Grants can be an important way for women entrepreneurs to get funding for their small businesses. That’s because women historically have not received the venture capital funding opportunities men have. A Gusto survey found that 49% of new businesses in 2021 were founded by women (up from 28% before the Covid-19 pandemic). Yet female founders get just 2% of all US venture capital funds. So grants provide a different opportunity. The grant application can be a lot of work, but if successful, it’s free money to grow your business.
What are business grants?
Grants are a way for small business owners to receive a helping hand from larger businesses or the government.
Unlike a loan, grants don’t have to be paid back. And small business owners don’t have to share equity in their business in order to get cash from grants. Many grants are targeted towards specific groups or certain types of businesses or business owners. Receiving a grant is also an opportunity for publicity for your business and the provider of the grant.
Grant applications can take a lot of time to complete, and they can be competitive. Award criteria can be difficult to understand. Some grants have strict requirements that must be met, for example, a grant for jewelry designers who work with silver, but not gold.
Why are grants important?
For businesses seeking additional capital, grants can provide a financial boost. Grants are also regularly used to support entrepreneurs who offer innovative research and business ideas.
Types of small business grants
Many organizations provide small business grants. The three main sources are:
Government grants: There are grants available from local, state, and federal governments. Most federal grants are provided via funding to state governments. The Small Business Administration (SBA) facilitates grants to small businesses.
Corporate grants: These are grants made by companies, usually to support causes that are related to their business values. Large corporations often like to support nonprofits and entrepreneurs from their home cities. It’s likely that the corporation awarding the grant will be interested in publishing award winner details to their website or social networks.
Private grants: These types of grants are generally provided by private foundations and nonprofit organizations. They often support science and research, minority groups, and women looking for funding.
Applying for grants
Writing a grant application can be hard. Using a professional grant writer could be a worthwhile investment and point of difference for a successful application.
When planning your application, keep these things in mind:
- Make sure you meet the eligibility requirements, as some grants have strict eligibility rules.
- Understand why you need the funding so that you can make a strong case for it in your application.
- Do some research on the grant funding body. Look at previous winners and the types of previous grant winners to understand what the awarding committee looks for.
- Be realistic about your ideas and goals in your application.
- Focus on your budget to demonstrate well-thought-out ideas that are realistic and within the budget.
- Involve other stakeholders who may be able to provide letters of support.
- Set a time frame that isn’t last minute and allows for plenty of reviews.
- Submit the application early. Don’t wait until the last moment in case there are technical issues or delays.
When writing your application, keep these things in mind:
- Follow the guidelines correctly.
- Ensure that your application is detailed, specific and accurate – grant applications are reviewed carefully.
- Keep your application clear, concise, and detailed.
- If the application asks for a budget, be thorough and detail exactly how you would spend the grant money. Avoid estimates.
- Avoid jargon and industry terminology. Write using clear language and keep your sentences simple.
- Review the application several times to ensure it is error-free.
- Some grants ask you how you will measure outcomes from receiving a grant. Make your outcomes SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound).
Grants for women-owned businesses
Here are some grants that offer opportunities to women entrepreneurs. Some only accept applications at certain times of the year. (This information is subject to change.)
This grant is awarded each year to multiple women-owned for-profit businesses that focus on science and technology. The award, distributed across ten regions of the world, offers winners $100,000 for first-place, $60,000 for second-place, and $30,000 for third place. All winners and finalists receive educational support via seminars and mentoring. Applicants should be in the first five years of business.
The Tory Burch fashion brand started this foundation to support female entrepreneurs. It provides $5,000 business education grants, including workshops led by experts and a peer-to-peer support network to encourage collaboration. Fifty women are chosen annually to become fellows and receive grants.
This grant selects one female entrepreneur each month to receive a grant of $10,000. An year-end grant of $25,000 is awarded to one of the 12 monthly winners There’s also a quarterly startup grant for brand new businesses.
The Halstead Grant is for emerging silver jewelry artists. It’s designed to help jewelry entrepreneurs create a strategy to kick-start their careers. A startup grant of $7,500 is provided, as well as some smaller grants each year. Applications close at the start of May annually. Winners get expert support with their business and valuable promotional exposure as well. Applicants submit a portfolio of design work alongside their application.
Members of NASE can apply for grants of up to $4,000, which are awarded quarterly to members. Money from the grants can be used for business expenses such as marketing, advertising, hiring employees, and expanding facilities.
To be eligible for these grants, you must earn less than $5 million and use FedEx shipping for your business. Ten grants are awarded each year, and the amount awarded varies.
37 Angels is not a traditional grant provider. It invests in 10 startups each year. Every two months, eight businesses are chosen to pitch to the angel grant investors. Grants from $50,000 to $200,000 are available. They are ideal for startup businesses looking for investor capital to get established.
Grants for minority women
Minority women, including women of color, LBGTQ and immigrants, may face greater challenges than others in establishing and growing their businesses. In an article on closing the venture capital gap for entrepreneurs of color on CNBC’s make it website, Lamont Young, an executive with Citizens, said that founders of color may still face unconscious bias. And while Black founders did get $2 billion in venture capital funding in 2021, that’s miniscule compared to the $147 billion total for the year. Here are some grants for minority-owned businesses that can help them out:
SoGal provides grants for entrepreneurs who self-identify as a Black woman or a Black nonbinary entrepreneur. As part of the application, business owners must be able to present a business plan that is scalable. Grants are to the value of $10,000.
Actress Gabrielle Union of skincare company Flawless established this grant to offer Black women in the fashion, hair accessory, or skincare fields an opportunity to apply for a business grant. Three grants of $25 000 are awarded annually. The winner also receives a premium LinkedIn membership and a mentorship session. Six finalists are chosen. To apply, you must complete a video application.
The Fast Break grants are made in association with the WNBA and NBA and LegalZoom. They offer grants of $10,000 to 50 Black small business owners. To be eligible for this grant, applicants’ businesses must be registered and have been operational for at least six months.
The Catalyst Fund and Mastercard awards grants of $5000 to Black-owned businesses in eight cities around America: Atlanta, Birmingham, St Louis, Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans, Dayton and Washington D.C.
Where to find grants
You can find grants for women-owned businesses at the following places.
Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the content provided.
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