Small Business

The Ultimate Guide- Small Business Grants for Women in 2020

two women small business owners looking for grants on the laptop

In a world where women receive a mere 10% of venture capital, grants are a critical source of business funding for female founders and entrepreneurs.

Grants can be even better than traditional bank loans or credit cards.

They’re practically free money that you don’t need to pay back.

But with the benefit of grants for small businesses comes the expected competition for them. Even before COVID-19, competition for small business was fierce. However, if you keep track of all the funding opportunities available, do your research, and understand your business inside and out, you’ll have a higher chance of securing funding.

We’ve taken the time to identify the 14 best small business grants for women. If you’re seeking funding, be sure to follow this guide with everything you need, and tips for applying. We’ve also included several extensive databases that provide additional resources and grant options. Finally, we’ve also highlighted grant resources explicitly for Canadian women-owned businesses.

Available Small Business Grants for Women:

Since Covid-19, the small business funding landscape has changed dramatically. That’s why it’s critical to educate yourself on the available options. This section covers grants with recurring monthly due dates, approaching due dates, and grant opportunities with no due dates.

1. Amber Grant

The Amber Grant provides 12 opportunities a year for women entrepreneurs to fund their dreams. The foundation was started in 1998 to honor Amber’s legacy, who passed at the age of 19 without realizing her dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Every month, a different project is selected for a $2,000 grant. Each of these businesses is also eligible to receive the $25,000 annual grant. The application fee is a reasonable $15, and women can easily apply online each month.

Eligibility:

  • Fill out the easy application form, which includes the following two questions:
    • Tell us about your business or business idea.
    • Tell us what you would do with the money if awarded a grant.
 

Deadline: At the end of every month.

2. National Association for the Self-Employed

The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) is a nonprofit trade organization dedicated to helping small businesses. All grant applicants must be a NASE member. There are currently five memberships you can choose from- all of which include unique resources, discounts to business tools and software, and access to experts. Starting at just 11.95 USD, you can access the monthly $4,000 growth grant to support your business’s growth needs.

Eligibility:

  • A NASE Subscription starts at $11.95 for a monthly subscription.
  • All monthly subscriptions must be a member for at least three months before applying (annual subscriptions can apply immediately)
  • See the selection criteria here.
 

Deadline:

  • Grant applications are reviewed quarterly.
  • Completed applications received in October, November, and December will be reviewed in January of the following year.
  • See the full schedule here.

3. Tory Burch’s THE FELLOWS PROGRAM

After experiencing challenges in growing her business and securing funding in 2009, Tory Burch founded the Fellows Program to help women-owned small businesses. Only 50 women entrepreneurs will be selected to join the year-long program. The program’s initiatives include access to educational resources and workshops from Goldman Sachs, networking opportunities within an invaluable community of founders through a premier online networking platform, and a $5000 grant.

Eligibility:

  • A woman-identifying entrepreneur who owns either a majority stake (51% or more) in a qualifying business – or – the largest or equal stake in a qualifying business that is 100% owned and controlled by women
  • 21 years or older as of the application due date (November 12, 2020)
  • A legal resident of the United States
  • Generate revenue (minimum of $75,000 strongly preferred)
  • See the full application criteria here.

 

Deadline: November 12, 2020, 11:59 PM (EST)

4. Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant

Eileen Fisher is probably best known for her contributions to the world of fashion, but did you know about her passion for supporting women-owned businesses? Every year, through the program, the company gives out ten grants with a maximum of $10,000 per grant to women-owned businesses that have moved past the startup stage. Applicants can come from multiple industries- they have to make a positive difference in the environment. You can find out more about the guidelines for the Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant and the status of the program here.

Deadline: The EILEEN FISHER Community Partnerships Grant program is suspended as of January 2020.

5. Girlboss Foundation Grant

The Girlboss Foundation Grant was founded by the original Nasty Gal herself, Sophia Amoruso, back in 2014. The program was popular for female entrepreneurs focusing on creative businesses in music, fashion, design, and the arts. That’s because grant recipients received $15,000 toward their business and added exposure on the Girlboss platform. Since 2014, the program has given out $130,000 worth of grants.

Currently, there are no updates on the website for the grant. The last funded round was in 2019. However, you can still access valuable resources when you sign up for Girlboss’s Network and newsletter.

Eligibility:

  • United States residency
  • 18 years or older by the time of application
  • Ideal candidates should demonstrate financial need, plus innovation and creativity

6. 37 Angels

37 Angels is a venture capital fund that strives to close the gender gap in startup funding. Seeking VC funding is an excellent option for growing companies with revenue between $50K-500K. Applicants can apply any time through Gust. Securing VC funding is hard, and it’s no different for 37 Angels. Only 8 out of 500 applicants every two months will get the opportunity to pitch in-person for a chance to receive funding from $50K-$200K. You can learn more about the process here.

Eligibility:

  • Impressive teams in attractive markets
  • Traction with at least six months of customer data.
  • See what 37 Angels looks for here.
 
Deadline: Every two months, eight applicants are chosen to pitch their investors. After the pitch, you’ll hear back within four weeks.

7. SBA Loans and Online Invoice Factoring

While these aren’t necessarily small business grants for women, they can still provide valuable funding sources for startups looking to get an influx of cash. SBA (Small Business Administration) Loans are specifically developed for small businesses of all shapes and sizes.

There are still plenty of alternative financing options around for those who are having a difficult time qualifying for an SBA Loan or don’t have time to wait for grants to become available. Women entrepreneurs can get funding through online invoice financing in as little as 24 hours. Cash flow is the number reason why most startups fail. That’s why it’s critical to have a cash flow strategy. One of the best sources for cash flow is tied up in account receivables. Learn how invoice financing allows business owners to access the capital they need to grow their business here.

Eligibility:

  • Small business who invoices larger customers with an invoice value of $5K+
 

Deadline: None. Get a funding decision in one day.

8. Union Bank Business Diversity Lending Program

Unlike grants, you’ll have to pay back the funding you receive from Union Bank. Union Bank is committed to empowering  woman-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses. The program offers many options, including secured or unsecured amounts of up to $2.5 million with fixed or variable rates.

Eligibility:

  • Businesses in operation two years or more
  • At least fifty-one percent (51%) owned, operated, controlled, and actively managed by a woman, minority2, or veteran3 (including any combination of the three)
  • US citizen
  • Annual sales of less than $20 million
 

Deadline: none

9. The Halstead Grant

This grant for female entrepreneurs in the jewelry industry has been around for 13 years. The grant is designed for businesses less than three years old. This qualification makes it perfect for startups! Winners get a $7,500 grant and another $1,000 they can use on Halstead supplies. Even better, all applicants can still receive advice on their business plan to continue developing as entrepreneurs.

Eligibility:

  • Must be a student or professional jewelry designer
  • Must intend to pursue a full-time career in metal jewelry design
  • Must have a cohesive collection of metal jewelry for resale
  • Must have a line that includes significant sterling or fine silver elements
  • Must intend to sell at a national level
  • Must have started selling jewelry after January 1, 2016
  • Must not exceed three submissions
  • Must be a US citizen or have a Permanent Resident (Green) Card
  • Fill out the application, which includes a business plan here
 

Deadline: August 1st each year.

10. FedEx Small Business Grant

The FedEx Small Business Grant is available to both men and women small business owners. Still, this is an excellent opportunity for women-owned businesses focusing on innovation, sustainability, and products serving niche and underserved markets. The 8th annual FedEx Small Business Grant Contest has ended with more than 4,000 applicants. However, you can sign up for FedEx E-mail and be among the first to hear the next entry period dates.

The winner of the 2020 Grand prize received $50,000, but that’s not all. They also received $7,500 in FedEx Office print and business services. This can go a long way to cutting down on monthly expenses and reaching more customers.

The Silver prize winner received $30,000 and $5,000 in FedEx services, and the remaining ten successful applicants were rewarded $15,500 and an additional $1,000 for FedEx services.

Deadline: Not announced yet.

11. Open Meadows Foundation

Are you a female entrepreneur that’s passionate about a cause and wants to make a difference? The Open Meadows Foundation might be perfect for you. The organization offers grants for projects backed by women promoting economic, gender, and racial justice. These grants are tailored for projects with budgets of $75,000 or less, making them perfect for early-stage startups. Interested women are encouraged to apply for the $2,000 grant online.

Eligibility:

  • * Are designed and implemented by women and girls;
  • * Reflect the diversity of the community served by the project in both its leadership and organization;
  • * Promote building community power; and
  • * Have limited financial access.

 

Deadline: Open Meadows Foundation is currently not accepting new applications. Stay tuned for any program updates on their website.

12. Cartier Women's Initiative Award

That’s right. This is that Cartier. As in, the legendary jewelry brand. But Cartier does much more than create stunning jewelry and watches. The Cartier Women’s Initiative Award is given out once a year to 21 women entrepreneurs. Seven of the top finalists will be awarded USD$100,000, while the other 14 will receive $30,000 each. All finalists will get personalized business and financial coaching, along with workshops and networking sessions.

Eligibility:

  • Must be for-profit
  • Early-stage between 1-5 years of licensed/registered operation
  • Generate revenue for at least one year before applying
  • A commitment of up to 4 hours/week for ten months + a 2-week in-person training
  • See here for more details.

Deadline: Applications were closed on July 2020 for the 2021 edition. The next call for applications can be postponed till spring 2022.

12. Local Grants in Your Area

It’s important to remember the grants available right in your backyard. There are all kinds of grants offered by local and state organizations, along with other valuable resources. Be sure to talk to banks and other institutions near you to learn what might be around. You could be surprised by what you find.

Small Business Grant Databases for Women

1. Grants.gov

GrantsforWomen is an excellent resource for women across multiple industries. You can find all sorts of scholarships, funding networks, grants, fellowships, venture capitalists, and programs for women in education, business, and non-for-profit. Just identify the best opportunity for you and apply!

2. IdeaCafe Grant

IdeaCafe has been a valuable online hub for entrepreneurs and small business owners since 1995. Every year, IdeaCafe gives out a $1,000 micro-grant to a deserving small business owner. This grant is available to everyone and can be a great launching pad for entrepreneurs in their business’s early stages.

3. Women's Business Centers

Women’s Business Centers are an incredible resource for female entrepreneurs across the United States. With almost 100 centers located throughout the country, these SBA-sponsored organizations help women find small business loans and grants and lend money themselves. Be sure to find a Women’s Business Center near you and make use of all of your available resources.

4. Women's Business Centers

GrantsforWomen is an excellent resource for women across multiple industries. You can find all sorts of scholarships, funding networks, grants, fellowships, venture capitalists, and programs for women in education, business, and non-for-profit. Just identify the best opportunity for you and apply!

Top 10 Tips for Writing a Successful Grant Application:​

1) Follow the guidelines and step-by-step process and make sure you are eligible!

2) Put yourself in the reader’s shoes.

Assume that the reader knows nothing about your business or industry. Reduce jargon or unnecessary vocabulary in your writing.

3) Focus on why your solution solves a problem- not the how!

Assume that the reader knows nothing about your business or industry. Reduce jargon or unnecessary vocabulary in your writing.

4) Make sure you have a strong why and communicate it in a way that grabs the readers' attention.

Readers want to be inspired by your mission. If you haven’t already, watch this TedTalk by Simon Sinek.

5) Go through business matrix exercises.

If you’ve already created a business plan, chances are, you’ve come across these popular frameworks. Getting these frameworks accurate the first time is difficult. We suggest asking the right people to look over your business plan and matrix. Even if you don’t have to include a business plan in your grant proposal, you should still go through these exercises to better understand your business and environment.

6) Triple check your finances

Make sure your budget matches your proposal and timeline. It’s easy to be overly ambitious, but most grant applications fall flat when there is a misalignment in budget and goals.

7) Focus on how you can pull it off.

Highlight your strengths! Emphasize your team talent, competitive advantage, customer loyalty, so on, and so forth.

8) Be clear, realistic, and transparent.

Turn your goals into S.M.A.R.T goals—the more realistic and sound your proposal, the higher your chances of success.

9) Be concise.

Every sentence should be important and impactful. Most grant readers go through hundreds of applications a day. Make sure you stand out by focusing on what’s important.

10) Proofread thoroughly

Get feedback from people you trust or, better yet, ask grant editors or previous successful grant winners for review.

Small Business Grants for Canadian Women-Owned Businesses:

Shopify’s COVID-19 government relief program resources around the world: Government Relief Programs for Small Businesses Affected by COVID-19.


Government of Canada’s resource page:
Funding for businesswomen

 

Ontario Business Grant’s comprehensive list: Female Entrepreneur Grants (2020): 18 Current Programs for Women-Owned Businesses

 

MieiIQ’s comprehensive blog post on funding opportunities for women: Small Business Loans and Grants for Women in Canada Blog

Intuit’s Canadian government funding resource: Where to Find Government Funding for Women Entrepreneurs

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