Need money to grow your business? Learn about five available grants for funding women-owned businesses and where to apply.
The number of women-owned businesses is skyrocketing, and that number is expected to continue to grow. According to the 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, in the period from 2014 to 2019, the number of women-owned businesses increased by 21% for a grand total of nearly 13 million women-owned businesses, with revenue also rising 21% and totaling $1.9 trillion. Perhaps even more significantly, that same source found that the annual growth rate in the number of women-owned firms was double that of all other businesses. As of 2021, women-owned businesses employed more than 10.1 million people.
Like any startup, women-owned businesses need capital. You can go through traditional bank loans or other types of lending, but you also have a better option: grants.
Why Are Grants Important?
The reality is that even the most innovative and well-thought-out business ideas won’t come to fruition without adequate financial backing. Lack of capital can tank a start-up or prevent a sophomore business from taking off and expanding. Unfortunately, data indicates that women entrepreneurs may have difficulty qualifying for traditional small business loans, and when they do, the funding may be less generous than that received by others: according to Biz2Credit’s 2020 Women-Owned Business Study, the average amount of funding provided to women entrepreneurs is 33% less than what their non-women-owned business counterparts receive.
This is where grants come in. Instead of a traditional small business loan, which you have to pay back with interest, grants are more like gifts. If you qualify, you get the money and you don’t have to pay it back. Grant funding can be a great opportunity for women who have challenges qualifying for traditional funding and equal opportunities to compete in the entrepreneurial playing field.
Grants for Women-Owned Businesses
As we mentioned, there are lots of grants available at every level of government and in the private sector. In addition to checking out those options, make sure to take a look at these 5 grants. They’re some of the best available and if you qualify, they can make a huge difference in your business.
FEDEX SMALL BUSINESS GRANT:
FedEx awards grants of amounts of up to $50,000 to several winners of their annual contest. There are gold, silver, and bronze winners – who also receive various FedEx business products to supplement their prize winnings. Entry for the grant money requires a business plan, business description, and photos and video (optional) of your intended business goals.
THE AMBER GRANT FOUNDATION:
The Amber Grant Foundation started in 1998 with the mission of giving grants to women-owned businesses. Today, the Amber Grant Foundation offers a $10,000 grant to one women-owned business each month. At the end of the year, one of the monthly grant awardees will receive a larger grant amount (to the tune of $25,000!) to fund her business. The board selects the winners of the grant and rewards those who demonstrate both strong entrepreneurial ideas and passion for their business ideas.
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE SELF-EMPLOYED GROWTH GRANTS:
The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) is a nonprofit organization focused on providing tools and resources to entrepreneurs looking for assistance with running businesses successfully. In addition to a wide variety of members-only resources, NASE offers business development grants, called Growth Grants, of up to $4,000. These grants can be used for “marketing, advertising, hiring employees, expanding facilities and other specific business needs.”
In order to apply for a NASE growth grant, you must be a member in good standing, demonstrate that the grant could fulfill a business need, provide a detailed explanation of how you would use the grant funding and how it would increase your business success, and submit supporting documents (e.g., a business plan).
Grants.gov is the best resource available to locate government grants. The grants available through this webpage span a variety of different agencies and offer numerous opportunities. However, small business grants may be more challenging to come by through the government. Still, it is worth browsing through the available offerings in order to determine if you might qualify (and to be sure you understand the guidelines and requirements of each).
SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT CENTERS (SBDC):
It can be a little overwhelming to search through all the potential grants available to you, so the SBA has set up Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) all over the country to help you figure out what grants are available. While the SBDCs don’t actually offer grants, they do offer meetings with local advisors that have comprehensive knowledge of the grants in your area and nationally.
The Bottom Line
Loans are a classic way to fund your business, but why seek a loan when you can get a grant that you don’t have to repay? In addition, many women-owned businesses find that it’s harder for them to get traditional funding than for their male counterparts. So before you commit to a loan, consider checking out the grants available to you!