How to Find a Grant for Your Woman-Owned Business

Trouble getting a bank loan? A grant can help bridge the gaps.
woman-ownedgrant
Grants may be an option for aspiring female entrepreneurs in need of funding. (Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

Cyndi Lauper may think “girls just want to have fun,” but in reality, many own and also want to own businesses. According to the National Women’s Business Council, women-owned businesses now comprise 36 percent of businesses in the United States. These businesses contribute significantly to the U.S. economy, generating more than $1.4 trillion in sales and employing more than 8 million people.

The challenge with any startup is funding it. Landing a small business bank loan is no easy feat these days, and it may be even harder on average for women. A grant is another option. Here are a few places women-preneurs can find grants for their small business.

Related: How to Raise Capital Without a Bank Loan

InnovateHER

Crystal Arrendondo, chair of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Development board for the National Association of Women Business Owners, suggested starting your grant search with the Small Business Administration Office of Women’s Business Ownership — specifically, the InnovateHER annual business challenge. This competitive grant starts with a series of local competitions, with a final, national round for 10 finalists. Prizes for the top three award winners total $70,000.

Additionally, the SBA’s network of nearly 100 Women’s Business Centers across the United States can help you find state and local grant opportunities.

The Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant

eileen fisher

Eileen Fisher’s Women-Owned Business Grant has been awarding grants to companies since 2004. (Photo: Matt Dunham/Flickr)

One of the more established grants for women business owners is from women’s apparel company Eileen Fisher. The brand has been awarding grants since 2004 to “majority women-owned and women-led” companies in support of female entrepreneurship. The Women-Owned Businesses grants award $100,000 for up to 10 grant recipients each year. Explore the list of recent grantees to see where the money tends to go.

Zions Bank Smart Women Grants

Zions Bank, based in Utah and Idaho, gives out $3,000 Smart Women Grants annually in six categories including business, community development and continuing education. Grants are awarded to a small business that promote “the empowerment of women or directly benefits women or low-income or underserved populations in Utah and Idaho.”

Amber Grant

The Amber Grant was started in 1998 by WomensNet.net to honor the memory of an aspiring young female entrepreneur named Amber who died at age 19. Each month, a $500 Qualifying Grant is awarded by WomensNet, and one of the 12 monthly winners can win an additional $1,000 grant at the end of the year.

Open Meadows Foundation

The Open Meadows Foundation offers grants under $2,000 to projects that are that are led by and benefit women and girls in vulnerable communities. According to its website, the group’s funding priority is “encouraging leadership in women and/or girls.” Thus only organizations and projects that have women and girls as the primary leaders and implementers can apply.

The Halstead Grant

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The Halstead Grant is available to jewelry designers and offers cash rewards in start-up capital. (Photo: Dragon Images/Shutterstock

If you’re an emerging jewelry designer, this grant, open to jewelry designers of any gender, may be a good one for you. The Halstead Grant provides grants to jewelry designers working primarily in silver. The top 10 finalists receive cash awards ranging from $250 to $6,000 in startup capital and merchandise as well as recognition in the industry.

SBIR and STTR research grants

Grants are most often awarded to non-commercial organizations. But some for-profit businesses can secure certain grants by participating in community initiatives with local nonprofits or by partnering with nonprofit research institutions. The Small Business Administration facilitates many grant opportunities through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

“These two competitive programs ultimately provide grants to small businesses that contribute to federal research and development,” explained Arrendondo. Check out the SBIR website for a list of opportunities.

FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

As part of their own corporate social initiatives, many larger companies will sometimes provide grants to smaller businesses. For instance the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest awards 10 businesses with up to $25,000 in grant money and $7,500 in FedEx Office® print and business services.

“FedEx was once a small business as well, so we understand the entrepreneur mindset,” FedEx marketing advisor Kelli Martin told NCR Silver. Any U.S. based small business with fewer than 99 employees and at least six months continuous operation can apply.

So ladies, sharpen your pencils, crank up some Cyndi Lauper or Shania Twain and get to working on those grant applications.

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