Small Business Grants for Women
According to the 2017 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express, women entrepreneurs are on the rise. In fact, the number of female-owned businesses have grown 114% over the past two decades. However, despite the increasing number of women-owned businesses, the truth is that women entrepreneurs still face unique challenges in business.
Fortunately, many organizations aim to level the playing field within the business environment by designing programs that support female-owned small businesses. These programs include funding opportunities, training, and grants.
Why There Are Small Business Grants For Women
Statistically, women are not minorities; however, they are still considered a “minority” in business because historically, they don’t share the same access to privileges and opportunities as men. The reality is that many still experience gender discrimination, stereotyping, and underestimation in the workplace. While many old laws and practices that once denied women rights and opportunities have been changed, lingering effects remain, particularly when it comes to how they’re treated in the workplace, and by the financial system.
Women continue to fight the gender pay gap, and other forms of gender discrimination. These issues exist in companies of all types, and big companies are no exception. For example, between 2010 and 2016, Microsoft’s HR department received a total of 238 complaints related to gender discrimination.
In 1963, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it illegal to pay women less than men based on their gender. One new law can’t change systemic discrimination alone, though, and despite the existence of this law, women still report earning less than their male counterparts. According to the 2017 U.S. Census Bureau, a woman earns 80.5 cents for every dollar a man earns.
The fact that women continue to experience gender-related challenges that affect their professions and businesses has given the government and private organizations reason to develop programs that award grants to deserving female entrepreneurs. The goal is to allocate grants to winning female-owned small businesses. By helping these businesses reach their potential, everyone can benefit.
Small Business Grants for Women
Historically, most grants were awarded by the government. Now, grants aren’t just federally funded as more and more organizations develop grant programs. Small business grants for women are now offered by the government, private agencies, universities, corporations, and humanitarians.
The following are some of the small business grants out there that female business owners should know. Please note that the details listed here are all correct as of the time of this writing, but they may change year to year, so definitely check each official website when applying.
The Amber Grant
The Amber Grant has been awarding grants to 12 female entrepreneurs each year since 1998. Each month, a winning female small business owner receives $10,000. At the end of the year, one of those 12 recipients earn an extra $25,000.
Cartier Women’s Initiative Award
The Cartier Women’s Initiative Award looks for “innovative & impact-driven women-led businesses.” Since 2006, the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards supports and encourages projects by female entrepreneurs. The competition is open internationally to for-profit businesses in any sector. Click here to apply.
The Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program
The Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant supports female-owned businesses who show make a positive social and environmental impact and are beyond the startup phase.
The Halstead Grant
The Halstead Grant is dedicated the emerging jewelry designers. Each summer, the Halstead Grant awards a grant of $7,500 in start-up capital and $1,000 in merchandise to a new jewelry designer who works primarily with silver. Click here to apply.
The Open Meadows Foundation
The Open Meadows Foundation aims to improve the lives of women and girls by supporting female-owned businesses. As the owner of a startup or small non-profit organization, you may be able to secure as much as $2,000.
InnovateHER provides female entrepreneurs the opportunity to showcase products and services that have the potential for commercialization. Each year, the SBA hosts a competition that awards the three top finishers with cash prizes worth $40,000, $20,000, and $10,000, respectively.
Zions Bank’s Women’s Financial Group Smart Women Grants
Applicants of the Zion Bank’s Smart Women Grant don’t need to be clients of Zions Bank; however, employees and immediate family members of the organization and its affiliates are not eligible. The program has been awarding grants to women entrepreneurs since 2005 to promote empowerment of women-owned companies.
#GIRLBOSS® Foundation Grant
The #GIRLBOSS® Foundation aims to empower female entrepreneurs within the creative community of arts, design, music, and fashion. Their grant program awards one grant biannually. Each beneficiary of the grant receives project funding of $15,000.
Resources and Databases for Small Business Grants for Women
For local and state government grant opportunities, the best place to start is Grants.gov. On Grants.gov, you can search for grants based on eligibility, category, and agency.
GrantsforWomen.org is an online guide to women grants, funding, and scholarships. You can search for grant opportunities alphabetically.
Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)
The MBDA is part of the Department of Commerce that aims to help minority business owners or minorities who wish to become entrepreneurs. The agency itself doesn’t give grants, but it does have many grant funding programs designed to help minority businesses by supporting the creation of jobs and helping them obtain contracts and capital. Each year, the MBDA organizes grant competitions funded by angel investors.
How to Apply for a Small Business Grant
Whether you are eligible for a small business grant will vary depending on the grant in question. Generally speaking, only certified women-owned business enterprises (WBE) or women-owned small businesses (WOSB) will qualify for a small business grant for women. A WBE is primarily defined as a business that is at least 51% women-owned.
Here are 5 typical steps to applying for a small business grant for women:
Get certified as a Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB).
Do your research. Learn about the various small business grants.
Identify grant programs that are a good match for your business.
Apply for the grant and submit eligibility requirements. Here is a general checklist of eligibility requirements for federal grant programs:
Active registration in the System for Award Management for the firm, available at SAM.gov
Proof of U.S. citizenship for qualifying individual(s). Note: Qualifying individual(s) include all women claiming 51% ownership
Joint Venture agreements (if applicable)
Articles of Incorporation
Copies of stock certificates (front and back)
Corporate Bylaws and any amendments
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
Operating Agreement and any amendments
Articles of Organization and any amendments
Partnership Agreement and any amendments
DBA (Doing Business As) or Trade Name Certificate
Keep track of your applications and submission statuses, and follow up.
How to get certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise
The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) is the largest certifier of business enterprises owned by women. To qualify as a women-owned small business (WOSB), the business must meet the following requirements:
At least 51% unconditionally and directly owned by women
Meet small business size standard
The woman must manage the day-to-day operations
A woman must the hold highest officer position in the company ;
This woman must work at business full-time during normal working hours.
To start self-certification as a WOSB, go to https://certify.sba.gov. Here are the steps to self-certification:
To access certify.SBA.gov, create a user account. In the certify.SBA.gov homepage select the Get Started button or click here.
Connect your business with Certify. You will need:
MPIN (from SAM.gov). Note: To access your records in certify.SBA.gov, your SAM.gov records must have an “Active” status. Changes to records in SAM.gov can take up to 72 hours to transfer to certify.SBA.gov.
The type of your business
Once logged into certify.SBA.gov, select the WOSB Problem you’re interested in by clicking “Start a new application” button.
To demonstrate your company’s eligibility as a WOSB, upload the required eligibility documents. Eligibility documents vary depending upon your company’s legal structure.
Update your company’s SAM reps and certs as a WOSB.
Note: SBA does not issue a certification letter that you have self-certified as a WOSB on the Certify site.
Consider Alternative Lenders, Too
While being awarded a grant is like winning free money, they are notoriously hard to acquire. Not only are grant programs highly competitive, they can take months to process. You could dedicate weeks to writing your grant proposal and wait months for a decision. If you fail to secure one, you’ve ultimately wasted months that could have been used to secure funding to expand your business. You may not have the luxury of time to wait this long.
Alternative lenders such as Fundbox provide credit limits of up to $100,000. You get a decision in under three minutes when you apply for credit.* The process is straightforward: connect your accounting software and bank account or just your bank account by itself to give them insight into your business.
With Fundbox, you can be eligible for up to a credit line between $1,000 to $100,000. There is no paperwork to get started. Unlike most traditional loans, you don’t need to pledge collateral in the event you are unable to pay back your business line of credit loan. There are no minimum credit score requirements or monthly income requirements. As long as your business has been operating for at least two to three months (depending on the option you chose), and you have a business bank account, you can be considered for credit.
How Fin tech is Contributing to More Equitable Access to Credit
Increasingly, modern fin tech firms are leveraging AI to make the lending process faster and potentially, fairer. At Fundbox, we're proud to be using technology that aims to improve the industry for everyone.
At Fundbox, we assess business information to give small businesses access to credit by reviewing their accounting or bank transaction data. Along with traditional credit metrics, the use of AI and machine learning means our customers receive more nuanced credit decisions. In many cases, we believe that this helps remove bias from the system, giving underserved groups such as women-owned businesses more equitable access to the funding they need to reach their potential.
*Based on the median credit decision time for Fundbox customers