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- Female entrepreneurs often face more challenges than male entrepreneurs when accessing business funding
- Grants specifically targeting businesses owned by women can provide valuable funding
- State and local agencies can be another source of funding and grants for women-owned businesses
In 2019, women-owned firms employed over 10 million workers and grew the country’s workforce by 28 percent, according to the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) 2022 Annual Report.
Despite their many contributions, female entrepreneurs still face more hurdles compared to male entrepreneurs when it comes to accessing funding.
Business grants present an opportunity to level the playing field. And with many agencies, corporations and organizations creating grants specifically for women entrepreneurs, they can get the financial support necessary for their businesses to thrive.
Here’s a look at 17 small business grants for women and additional resources to help you start or grow your business.
Federal small business grants for women
This site is a database of federal grants. You can narrow your search by those available to small businesses. Keep an eye out for grants from the Small Business Innovation Research Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program, two SBA programs. While results are not exclusively for women-owned enterprises, this can be a great starting point to cast a wide net and see what is available. To apply, your business must meet size standards established by the SBA.
Private small business grants for women
If you’re looking to apply for a grant, private organizations are often the most direct way to acquire funding. Privately funded grants are sponsored by foundations, companies, and private individuals, and many seek women as applicants. Here are some of the small business grants for women available through private organizations.
1. Amber grants
These monthly awards are named for entrepreneur Amber Wigdahl, who passed away at age 19 before realizing her business dreams. Amber grants include monthly $10,000 prizes, with two $25,000 end-of-year awards given to previous monthly winners.
Applicants for Amber grants must complete an application outlining their business and goals. The $15 application fee may be paid using a credit card or PayPal account. An advisory board selects award recipients. Applicants are automatically eligible for other grants administered by WomensNet.
2. IFundWomen Grant
IFundWomen is an online marketplace where women entrepreneurs can seek funding for their businesses. The database includes multiple grant opportunities with varying criteria, funding amounts and deadlines. Using the business’s information and partner’s grant criteria, the system determines which grants a business is eligible for and sends a notification to the business owner.
The Universal Grant Application is always open. When grants become available, you will be notified if your business matches the funding organization’s criteria.
3. National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE)
NASE grants are available to all small business owners, not just women. Applicants must be members in good standing of this organization. The Growth Grants awarded range up to $4,000 per business. Grants cannot be used to pay debts, rent or mortgages; recipients should document how they use the funds.
Applicants must provide a business plan and a statement of grant use. Members may apply online after logging in on the NASE website. Grant applications are reviewed quarterly, depending on when the application is received. Applications received in:
- January through March will be reviewed in April
- April through June will be reviewed in July
- July through September will be reviewed in October
- October through December will be reviewed in January
4. Freed Fellowship Grant
Freed Fellowship offers the chance for applicants to get $500 in funding alongside free mentorship as well as entrance into a $2,500 end-of-year giveaway. The organizer will review your application and choose recipients that adeptly describe their business’s unique selling point in the market as well as how it generates revenue.
Award recipients also get a one-year free membership to the Freed Studio, a community of small businesses that encourage each other in their processes and strategies.
Both men and women are eligible to apply for the grant, which awards business owners monthly. You can enter through its online application by answering questions about your business.
5. HerRise Micro-Grant
The HerRise Micro-Grant is offered by the Yva Jourdan Foundation, a HerSuiteSpot non-profit. Through this organization, donors and sponsors contribute money to women of color entrepreneurs needing capital, coaching and community. Every month, a $1,000 micro-grant is awarded to one female business owner of color. Past recipients have used grants to purchase business equipment, marketing, website creation and more.
To apply, complete the application by the last day of the month. You’ll also need to submit your business plan and pitch.
6. Atomic Grant
The Passion Collective, a community built to encourage professional women to rediscover their passion and purpose, awards its Atomic Grant to women entrepreneurs passionate about changing their lives and the lives of others. Each winner receives a $1,500 grant, coaching and a free year subscription to Passion Collective On Demand, which includes access to all virtual and in-person events, coaching sessions, private networking and more.
Grants are awarded quarterly, with December 15, 2023, as the final deadline for this year. Applicants must sign up for a free Passion Collective account before completing an application online, where they will be asked to discuss why they want the Atomic Grant and the impact it will have on their lives.
7. You Glow Girl Woman Entrepreneur Grant
The You Glow Girl Women Entrepreneur Grant is offered by Eat Me Guilt Free, a line of health food products. Created in 2021, the program supports one female entrepreneur in expanding her business by providing her a $10,000 grant. Additional prizes include a one-year supply of Eat Me Guilt Free items, mentoring from Cristie Besu, founder and CEO of Eat Me Guilt Free, and a physical health and wellness product.
The grant application period opens on October 19, 2023.
8. Galaxy Grant
The Galaxy Grant is a program launched by the nonprofit Hidden Star. The program’s focus is to ensure the success of women or minority entrepreneurs by awarding the winner a $2,500 grant. When referring a friend, your chances of winning are doubled since you also win if your friend wins.
The Galaxy Grant is currently accepting applications until December 16, 2023. You can enter by filling out its online entry form.
9. The Halstead Grant
The Halstead Grant is available to designers making silver jewelry, awarding one outstanding recipient each year. The grant is designed to boost jewelry makers’ career trajectories. The grand prize winner receives $7,500 in grant funding, and they get featured on The Halstead Grant website. All finalists receive a cash award as well as a Halstead gift card.
Applicants will answer questions about their business in The Halstead Grant’s online application. Applications are accepted at any time, with the final deadline for that year’s award landing on May 1.
10. Cartier Women’s Initiative
Women selected to receive a regional award from Cartier Women’s Initiative can see large-dollar capital funding of up to $100,000 and enjoy other kinds of support, including media exposure, access to an exclusive network of other women entrepreneurs and intensive training programs.
To be eligible, businesses must be owned by women, for-profit in nature, generating revenue and in early-stage development (years one to six of operations). Other eligibility criteria are listed here.
Applicants submit a resume, pitch deck, business registration document and a one-minute video. Women are selected annually from nine regions worldwide to participate in the Cartier Women’s Initiative fellowship program. Awards are made in spring. Applications for the 2023 awards are now closed. The next call for applications opens May 22, 2023, and submissions must be received by July 3, 2024.
11. Women of Color Grant Program
The Tory Burch Foundation offers capital funding for small businesses, including in partnership with the Fearless Fund for Black women small business owners. Up to 75 grants are awarded annually with the Fearless Fund and range from $10,000 to $20,000. To qualify, businesses should be one to five years old and generate at least $100,000 in annual revenue.
Capital programs for women entrepreneurs are available online, with details and a “funding finder” tool available on the foundation’s website. Fearless Fund applications for 2023 are closed, so check back in 2024.
12. Enthuse Foundation
Designed to support women entrepreneurs in the food, beverage or CPG industry, the Enthuse Foundation awards a $10,000 grand prize and a $5,000 runner prize. Winners also receive marketing support from Enthuse to help grow their businesses. To be eligible, businesses must be at least 51 percent women-owned and have been in operation for less than four years. In addition, revenue cannot exceed $500,000.
To enter, you must complete a contest entry form providing information about your company and its marketing strategy, target audience and biggest challenge. To compete for the next round of grants, check back in March 2024 to see application timelines.
13. Fearless Strivers Grant
In collaboration with MasterCard, the Fearless Fund created the Fearless Strivers Grant to improve access to venture capital funding for small businesses. Four black women-owned small businesses will each receive a $20,000 grant, as well as digital tools and mentorship to encourage the growth of their business. Businesses with annual revenue of $3 million or less are eligible to apply.
Applications are accepted online during four separate entry periods, with one winner selected for each period. The application period is now closed for 2023, so check back to see when new applications will be accepted.
14. High Five Grant for Moms
The Mama Ladder, in partnership with Proof, Belly Bandit and Caden Concepts, launched the High Five Grant for Moms in 2018. The goal was to create an opportunity for women business owners who are caregivers, including stepmoms, first-time expecting moms and foster moms, to secure funding to grow and expand their businesses. To date, $32,000 has been awarded, and an additional $40,000 in grants will be awarded this year. Eight small businesses will be selected, and the public will vote on the top three winners, who will receive a $10,000, $5,000 or $2,500 grant.
Applications can be completed online via The Mama Ladder website. Currently, applications are closed for 2023, so check back in 2024 to see when the organizer is accepting new applications.
15. Backing the B.A.R. Grant
In an effort to support Black-owned businesses operating in the hospitality, sales and beverage alcohol service industries, the NAACP and Bacardi are offering the Backing the B.A.R. Grant. To date, this initiative has awarded more than $350,000 in grants, support, education, support and entrepreneurship solutions. Black female owners of bars, lounges, restaurants, liquor stores and nightclubs receive a $10,000 grant, mentorship and educational support to help them grow their businesses.
The 2023 application period closed on July 30. Check back for future application dates. A Hello Alice account is needed to apply.
16. Comcast Rise Grant
The Comcast Rise Grant is part of an initiative launched by Comcast to support the growth of small businesses focused on diversity, inclusion and community investment by awarding 500 grants, each totaling $5,000, to 100 businesses in five cities. Winners also receive business consultative services and mentoring, educational resources, creative media services and a technology makeover. Businesses must have been in operation for at least three years and have no more than 100 part-time or full-time employees. Note that certain types of businesses are ineligible, including nonprofits and tobacco/vape retailers or manufacturers.
The 2023 application period has closed. Check back for the 2024 application periods.
17. Beyond Open Small Business Grant
The Beyond Open Small Business Grant provides capital to businesses owned by a woman, minority, veteran, LGBTQ+ individual or persons with a disability that is located within Charlotte’s Corridors of Opportunity. Administered by FFTC Partners for Empowering Communities (FPEC) and supported by the Wells Fargo Open for Business Fund, this specific program has the goal of awarding a total of $15 million in grants, $5 million per round, with Round 2 winners receiving between $10,000 to $150,000 per grant. Funds can be used to cover the cost of inventory, real estate, equipment and technology, but they cannot be used to cover the business’s operational expenses.
Round 2’s application period closed in August 2023. Applications for Round 3 are set to open in 2024.
Additional resources for women
Because the federal grant application process is so competitive, you may find applying for funds through state and local agencies to be more approachable.
1. State chambers of commerce
Your state chamber of commerce likely has grant funding opportunities available and may even earmark some of these funds for minority business owners, including women. In addition, these organizations are interested in growing local businesses, so building a relationship with them is a good way to explore other funding opportunities.
2. Women’s Business Centers
The SBA supports more than 100 Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) nationwide. These community organizations exist to help women develop and grow small businesses. Because women continue to face unique challenges when securing small business funding, these centers provide counseling, business training, federal contacts and more.
Your nearest WBC can connect you with local opportunities best suited to your business. To search for a center closest to your zip code, visit the SBA location finder and narrow your search to Women’s Business Centers.
SCORE is a nonprofit organization and SBA partner that provides education and mentoring to small business owners. Business owners can participate in free training, and workshops focused on the many aspects of owning a small business. They can also match with a mentor who will guide them on their journey through entrepreneurship.
Community Development Financial Institutions are focused on promoting economic development in underserved communities. The CDFI designation is provided following the receipt of a certificate from the CDFI Fund, which is managed by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Since CDFIs offer products and services to business owners who may not be approved for funding through traditional financial institutions, many business owners in low-income communities can get the funding they need to cover their business expenses. This includes:
Alternatives to small business grants
Grants are a competitive funding option, so not every small business that applies will be awarded funds. Luckily, there are alternatives you can consider. Although they require repayment, funds are guaranteed if you qualify and are approved.
- Business loans: Business loans are available through banks, credit unions and online lenders and offer funding of up to $5 million for a variety of purposes, including growth and expansion or the purchase of inventory, equipment or real estate. With this option, businesses can establish and build credit, but the available loan amounts, interest rates and fees are determined by lenders, so the overall cost will vary.
- Business credit cards: Small business credit cards function similarly to personal credit cards, allowing businesses to make purchases, track expenses and build credit. Businesses can spend up to the limit and pay off the balance in full to avoid paying interest. Most cards offer rewards and perks, but interest rates can be high with this funding option, and a personal guarantee may be required from the business owner.
- Business lines of credit: By providing a predetermined amount of funds that a business can access as needed, business lines of credit help businesses better manage daily expenses. It operates like a revolving credit account, allowing businesses to borrow, repay and reuse funds. With interest-only payments and lower interest rates compared to credit cards, businesses can keep borrowing costs low.
- Microloans: Microloans, often available through the SBA and nonprofit organizations, provide small-scale funding to businesses. These loans typically range from $500 to $50,000 and can be used to start or expand a business or cover various expenses.
Small business grants are a powerful tool for business owners looking to grow and expand without the added stress of paying funds back with interest. If you can wait for funding and have a compelling business model or story, grant funding can be a great way to get operations off the ground.
Once you have chosen a grant, understand the eligibility requirements before applying. These funds often come with specific rules and qualifications.
Frequently asked questions
Grants for women-owned businesses offer one avenue for female entrepreneurs to obtain funding. Other ways female entrepreneurs can seek funding include business loans, lines of credit and microloans.
Every small business grant has its own requirements, which the funding organization determines. Some organizations may only require an application, while others may require an application, interview and presentation.
Disadvantages of grants include limited availability and intense competition. Additionally, grants do not help build business credit and may not cover the full funding needs.