The U.S. has more than 12 million women-owned businesses that generate $1.8 trillion a year, according to Fundera. It’s time for you to turn your dreams into reality and join the 1,800 female entrepreneurs who start a business every day. If you need funding, we have 15 small business grants for women you can apply for today.
Funding Women in Small Business
Creating your own business as a female entrepreneur is not without its challenges. Some obstacles faced by women-owned businesses include:
Balancing family and business obligations
Being taken seriously by male counterparts
Receiving funding for their business
According to Fundera, the most positive trend for women business owners was the ability to obtain equal funding as men at a lower cost, across all loan categories. Women entrepreneurs requested just 65 percent of the amount that men requested. Despite this, both genders received similar amounts of financing.
This trend has definitely improved over time. There are now plenty of resources to help women deal with funding issues when launching a business. One of the best ways to get funding as a female entrepreneur is to apply for small business and entrepreneur grants. A grant is money that is given to a person or business from the government, private businesses and other organizations. Grants do not require repayment of any kind.
The 15 Best Small Business Grants for Women
There are plenty of small business grants for women that may allow you to receive funding and get your business started. Here are the top 15 places to find small business grants for women starting a new venture.
Grants.gov: This is a federally sponsored grant database, which includes grants for small businesses. It was established in 2002 as part of the President's Management Agenda, and the website centralizes more than 1,000 different grant programs. To apply, you’ll need to visit the website and check out the section on grant applicants to see if you are eligible. You may need to sort through different options to find those that are the most relevant to your small business.
GrantsForWomen.org: This is a comprehensive resource of grants for women. They have a directory that lists all the organizations and foundations (in alphabetical order) that offer grant funding to women, which makes it easy for you to browse and find the best opportunity to apply to. The site provides a quick overview of each opportunity, a link for direct access, and the amount of funding offered for each grant.
Amber Grant Foundation: WomensNet founded the Amber Grant Foundation in 1998 to honor the memory of Amber Wigdahl, who died at just 19 years old before realizing her business dreams. Today, WomensNet gives away two $10,000 grants every month in Amber Grant money. Each of those monthly winners is then eligible for one of two year-end grants of $25,000 each. In order to apply, you simply need to fill out the application and tell the foundation about yourself and your business dream.
FedEx Small Business Grant: The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest is a grant program by FedEx to award U.S.-based small businesses with grants to help them grow and scale their business. Since 2012, they have awarded more than $1.5 million in cash and prizes to small businesses. This grant may be good to put in your back pocket once your business is up and running: to be eligible, you must operate a for-profit business with fewer than 99 employees and have at least six months of operating history.
IFundWomen: IFW provides a range of fundraising options for women-owned businesses. They provide support through crowdfunding, business grants and working capital loans. Additionally, they provide coaching, support and networking opportunities for female entrepreneurs.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA): The SBA works with different organizations to provide federal grants and funding for certain small businesses. It also offers Women Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program grants to women veterans and military spouses.
America’s Seed Fund: America’s Seed Fund is provided through the SBA and offers grants through two main channels: The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. If your female-owned business is developing new technologies, the government can provide funding to bring your product to the marketplace.
State Trade Expansion Program (STEP): Another service offered by the SBA, STEP allows state and territory governments to provide financial awards for small businesses that are involved in export development. Your woman-owned exporting business can apply for grants to help with learning to export, getting involved in foreign trade missions, designing international marketing and more.
Veteran and community support programs: The SBA provides additional training and funding to organizations that support their communities, especially veterans. Although these may not be formal grants, the expertise and assistance they provide can be invaluable to woman- and veteran-owned businesses.
Economic Development Administration (EDA): The EDA runs a number of funding programs for U.S. entrepreneurs and local organizations. These include the American Rescue Plan, Built to Scale, Economic Recovery Corps and several others. These programs are mainly focused on startups and businesses helping to revitalize their local communities.
Challenge.gov: The Challenge.gov website lists over 30 competitions where businesses and organizations can apply to win cash prizes. These challenges cover a variety of areas including clean energy innovation, climate change mitigation, healthcare and the arts.
GrantWatch: GrantWatch has almost 30,000 different ongoing and archived grants in its database. Although the website mainly focuses on grants for nonprofits and individuals, they also have details of more than 1,000 grants for small businesses. This resource has robust searching and sorting features, including the ability to look for grants specifically made to women.
State Business Incentives Database: Many U.S. states provide funding to businesses starting within their borders. Searching through all 50 states can be very time-consuming — fortunately, the State Business Incentives Database has done a lot of the hard work for you. It lists more than 2,300 different types of business incentives, from tax credits and loans to tax exemptions and grants.
The American Association of University Women (AAUW): The AAUW is a funder of women's graduate education. This nonprofit offers Community Action Grants for one- or two-year community-based projects. Even though these grants are focused on education vs. general business ownership, if your business idea contains any activities or programs that “promote education and equity through projects focused on encouraging girls to select, before entering college, the physical sciences or engineering as a career,” you can apply. They award more than $6 million in funding each year.
The Red Backpack Fund: The Red Backpack Fund is backed by Sara Blakely, who founded Spanx. Her foundation has been dedicated to elevating and supporting women through entrepreneurship. The foundation donated $5 million to support female entrepreneurs in the wake of COVID-19 and has teamed up with GlobalGiving to establish The Red Backpack Fund. GlobalGiving is providing at least 1,000 grants of $5,000 each to female entrepreneurs in the U.S. to help alleviate the impact of the crisis.
Questions About Grants for Woman-owned Businesses
Here are some answers to FAQs on free funding for female entrepreneurs.
What Are Women's Business Grants?
A grant is money that’s provided to individuals, nonprofits and businesses without an expectation of repayment. Grants for woman-owned organizations are designed to help out female entrepreneurs in building up their businesses. These grants can be used to fund expansion, carry out research, pay employees or carry out other activities. Grants often come with a variety of requirements, and competition is fierce, so it’s important to understand exactly how each grant works.
Where Can I Apply for Women-owned Business Grants?
You can apply via many of the websites we’ve listed above. Even if you can’t apply on the website directly, you will find links to other resources, application forms and instructions to apply. It’s vital to follow the application processes exactly as written and to include any relevant supporting information. This will maximize your chances of getting a grant.