Just like plants need water and sunlight to grow and survive, entrepreneurs and startups need money to grow, expand and turn ideas into reality. Options are limited, although one could seek out venture capitalists or even angel investors if they’re willing to give up a certain amount of control in exchange for funding. There are also loans for those who are willing to take on debt. However, there are also grants for those willing looking for them — but unfortunately, they’re not always easy to find.
For women and minorities, it can be even more difficult. Beyond the glass ceiling, it’s not like the government is just handing out pots of free money. Nevertheless, if you know where to look, there are grants specifically for women-owned businesses. Here are some of the best places to look for small-business grants for female entrepreneurs.
Federal and State Government Grants
There are plenty of grants provided by the government, both federal as well as state/local. For example, the federal government holds annual challenges on multiple topics, including architectural design, public safety communications technology, and even reducing stormwater pollution. You can compete for these grants and more by visiting Challenge.gov.
For those living in rural areas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture also offers a Rural Business Investment Program. It’s important to note that all applicants of the RBIP, according to the website, must:
- Have relevant experience in venture capital or community development financing.
- Must raise a minimum of $10 million in private equity capital.
- Maybe structured as limited partnerships, limited liability companies or corporations.
The federal government also offers a list of state and territory business resources that can help women find grants specifically by state. Other resources exist at the federal and state level as well, and one of the best ways to check on these is to enter “small business grants” followed by the name of your state into Google and other search engines.
Private grants generally come from businesses and corporations that believe enough in a cause to give money to it. These sources include:
- Amber Grants, began in 1998, founded by Womensnet to honor the memory of a young woman named Amber who died at the age of 19, unable to fulfill her entrepreneurial dreams. They give grants for up to $2,500 annually, and Qualifying Grants of $500 monthly.
- Open Meadows Foundation is a grant-making organization that gives to projects led by women and girls. Grants of up to $2,000 are offered to those with limited financial access who are interested in building community power and reflecting the diversity of the community serviced by the project.
- Eileen Fisher’s Women-Owned Business Grant Program awards $100,000 in grants for up to 10 grant recipients, so long as their organizations: are majority women-owned and women-led, have been operating for a minimum of three years, collect annual revenue of less than $1 million, display fluency in English, and have been founded to create environmental and social change.
- GrantsForWomen.org is actually a database and directory of grants and scholarships for women. Though they truly are for women, you will find that many of these grants are for non-business purposes.
Other Resources for Women
As mentioned above, there are always other resources for entrepreneurs to rely on — and there are loans and other resources specifically designed for female entrepreneurs. Fiscal Tiger has compiled a list of noted small business loans and resources for women:
- Union Bank has a Business Diversity Lending program for businesses that are owned and actively managed by a 51 percent majority of women. The business also must have been in business for two years, annuals sales of less than $20 million, and borrowing needs of less than $2.5 million.
- Tory Burch Foundation offers financial assistance to women looking to expand their small business. They also offer a variety of educational resources to help women in business.
- The Women’s Venture Fund is dedicated to helping women turn their passion and creativity into profitable and sustainable businesses that help drive the economy. They also tend to run workshops that help women develop their business acumen.
Beyond grants and other resources, ASU Online reminds that one of the keys to women’s power in the workplace is education. While this is sometimes a heavy investment, it’s important to make sure that you understand how to do business properly, whether male or female.
Use every opportunity you can find to bolster funding and increase your chances of success, and overall, remember that you’re responsible for turning your dream into a reality. Your future truly is in your own hands.