financing methods and tap into their network and beyond for support.

For women-owned businesses, crowdfunding can be an even more attractive option, as research has shown that women tend to perform better than men in crowdfunding campaigns. According to a report by the crowdfunding platform PwC, women-led projects have a 32% higher success rate compared to men, indicating that women entrepreneurs can benefit significantly from this approach.

Angel Investors and Venture Capital

Angel investors, high net worth individuals or groups that provide monetary support for start-ups in exchange for equity or debt, can be another funding option for women entrepreneurs. Similarly, venture capital firms invest in early-stage companies with high growth potential, offering financial support and guidance in exchange for equity.

Female-Focused Investment Firms

Women-owned businesses may also want to explore female-focused investment firms that target their investments and support towards women-led companies. Some examples of such firms include:

1. Female Founders Fund: This venture capital firm invests exclusively in women-led start-ups in the technology sector, aiming to bridge the gender gap in tech entrepreneurship.

2. Golden Seeds: Golden Seeds provides financing to women-led businesses across various sectors, including technology, health care, and consumer products. The firm emphasizes diversity and gender equality while providing mentoring and networking opportunities for its portfolio companies.

Incubators and Accelerators

Incubators and accelerators offer comprehensive support for start-ups and early-stage companies by providing not only funding but also mentorship, office space, and resources to help businesses grow. Women entrepreneurs should explore incubator and accelerator programs that focus on women-owned businesses or have a track record of supporting diversity and inclusion in their portfolios.

Examples of such programs include:

1. Women’s Startup Lab: This accelerator program aims to empower female entrepreneurs by providing them with mentorship, access to capital, and resources needed to scale their businesses.

2. Springboard Enterprises: Springboard is a non-profit organization that offers accelerator programs, mentorship, and access to funding opportunities for women-led businesses in the technology and life sciences sectors.

By exploring and utilizing these alternative funding options, women entrepreneurs can overcome traditional financing barriers and find the support they need to build and scale their businesses successfully.

Case Studies and Success Stories

Examples of Women-Owned Businesses That Received Grants

There are numerous examples of successful women-owned businesses that have received grants to help further their goals and grow their operations. These case studies demonstrate the vast potential for women-run enterprises to thrive with the right financial support.

  1. GoldieBlox: Debbie Sterling, an engineer and entrepreneur, founded GoldieBlox, a company focused on creating toys that encourage young girls to learn about engineering and STEM subjects. GoldieBlox received a $100,000 grant from the Small Business Administration (SBA) in 2013. This funding allowed the company to scale its operations and expand its reach, with its products now available in over 6,000 stores worldwide.

  2. Sword & Plough: Sisters Emily and Betsy Núñez co-founded Sword & Plough, an innovative social enterprise that repurposes military surplus materials into fashionable bags and accessories while also providing job opportunities for veterans. In 2017, their company was awarded a $25,000 FedEx Small Business Grant, which helped them improve their e-commerce platform and invest in new product lines.

  3. LuminAID: Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork, architects, and entrepreneurs, founded LuminAID, a company that designs solar-powered inflatable lights for disaster relief and outdoor recreation. They were awarded a $100,000 grant from the Chase Mission Main Street Grants program in 2014. The grant helped the company expand its product line, resulting in significant growth and increased market presence.

Impact of Grants on Business Growth

Securing grants can positively impact a business’s growth, longevity, and stability in various ways. Some of these impacts include:

  1. Financial Security: Grants, unlike loans, do not need to be repaid, providing businesses with a financial cushion without incurring debt. This financial security can help businesses invest in growth initiatives or contingencies, without the burden of loan repayments.

  2. Increased Visibility: Receiving grant awards can raise a business’s profile, leading to increased awareness about their products or services. This heightened visibility could generate new customers, strategic partnerships, and additional investment opportunities.

  3. Hiring and Job Creation: Funding obtained from grants can be used to hire new employees, creating new job opportunities and contributing to business growth. A larger workforce can help improve efficiency, increase productivity, and better serve customers.

  4. Expansion of Product Lines and Services: Grants can help businesses develop new products or expand existing lines, increasing market share and revenue. This diversification can strengthen a business’s long-term strategy and improve its bottom line.

  5. Technological Investment: Grant funding can also enable businesses to invest in innovative technology, enabling them to stay competitive, increase operational efficiency, and potentially disrupt their respective industries.

Advice from Successful Female Entrepreneurs

Successful female entrepreneurs who have secured grants for their businesses often share valuable advice to help other women-led startups achieve similar success. Some of this advice includes:

  1. Research Available Grants: There are countless grant programs available to women-owned businesses, each with different eligibility criteria and requirements. It is essential to research what grants align with your business’s goals and objectives to target your applications strategically.

  2. Tell a Compelling Story: Grant applications often require entrepreneurs to explain why their business is unique and deserving of funding. Be sure to paint vivid, succinct, and compelling narratives about your business, its impact, and how grant funding would help you achieve success.

  3. Focus on Building Relationships: Many successful grant applicants credit their strong network and relationships as being fundamental in securing funding. Attend networking events, reach out to potential mentors, and engage with grant program administrators to build relationships that can support your business growth.

  4. Stay Organized: Securing grants can be a time-consuming process, with several deadlines for application submissions and reporting requirements. Develop a calendar with due dates and keep track of important milestones for each grant program to avoid missing critical deadlines.

  5. Don’t Give Up: It’s not uncommon for businesses to apply for multiple grants before successfully securing funding. Stay persistent, use rejection as an opportunity to learn, and continue refining your grant applications and strategies.

Grants for Women-Owned Businesses — FAQ

1. What types of grants are available for women-owned businesses?

Women entrepreneurs can apply for various types of grants like government grants, regional grants, private or corporate-sector grants, non-profit organizations grants, and women-focused business grants. These grants offer funding to support different aspects of women-owned businesses.

2. How do women business owners apply for grants?

Applicants must research and identify suitable grant opportunities for their business. Next, they should read the eligibility criteria and application instructions. Applications typically require business plans, documentation, and financial statements. Timely submissions, with accurate and complete information, increase the likelihood of receiving funding.

3. What are some examples of grants specifically for women-owned businesses?

Amber Grants for Women, Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant, Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, and the Open Meadows Foundation are some examples of grants targeting female entrepreneurs. These programs aim to empower women business owners by providing financial support for their ventures.

4. Can women-owned businesses qualify for Small Business Administration (SBA) grants?

Yes, women-owned businesses can qualify for Small Business Administration grants. The SBA offers various funding programs specifically for women entrepreneurs, like the Women’s Business Centers (WBC) and the Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO). These programs assist women in starting and growing their businesses.

5. Are there grants for women-owned businesses in specific industries?

Certain grants target specific industries, such as technology, agriculture, education, and green businesses. Women entrepreneurs in these fields can apply for specialized grants that provide funding and resources tailored to the needs of their particular industry.

6. Can new women-owned businesses access grants to start up?

Yes, new women-owned businesses can access startup grants. Many programs and organizations offer grants to start a business or to support early-stage businesses owned by women. These grants typically require detailed business plans outlining the company’s objectives and revenue projections.

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About the author 

Mike Vestil

Mike Vestil is the author of the Lazy Man's Guide To Living The Good Life. He also has a YouTube channel with over 700,000 subscribers where he talks about personal development and personal finance.

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