Finding the funding for your business isn't always an easy feat — and this is especially true for women. While U.S. Census data suggests that nearly 10 million women own businesses (which accounts for roughly 36 percent of all firms in the country), women business owners are less likely to receive funding than men.
Simply, women aren't afforded the same opportunities because of systematic sexism that plagues our workforce and disadvantages female entrepreneurs. In a study titled, We Ask Men to Win and Women Not to Lose: Closing the Gender Gap in Startup Funding, the researchers find that venture capitalists tend to ask women, “How long will it take you to break even?” and “How predictable are your future cash flows?” while they tend to ask men, “How do you plan to monetize this?” and “What major milestones are you targeting for this year?”
Almost 70 percent of men in the study were asked about their aspirations about making money for investors, while the women were asked about how they'd planned to avoid losing their investors' money.
In short: Women entrepreneurs tend to be set up for failure. And it's hard to find funding for your small business elsewhere.
That's why some organizations have actually come up with grants that they'll give to women-owned businesses, in particular. These 15 small business grants for women are helping female entrepreneurs to stem the tides.
The Eileen Fisher Environmental Justice Grant program to addresses the fact that, "globally, women and girls are the most vulnerable to climate change and hold the firsthand experience to solve it." That's why it awards $200,000 annually in amounts ranging form $10,000 to $40,000 to applicants who align with one or more of these key points:
- "Increasing women’s participation in decision-making. Nonprofits and applicable programs must be able to demonstrate how their programs lead to positive environmental outcomes in addition to improving women’s representation."
- "Training women and girls in climate change adaptation, mitigation and advocacy. Nonprofits and applicable programs must provide women and girls with knowledge, tools and access to contribute to climate change resiliency and/or advocate for improved climate change policies."
- "Engaging women in the sustainable economy. Nonprofits and applicable programs must create opportunities for women to pursue livelihoods that elevate them as leaders in environmental solutions while improving their well-being and that of the planet."
All applications must meet the following requirements, as well:
- Be an IRS-recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization*
- Provide direct services**
- Address one or more of the above key points
- Program’s mission focuses primarily on individuals who identify as female
- Executive leadership reflects the demographics of the program’s beneficiaries
- Program has been generated by and/or co-designed with the communities it serves
- Able to provide financial statements for one full year of operations
- Able to complete an application and participate in an interview in English
The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) awards grants of up to $4,000 for small business owners, like women, who are members of the NASE organization. These small business grants are useful for financing particular small business needs, such as the purchasing of everything from computers to farm equipment, to hiring part-time help, developing marketing materials, creating a business website and more.
The Idea Cafe grant awards a $1,000 microgrant for an owner of a small business like a pet store, a bakery, a clothing shop, an art gallery and more. While anyone of any gender identity can apply, the bulk of the winners tend to be women. For example, Idea Cafe's $1,000 Small Business Grant was most recently awarded Angela Pullo, the owner of Mew Haven Cat Cafe, a coffee shop with adoptable shelter cats. Before that, it went to Natalie Kyriacou, the owner of My Green World, an Australian-based social enterprise created during, and in response to, one of the most defining global events in the history of life on earth. And, before that, it was awarded to Brittany Buonocore, the owner of Flour and Salt Bakery, a bakery that brings innovative, interesting and delicious baked treats to Hamilton, NY.
For 50 years, the U.S. Economic Development Administration has been partnering up with distressed communities across the country in an ample effort to foster job creation, collaboration and, ultimately, regional innovation. That's why all Economic Development Administration grants "help to fulfill regional economic development strategies designed to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship, advance regional competitiveness, create higher-skill, living-wage jobs, generate private investment, and fortify and grow industry clusters."
Eligible applicants include but are not limited to:
- County governments
- Private institutions of higher education
- Native American tribal governments (Federally recognized)
- Public and State controlled institutions of higher education
- State governments
- Native American tribal organizations (other than Federally recognized tribal governments)
- City or township governments
- Nonprofits that do not have a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education
- Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education
- Special district governments
The FedEx Small Business Grant awards grants of up to $25,000 to small business owners who have been in operation for at least six months or more. In fact, over $778,000 has been awarded since 2013. Each year, 10 small business owners will win, and they'll join a community of other small businesses that offer peer insights. The grant is open to U.S.-based for-profit small businesses with fewer than 99 employees.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) development centers offer all kinds of grants to small business owners. You can even apply for federal grants on the go with the Grants.Gov app. The site lists almost every single federal program that's available, from education to manufacturing.
Open Meadows Foundation is a grant-giving organization with the goal to promote community diversity and power. That's why the Open Meadows Foundation supports programs that are lead by and that benefit women and girls who have limited access to funds and/or who have had challenges in their search for funds. These microgrants also go to women-led ventures that promote racial and economic justice. The maximum grant is $2,000.
Carier Women's Initiative is an international grant for women-owned, for-profit businesses anywhere across the world. Grants range from $30,000 to $100,000, and winners also get to go on a trip to the conference and they receive mentoring and a whole host of support benefits.
Each month, judges for the Amber Grant award $4,000 to a woman-owned business and, at the end of every year, they choose one $25,000 winner, as well. That means that 12 women get an Amber Grant every year, and it only requires a $25 application fee. The Amber Grant was launched by WomensNet in 1998 to honor the memory of Amber Wigdahl, who died at the young age of 19 and was unable to fulfill her entrepreneurial dreams.
The Girlboss Foundation awards $15,000 to women entrepreneurs with creative businesses twice a year. Beyond that, the Girlboss Foundation also promotes these women-owned businesses through its website. Since 2014, the program has awarded over $130,000 to women already.
11. Halstead Grant
The Halstead grant gives out $7,500 in funding and $1,000 in merchandise to emerging silver jewelry artists; most winners have been women. All you have to do to enter to win a grant is submit your answers to 15 business question in addition to your design portfolios. The deadline is August 1st each year.
The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) combined Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program that provides grants to small businesses and/or individuals who can form a small business within the required application timeline. These grants — thousands of which have been awarded across the country — are given to those who develop and commercialize new ideas and innovative research. The mission is "to lead DOE efforts to develop and deliver market-driven solutions for energy-saving homes, buildings and manufacturing; sustainable transportation; and renewable electricity generation."
The AAUW Community Action Grants provide funds to individuals, AAUW branches and AAUW state organizations, as well as local community-based nonprofit organizations. These awards are given to innovative programs or non-degree research projects that promote education and equity for women and girls. Special consideration is given to projects focused on K–12 and community college girls’ and women’s achievements in STEM. Grants are for one or two years.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.