Business Grants for Women: 12 Options
Business grants for women help women-owned businesses get access to capital. Unlike a business loan, grants are free money, which means that you usually don’t have to pay the money back. Applying for grants takes a lot of effort, and competition for grants is stiff — but if you’re up to the challenge, here are 12 business grants for women to consider.
12 business grants for women
According to the U.S. Census Bureau and Small Business Administration (SBA), women-owned businesses make up only about 20% of all employer firms in the U.S. Women business owners are underrepresented across demographic groups. Business grants — available from federal, state and local governments, corporations or foundations — could offer aspiring female entrepreneurs access to funding and help close the gender gap. Here are 12 business grants for women to consider — keep in mind that each has its own application dates over the year, and not all may currently be open.
Grants.gov is a central database for federal grant programs, including hundreds of grants for small businesses. Although it is not exclusively for women-owned businesses, it can be a great resource and starting point to help you find funding opportunities. To apply, you’ll need to register for a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) to do business with the federal government. From there, you can register with Grants.gov, search for available grants and apply directly through the website.
2. Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs award federal grant funding for research and development. They don’t provide funding solely for women, but part of their mission is to foster innovation and entrepreneurship among women and socially or economically marginalized groups, so they can be a great option to consider if your business does anything related to research or technology.
To be eligible for a grant, you must: have a for-profit business based in the U.S., employ no more than 500 workers and meet certain business ownership requirements. Awards can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the grant and specific project.
3. USDA Rural Business Development Grants
If you run a small business in a rural area, the Rural Business Development Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) could unlock much-needed financing. It isn’t limited to women-run businesses but certainly applies to them. The program provides funding and technical assistance for rural businesses to create quality jobs in their areas. There’s no maximum grant amount, but grants tend to range anywhere from $10,000 to $500,000.
To qualify, your business must be located in an eligible area, have fewer than 50 new workers and have less than $1 million in gross revenue.
4. National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants
As an organization that offers resources for entrepreneurs and business owners, NASE awards Growth Grants of up to $4,000 to four recipients every quarter. This could be a good option for women-owned businesses, because NASE funds can be used for all kinds of expenses related to growth and expansion, including hiring new workers, marketing your business, investing in equipment and more. To be eligible, you must be a NASE member who’s been in good standing in the three months leading up to your application. You can apply directly through the NASE website.
5. FedEx Small Business Grant Contest
FedEx hosts its annual Small Business Grant Contest to support small businesses of all kinds, including women-owned enterprises. In 2022, FedEx awarded three winners $50,000. Seven other winners received $20,000, and all recipients received FedEx Office services as a bonus.
As part of their application, small business owners must write a short profile about their business and share how they’d use the grant money. You’ll also need to upload images of your product or business. Participants are also encouraged to share a video of a short elevator pitch.
6. The Cartier Women’s Initiative
The Cartier Women’s Initiative is an annual grant competition for early-stage, women-owned businesses. To qualify for these business grants for women, your business will need to be in operation for five years or less (although there are some exceptions) and needs to be making a social impact aligned with at least one of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals.
IFundWomen is a platform that connects female business owners with a variety of funding options, including potential grant opportunities. Business owners submit their applications to a grant database. If your application is a good match for one of IFundWomen’s grant partners, you’ll be invited to apply. Grant amounts vary from partner to partner, but past awards have ranged anywhere from $2,500 to $25,000.
8. Amber Grants for women
Two $10,000 Amber Grants for women are awarded each month, and at the end of the year, two monthly grantees can win an additional $25,000 grant. There are also additional quarterly grants for nonprofits, and a marketing grant is awarded twice a year. To apply, you’ll need to fill out an application, pay a $15 fee and answer some questions about your business and what you would do with any grant money.
9. Tory Burch Foundation
The Tory Burch Foundation runs an annual fellows program for 50 woman-identifying founders of early-stage, for-profit businesses. It’s a yearlong program providing a wide range of support. That includes workshops and a $5,000 grant. The next application period will open in the fall of 2022, with the program beginning the following summer.
To qualify, you must own the largest or equal stake in a qualifying business that is majority owned and controlled by women. You must also be a legal U.S. resident, proficient in English and at least 21 years old. Minimum revenue of $75,000 is preferred.
10. Grants for Women database
This online database gathers a wide range of grants, funding opportunities and scholarships for women. You can search for opportunities alphabetically. It isn’t the most user-friendly platform, but it could uncover some worthwhile grants. Think of it as a jumping-off point to external grant sites. A little digging can point visitors to the Black Restaurant Accelerator Program — a partnership between the PepsiCo Foundation and the National Urban League that offers grants and resources to Black-owned food service companies.
11. Halstead Grant
Up-and-coming silver jewelry artists can apply for the Halstead Grant. The annual award gives a $7,500 grant every year to one lucky winner. The family-owned jewelry company also presents up to five semifinalists and finalists with $250 or $500, plus extra help to promote their businesses. Jewelry artists must share their design portfolio and complete an online application that includes a collection of business-related questions.
12. SoGal Foundation
The SoGal Foundation awards the Black Founder Startup Grant, providing grants of $10,000 or $5,000 to Black women or nonbinary entrepreneurs. Grantees also receive coaching about how to secure additional funding as their businesses grow and scale. To qualify, you must self-identify as a Black or multiracial woman or nonbinary entrepreneur and: have a legally registered business, plan to seek investor financing and have a “scalable, high-impact solution or idea.” Online applications are reviewed on a rolling basis.
Other resources for women-owned small businesses
In addition to business grants for women, female entrepreneurs can also take advantage of other resources. Here are a few alternatives to small business grants:
Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program
The Small Business Administration (SBA) runs the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program with the goal of awarding at least 5% of all federal contracting dollars to women-owned businesses. To be eligible, your business must be at least 51% women-owned and operated, and you must apply for certification through the SBA.
The SBA sets aside contracts for women who are participating in this federal contracting program, deliberately choosing industries where female-owned businesses are either disadvantaged or underrepresented. Participants in the program then vie for these contracts.
8(a) Business Development Program
The 8(a) Business Development Program is a program established by the SBA that gives minority-owned businesses the ability to compete for federal contracts. To be eligible, you must get certified through the SBA, and your business must be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens who are economically and socially disadvantaged.
Small Business Development Centers
As an extension of the SBA, Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) are local chapters that offer coaching and training to entrepreneurs. These centers can help women-owned businesses with business planning, strategy and accessing capital. You can find an SBDC near you by entering your ZIP code here.
Angel investors for women
Angel investors are entrepreneurs who invest in your business. Typically they’ll provide funding in exchange for equity — or an ownership stake in your company. They may also provide mentorship and guidance. Women can find angel investors through platforms like 37 Angels, where entrepreneurs apply for the chance to pitch their business to a network of angel investors. If the “angels” like it, they could put anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000 into your business.
Alternatives to business grants for women: Small business loans
If you’re looking for other financing options, a small business loan may be an option. They can help you cover operational expenses, grow your business or meet financial demands if you’re experiencing a cash-flow shortage.
Some options for small business loans for women include:
- Long-term business loans
- Business lines of credit
- Working capital loans
- Equipment loans
- Accounts receivable financing