9 Best Small Business Grants for Women

9 Best Small Business Grants for Women

Grant money is highly desirable for any female-owned business looking to grow, start a new product, or even get their first small business off the ground. Because grants are free money and don’t have to be paid back, there is a lot of competition to get them. Women have opportunities to apply for grants that the larger population may not, however, thanks to some programs designed specifically for this demographic. Unlike loans and credit cards, which need to be paid back, grants are ideal for anyone on a budget, but you’ll need to work hard to find, apply for, and be awarded these payouts.

Grants pop up all the time, sometimes just for a short window. Start with these eight top resources to find legitimate grants that are likely to be around for a while. (Offerings change, however, so don’t be surprised if some have run out of funds or closed up altogether. Some may be replaced by new grant programs, as well.)

Business Grants for Women

1. Grants.gov

The first place you should look before hitting up random, limited-time grants or loans is the government. While there aren’t too many free money programs out there specifically designed to give money to women, there are some programs that women are more likely to qualify for, and some have set aside cash just for women and minorities.

The Grants.gov website lists about every federal program available, from farming to manufacturing to education, so starting here ensures you can whittle down the vast scope of options to just those that apply to you. It’s much easier than searching for federal programs one by one. They even have a mobile app that lets you search quickly and easily by phone or tablet.

Note that many of the opportunities are for small businesses, so you’ll need to have a company to qualify. Additionally, the applications for these opportunities will ask for you DUNS (a 9-digit number that you can get for free from the System Award Management site.) It can take a couple of business days to get this number issues, so start here before seriously narrowing down grant opportunities.

2. Girlboss Foundation

This grant program gives biannual awards of $15,000 plus promotion through the Girlboss website and platform to its recipients. The program has already ended for this round, but check back on their website for updates for when they will be open to submissions again. The program has given out over $130,000 since it started awarding grants in 2014!

3. U.S. Small Business Administration

While the SBA doesn’t give out much money exclusively to women, their database of subsidiaries across the country is an excellent resource for women hoping to expand their business. Just search the site, making sure to select “Women’s Business Center” from the filter. You’ll see which of the organizations in your area are designed to help women, specifically, meet their business goals. Some of the resources offered are geographically-focused, so this is a great way to see grant opportunities for women that aren’t widely advertised nationwide.

4. Amber Grant

Awarded annually to 12 women, the smaller $2,000 grants are given out before these same dozen women go on to compete for the final award: $25,000! The Amber grant requires a $25 fee to apply, which is something you’ll have to decide if it’s worth. With awards given out since 1998, however, this is a long-term program that’s been recognized by organizations such a Michigan State University. Applications close at the end of each March, with the finalists picked at the end of every year.

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5. AAUW Community Action Grants

If you own a non-profit or lead an initiative that empowers girls and women in your community, you could be eligible for one of these grants from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Programs that promote education and equity for women and girls are supported through this program, and “special consideration is given to projects focused on K–12 and community college girls’ and women’s achievements in science, technology, engineering, or math.” Grants are for one or two years, and over $3.9 million was awarded to over 250 women and organizations in the last round of funding.

6. Nav Small Business Grant

While not exclusively for women, the quarterly Nav Small Business Grant is a great opportunity for a small business looking for a boost. The grand prize is $10,000, and the application doesn’t take much time at all.

7. USDA

Farming grants and subsidies can be found through the Grants.gov website listed above, but if you’re an ag business, you might find it valuable to skip right to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) resources listed on their website. Women and minority-owned farms and ranches have resources set aside specifically to help them succeed. These programs are mostly loan programs, at the moment, but grants do come up from time to time.

8. Cartier Women’s Initiative

While closed for the 2019 season, applications open up again in June. This international grant opportunity gives women-owned, for-profit businesses from anywhere in the world a chance to get between $30,000 – $100,000 in money for their business in the initial phase of development. The application is lengthy, but the potential rewards are great. Winners also get a trip to the conference, mentoring, and ongoing support of their business, worth far more than the tens of thousands of dollars in prize money!

9. The Halstead Grant

Silver jewelers take note of this opportunity to get an annual prize of $7,500 in start-up capital and $1,000 in merchandise from Halstead Bead. Promotion within the industry has also helped winners achieve the next level in their business. The application closes on August 1st each year. To apply, answer 15 questions about your business and submit your best jewelry work from your portfolio.

Other Resources

There may be many more grants at the state and local level, so get connected with your local chamber of commerce, SCORE, or other entrepreneurial organization in your are to stay informed of the details of new initiative as they develop. Also, don’t forget to look at grant opportunities that are open to everyone, not just women. Big competitions like the FedEx Small Business contest have regularly awarded money to female entrepreneurs, and the odds are good that many of the winners will be women again this year. Put your best foot forward, and get your name in the running for every open opportunity to have the best chance at getting the grant money you need to grow your business.

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