Raising working capital is a huge part of the job when starting a business. However, many women-owned businesses can run into trouble when looking for financing to fund their small business.
When loans and other financing options prove difficult, female business owners can turn to small business grants for financial help. Business grants are essentially free money that you don’t have to pay back, unlike small business loans or business credit cards, which can make these grants highly competitive.
To help female entrepreneurs succeed, many government agencies, nonprofits, and private organizations provide small business grants exclusively for women. These grants provide eligible female-owned businesses with an inflow of cash to help grow their business.
We’ve created an in-depth guide to the best small business financing opportunities for female business owners, including small business grants, financing opportunities, and resources for women in business.
Top grants for female business owners
Small business grants are important resources in helping to develop new businesses. Grants for female business owners specifically can be used to launch new businesses, compete in the marketplace, fund a business plan, support an existing business, or assist in connecting women with training and funding opportunities.
Grants.gov is a database of federally sponsored grants that are managed by the Department of Health and Human Services. The program provides a centralized location to find and apply for federal funding opportunities.
If you’re looking for federal funding, Grants.gov is a great place to start. The database is a vast resource to search for specific grants your business would be eligible for, such as small business grants and grants for women in business.
Although these grants aren’t all exclusively for female-owned businesses, it’s a great place to start when looking for free working capital through grant programs.
Benefits will vary across the different types of grants and agencies that participate, but using the Grants.gov system can make the process of applying for and receiving a federal grant faster and easier.
GrantsforWomen.org is an online platform designed to help female business owners achieve their business goals by providing them with resources to research grant and scholarship opportunities exclusively offered to women in business.
The site also offers loads of information on different types of grants and a blog highlighting newsworthy businesswomen and relevant news and events.
- Amber Grant
The Amber Grant was created by WomensNet.com to help women in business reach their entrepreneurial goals. The program awards a $10,000 grant to one qualifying woman business owner each month. On top of that, they award an additional $25,000 to one of those 12 monthly winners at the end of each year.
There is no time in business requirements for this grant, making it a great option for start-up funding. All female-owned businesses operating in the U.S. and Canada are eligible to apply.
To apply, describe your business model, what you’d do with the grant money, and a $15 application fee.
WomensNet also features resources for women-owned businesses, such as interviews with previous grant winners to help inspire and motivate female business owners.
- Cartier Women’s Initiative
The Cartier Women’s Initiative provides funding for women-owned businesses around the world. However, the business must strive to have a social, economic, or environmental impact to be considered.
The grant is awarded once a year to 21 female entrepreneurs around the globe to aid in the development of their businesses. The Cartier grant is intended to support women in the early stages of their business when they are generating revenue but are not yet profitable.
There are three tiers of financial grants available. First-place businesses are awarded a $100,000 grant, second place receives $60,000, and third place gets $30,000. Winners also receive coaching and the opportunity to participate in training workshops.
How to choose the right business grant
When researching and applying for grants, it’s important to remember that there are 3 primary types of grants available to female small business owners – Federal, State/Local, and Corporate.
- Government grants are the most extensive selection but can sometimes have a tedious application and qualification process. Typically, they also must be used for purposes other than startup costs or day-to-day expenses.
- Seeking out grants at the state and municipal levels can be a great way to find more opportunities for women in business, but you’ll have to do a lot more research to discover specific grants and programs in your area.
- Some private corporations and organizations offer business grants specifically for women. These grants tend to have more lenient qualifications than government-funded grants, making them easier to qualify for.
Many grant programs come with stipulations and specific requirements on how the funds can be used.
- Many federal research and development grants have strict requirements on how the funds may be used.
- Some programs may require you to provide updates, especially if the funds are meant to be used in a specific way.
- Other programs can require contingencies to raise additional or matching funds on your own to receive the funds.
No matter what grant program you apply for, be sure to read the guidelines carefully.
Other financing options for women-owned businesses
Finding and applying for business grants can be difficult. If your business doesn’t qualify for certain grants or you want to explore other financing options, there are many other ways that women-owned businesses can find small business financing to support their endeavors.
- SBA loans
The Small Business Administration is a government-funded entity that provides government-backed loans through partners who can distribute funds when working capital is needed. The SBA has specific programs and resources that connect women entrepreneurs with training and funding opportunities to help them launch new businesses and compete in the marketplace.
- Business credit cards
A business credit card is one of the best flexible short-term loan options for startups and small businesses to get your business off the ground while helping to build your business credit. However, it can have higher rates.
- Small business term loans
A term loan can help small businesses secure working capital with set payment amounts and dates for added flexibility. Typically a term loan has lower rates than other financing options, but it may require more upfront verification.
- Line of credit
A line of credit is a flexible funding option that allows small business owners to access working capital on an as-needed basis. Following approval, your small business will be able to access a set amount of credit which your business can draw from as needed. This option allows your business to take out working capital only when it’s necessary.
A newly popular way to source working capital for your business is through crowdfunding. Crowdfunding taps into the Internet to make your campaign easily visible to a vast network of people in hopes of gaining a good amount of exposure to your startup as you seek funding.
Resources for women in business
In addition to financial support, many organizations offer resources and other support to women-owned businesses.
Staying up to date on the current issues and trends affecting women-owned businesses is a great way to keep a pulse on the market and your competitors.
Whether you currently own a small business or are an inspiring entrepreneur, here are a couple of organizations that women business owners should consider checking out.
- National Association of Women Business Owners
The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), is a dues-based organization created to represent the interests of women entrepreneurs across all industries. This worldwide organization is a one-stop resource for women business owners to help them succeed in the economic, social, and political spheres.
- SCORE: Service Core of Retired Executives
SCORE is a volunteer organization aimed at helping women small business owners. Along with offering free resources and tools created specifically for women entrepreneurs, SCORE provides free business advice and mentoring to women small business owners.
While searching for funding as a female small business owner may seem overwhelming, the options above should give you a good place to start.
Whichever grant, small business financing option, or financing resource your business chooses to pursue, remember to conduct careful research into the eligibility requirements, be patient and don’t be afraid to ask for help.