In the last decade, women-owned businesses have been on the rise. In a report commissioned by American Express Open, it was reported that since 2007, the number of businesses run by women has grown by a whopping 68 percent, increasing at 1.5 times higher than the national rate.
The funding available to support these new businesses is grossly misaligned with this growth, however. A 2014 Senate report found that of small business loans awarded, women entrepreneurs received about 4 cents on the dollar. So how does a new business owner find the funds she needs to get her new business off the ground? One option worth exploring is whether your business qualifies for a grant. There are grants available for small business owners, and many are specific to women-run businesses.
StartupNation offers some valuable advice on how to qualify for government grants that are specific to women, including how to get your business officially designated as “woman-owned,” which is necessary for some of the funding opportunities offered by the government and the SBA. Below is a list of five additional grants for women entrepreneurs that can help fund early business development.
The Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program
Each year, the Eileen Fisher Corp. awards female-owned businesses that influence positive social and environmental change with a portion of $120,000 in grants. Businesses must be established and ready to grow into their next phase of development to qualify. Up to 10 businesses may qualify annually, receiving a minimum award of $12,000 each. Businesses need to have been operating for at least 3 years with revenue not exceeding $1 million.
The InnovateHER Challenge is run by the U.S Small Business Administration and provides funds for businesses that offer a product or service that has a positive effect on women’s lives. To be considered, you must first enter and win a local challenge and move to the national semifinal round. Top three finalists nationwide will be awarded $10,000 (3rd place), $20,000 (2nd), or $40,000 (1st place). Though the contest is open to all genders, the winner will be a company that presents “innovative products and services that help impact and empower the lives of women and families.”
In 1998, Womensnet.com started the Amber Grant, in honor of a young entrepreneur who lost her life before she could realize her dream of owning a business. The grant provides $500 each month to a qualifying woman business owner, and at the end of the year, one of the monthly winners is awarded an additional $1000 to fund her business. Eligibility requirements are fairly loose, but emphasize business acumen and passion for entrepreneurship. The application also includes an area to request consideration for angel investing and mentoring services.
Open Meadows Foundation Grants
Open Meadows offers up to $2000 a year to businesses that promote gender and racial equality and have had difficulty finding operational funds. Eligible businesses’ total income may not exceed $150,000 a year. Women-owned small businesses that support women and girls from disadvantaged communities may benefit from this annual grant. Applications are due in the spring and fall of each year. Open Meadows grants are for projects that are designed by and for women and girls and promote community values.
Business Owners’ Idea Cafe
Business Owners’ Idea Cafe is a valuable tool for small business owners. They provide a variety of resources for entrepreneurs at every stage of development, from brainstorming business ideas, to sample business plans. They also offer advice on how to fund a new business and grants to help get you up and running. They just awarded their 20th-anniversary small business grant this month; applications are accepted from October to January, and winners are chosen in March. Idea Cafe’s annual grants are not specific to women, but they do offer other grants that are. They also provide information on grants that are available outside of their own organization. There is no fee or purchase required to apply for their grants, but you must join the group as a “regular” to gain access to the resources they offer on the site.
The grant opportunities listed above are legitimate resources for women entrepreneurs, but it is worth noting that there are a lot of companies offering grants whose goal is to make money, not give it away. If a fee is required to enter, or you are expected to subscribe to something to qualify, be wary and do some research before applying.
Below are a few more sites that have helpful information for funding a new business: