Grants for women

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    Chris Godfrey

    Page written by Chris Godfrey. Last reviewed on May 14, 2024. Next review due October 1, 2025.

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    Small business grants can be an excellent way for female entrepreneurs to fund their business ambitions. Unlike commercial loans, grants are free money – they do not need to be repaid – and credit scores and many of the usual requirements of commercial lending do not apply.

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      How do I qualify for a small-business grant?

      Female business owners seeking grant funding should expect a lengthy application process, typically needing to meet strict guidelines, timelines and other qualifying criteria. Additionally, they should be aware that competition for this type of funding is often fierce and even if they do qualify, the award sum may be small, requiring them to seek additional finance. 

      Many business grants are tied to specific goals – entrepreneurial, educational, creative and motivational – and selection committees have full control of the award process and the sums distributed. As well as meeting each program’s rules of eligibility, you will usually need a strong business plan that includes a feasibility study and an indication of how you will keep your venture going in the post-grant period.

      Which business grants for women are there?

      There are many types of business grants for women. Award sums, qualifying criteria and selection committee objectives vary from source to source.

      Amber grants

      The WomensNet Amber Grants awards multiple grants per year to women wishing to start or grow their own business. $10,000 is offered monthly in three separate categories (total of $30,000 per month available). Participants who win a monthly prize also automatically qualify for the draw for an annual $25,000 award – with three prizes available, one for each award category. 

      You can apply for any of these grants by completing an online application and paying a $15 entrance fee.

      IFundWomen Grant

      IFundWomen is a grant marketplace that matches funding and coaching for women-owned businesses to enterprise grant partners such as Visa, Unilever, Diageo, Adidas and American Express. You complete one application and let the program match your needs to available grants in their database. If your business is a match, you’ll receive a notification and invitation to apply. 

      National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE)

      The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) provides business growth grants of up to $4,000 to members. Since 2006, nearly $1,000,000 has been awarded, with grants used for marketing, advertising, hiring employees, expanding facilities and other specific business needs. All minorities may apply, but you must be a member of NASE to participate. (Membership fees may be applicable).

      Freed Fellowship Grant

      The Freed Fellowship offers monthly $500 grants to people of color and female business owners. Applicants also receive two months of free business mentoring in the Freed Studio virtual community and may win an additional $2,500 grant at the end of the year.

      HerRise Micro-Grant

      Aiming to bridge the financial gap in funding for early-stage Black female entrepreneurs, the HerRise MicroGrant provides a monthly award of $1,000 to businesses that aim to positively impact their community. To qualify, your business must be at least 51% owned by women of color, be based in the US and have revenues of less than $1 million.

      Galaxy Grant

      Galaxy Grants aim to support female and minority entrepreneurs to build a successful business. Sponsored by Hidden Star, a non-profit organization, the grant program provides a $2,750 award to the winning participant. Application is fast and easy – one simple form is all you need to complete.

      The Halstead Grant

      Provided by Halstead Bead – an Arizona jewelry materials supplier – the Halstead Grant is an annual award for emerging silvery jewelry artists of any gender. Applicants submit answers to 15 business questions plus their design portfolios. The experience is designed to help jewelry entrepreneurs create a strategy to kick start their careers. The grand prize is a $7,500 grant plus other benefits. Other finalists receive $1,000 plus a $250 Halstead gift card. 

      Cartier Women’s Initiative

      The Cartier Women’s Initiative is an annual international entrepreneurship program. Open to women-run and women-owned businesses from any country, the program supports organizations that have a strong and sustainable social or environmental impact. Every year the Initiative provides grant funding to three businesses from each of nine global regions – including North America. They also provide six more awards to businesses that are driving innovation in science and technology and empowering diversity, equality and inclusion. 

      Grants vary from $100,000 to $30,000. Winners also receive executive coaching and the opportunity to participate in a variety of training workshops.

      Corporate Counsel Women of Color Grant Program

      The Corporate Counsel Women of Color Grant Program equips female Black and brown entrepreneurs with the tools to compete in the 21st century marketplace – awarding small business grants to individual applicants who are women of color business owners. The Counsel provides five grants of $2,500 each per year, with award winners announced every January. 

      To qualify, your business must be a legal for-profit entity, be based in the US and have generated more than $25,000 in revenues since 01 January 2020.

      Enthuse Foundation

      The Enthuse Foundation offers a series of financial grants to support entrepreneurs on their business journey. In 2023, the Foundation awarded ten businesses with grants worth $2,500 each. Applications for their next round of funding begin in March 2024.

      Fearless Strivers Grant

      The Fearless Strivers Grant supports Black female entrepreneurs, providing grants, technology and mentoring to help them grow their businesses. To be eligible, your organization must be at least 51% Black woman-owned, have revenues of more than $50,000 and be registered and operating in the US. In 2023, the program awarded $20,000 to each of four competition winners. 

      High Five Grant for Moms

      Sponsored by The MamaLadder, the High Five Grant scheme claims to be the world’s longest running grant program for mom business owners. In 2023 they awarded $38,500 in grants to 24 deserving mom entrepreneurs with prizes varying from $5,000 to $1,000, To qualify for an award you must be a women caregiver with children (of any age), own at least 50% of a for-profit business and can verify your business revenues for the past 12 months. 

      Backing the B.A.R. Grant

      Backing the B.A.R. is a cooperation between NAACP and Bacardi, awarding over $350,000 in acceleration grants, education, support, and entrepreneurship solutions for Black-owned bars, restaurants, nightclubs, lounges, liquor stores, and small businesses in the process of applying for a liquor license. Open to Black female business owners with a liquor license or real liquor license aspirations, grantees may receive a grant of $10,000 to support their business for the future. To qualify, your business must be at least 51% Black-owned.

      Beyond Open Small Business Grant

      The Beyond Open Small Business Grant Program is a competitive small business program focused on diverse-owned small businesses – veterans, minorities, women, LGBTQ+ individuals and individuals with disabilities. Over three rounds, $15 million in grants are awarded per year, with dozens of businesses winning awards starting at $10,000. Winners use the funds to buy capital assets such as equipment, technology and real estate. To be eligible, your business must be based in Charlotte, NC.

      Tips for applying for business grants for women

      1. Check your eligibility – applying for business grants can be very time consuming, and every program will have its own unique terms and conditions. Before you take the plunge, do your homework to make sure you meet the program’s rules of eligibility.
      2. Follow the program instructions – ensure your application is complete and that you provide any necessary documentation. If you need a strong business plan and cannot produce one yourself, it may be worth hiring a service to do this for you. Pay attention to deadlines. Grant programs often roll out in stages. Make sure you don’t miss a stage date and get your application rejected.
      3. Focus on your audience – your application will be reviewed by an adjudicator who does not know you or your business. Have you given them all the information about your company that they need to make a clear decision? Make sure your presentation is complete and puts your application in the best light whilst simultaneously being feasible.
      4. Check and check again – before you submit your application, ensure it is free of typos and grammatical errors. Poorly written applications can be a turnoff for some reviewers. If you can, ask someone else to proofread your application too – get a second opinion.

      What other financing options are there for women-owned businesses?

      There are more ways than one for female business owners to fund their operation. Business loans can fill the gap if your grant award is too small or if your grant application was not approved:

      Term loans

      The most common type of commercial loan. Borrow up to $5 million. You receive a single, lump-sum cash injection and then pay it back in regular instalments over a fixed period of up to 25 years. Collateral may be required.

      Business line of credit

      A business loan that functions like a high-value credit card. Withdraw as much as you want when you want from a loan facility up to the limit of your borrowing. Interest rates are usually fixed, and you may repay on a set or flexible schedule. Collateral may be required.

      Invoice financing

      Also known as account receivables financing. Borrow against the value of your unpaid invoices. The lender will usually provide up to 95% of the invoice value within a few days or even hours of the bill being raised.  Your invoices act as security for the loan, no added collateral required.

      Equipment financing

      Equipment loans use the asset you’re financing as security – so no added collateral is required. You use the equipment as you pay for it and the lender maintains a lien on the machinery. Once you pay the loan back, the lender releases the lien, and you own the equipment outright. 

      SBA loans

      For small and medium-sized veteran-owned businesses, an SBA 7a loan, SBA express loan or SBA microloan may provide the financing you need: 

      • SBA 7a loans

      SBA 7a business loans are backed by the US Government up to 85% of loan value and can provide up to $5million to qualifying borrowers with repayment terms as long as 25 years. SBA loans usually come with much lower interest rates and fees than other commercial lending, but meeting the SBA’s strict rules of eligibility can be tough. Borrowers will typically need to have been in business for at least four years and have annual revenues over $180,000. Your personal credit score must be at least 680. Collateral may be required.

      • SBA express loan

      SBA express loans are a faster alternative to the standard 7a loan program. Offered by the same pool of lenders, express loans can give female entrepreneurs up to $500,000 to support their business and you will usually get a ‘yes/no’ indication within 36 hours of making your application. Note that interest rates and fees are typically higher with express loans than their 7a counterparts. Collateral may be required.

      • SBA microloans 

      Nonprofit and community-based lenders can provide SBA Microloans to women who may struggle to secure standard business financing. Available up to $50,000, SBA microloans also come with more relaxed qualifying rules and can usually be secured with FICO scores as low as 500, or even with no credit score at all. Be aware that these type of business loans often require a personal guarantee that makes you personally responsible for the debt.

      Get started with Swoop

      Working with business finance experts can make all the difference when applying for grant funding. Contact Swoop to discuss your borrowing needs, get help with your application and to compare top quality grants and business loans for women from a choice of providers. Give your business the boost it deserves. Register with Swoop today.

      Written by

      Chris Godfrey

      Chris is a freelance copywriter and content creator. He has been active in the marketing, advertising, and publishing industries for more than twenty-five years. Writing for Wells Fargo Bank, Visa, Experian, Ebay, Flywire, insurers and pension funds, his words have appeared online and in print to inform, entertain and explain the complex world of US consumer and business finance.

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