Women’s Small-Business Grants: How to Find the Right Fit
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Female-run businesses are a growing economic force, and women’s small-business grants can help them grow – if you know where to look.
The number of businesses owned by women has increased over the past nine years at a rate five times the national average, according to estimates. Women are now the majority owners of 38 percent of the country’s businesses, generating more than $1.6 trillion in revenue.
But when they look to secure funding, many focus exclusively on loans, despite an increasing number of available grants. Such grants, especially those designed specifically for female-owned entities, can be tricky to find, and the application processes can be arduous.
Here are some ways you can locate and determine your eligibility for women’s small-business grants.
General Federal Resources
The federal government does not provide grants for starting and expanding a business. But two programs offer some of the largest payouts available, up to $1 million in their second year, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
If your small business is engaged in scientific research and development, it may qualify for federal grants under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Visit those sites to learn details. These are not designated specifically for women-owned businesses.
You should also leverage resources like Grants.gov, a database of all federally sponsored grants; industry trade journals; and larger non-profits (such as the YWCA) to uncover additional grants.
State, Local and Corporate Support
The SBA oversees the Women’s Business Centers (WBCs), a national network of more than 100 educational centers that help women start and grow small businesses. WBCs seek to “level the playing field” for women entrepreneurs, who still face unique obstacles in the business world. Grants are available here through state and local programs, corporations and other groups.
Grants available to female-run small businesses include:
- InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge: The SBA’s nationwide competition awards a total of $70,000. Through this challenge, the SBA seeks to help women in innovation and investment. At a minimum, you must provide a business plan covering your proposed product or service and satisfy the challenge criteria. To join, you must participate in competitions held by host organizations.
- Smart Women Grants: Each year, Zions Bank awards one $3,000 Smart Women Grant in six categories, including business. Grants are open to anyone whose proposal promotes the empowerment of women.
- Eileen Fisher: Some awards of larger amounts are available, but can be more scarce. Clothing retailer Eileen Fisher gives $100,000 each year to as many as 10 female business owners.
Mind the Details
Grant eligibility depends on a number of factors, such as your industry or mission. After you’ve found the grant that’s best suited to your business and specific goals, the real work begins.
Each grant has its own requirements, so do your due diligence and read the fine print. The application process and eligibility requirements will vary depending on the grant.
Take the following steps to set yourself up for success:
- Research not only the grant but also the grant donor to ensure your business aligns.
- Have well-written business and marketing plans.
- Create a checklist of required documents and ensure your financial records are in order.
- Develop a fact sheet, as suggested by WomenOwned.com, which includes your certifications, type of business (S-corp, LLC, etc.), officers and contact information.
As a grant applicant, chances are you’ll be up against some stiff competition.
Learn what “winning” proposals look like by exploring GrantSpace’s collection of sample documents, where you can view proposals, cover letters, letters of inquiry and proposal budgets that were all funded.
Christine Buckley, a business coach for the Washington Center for Women in Business, advises entrepreneurs to:
- Apply for grants with goals they can be sure of fulfilling to increase their chances of getting the grant the next year.
- Schedule time for grant compliance and reporting.
Get Advice, and Keep Working
If you need guidance when attempting to nail down the financial details of your business plan, reach out to an advisory firm.
Once you have that plan finalized, roll up your sleeves and start drafting your proposals. Search often, perhaps by using aggregators such as NerdWallet or WalletHub.
With so many female business owners leading the country’s economic growth, you never know when a new grant might surface. It’s up to you to stay on top of them.