About 4 in 10 first-time entrepreneurs are women — a statistic that’s remained consistent for years, according to the Kauffman Foundation. Moreover, women-owned businesses enjoyed an average earnings growth of 27 percent, compared with 22 percent for businesses owned by men, Biz2Credit’s annual women-owned business study found.
However, the Biz2Credit study also revealed that the average loan size for women-owned businesses ($49,712) is 40 percent lower than for businesses owned by men ($83,198).
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Women entrepreneurs are often forced to look beyond traditional business loans and funding sources for money to start a business or expand operations. Business grants are often an excellent avenue to pursue.
Small business grants intended specifically for women can help them launch startups, create products, purchase buildings and more. Here are seven of the best grants for women in business. (Note: Some application deadlines may have already closed; check the grants’ websites for announcements on next year’s dates.)
37 Angels is a group of angel investors actively seeking to close the gender gap in startup investing. You can receive a potential investment of up to $200,000, as well as education and ongoing support. Eight applicants are chosen every two months to pitch their businesses to the network. Visit 37 Angels online to learn more.
The Amber Grant was created in 1998 by WomensNet to honor Amber Wigdahl, a young woman who died before she could achieve her entrepreneurial dreams. The grant awards $10,000 to three female business owners each month of the year; one of the monthly winners is awarded an additional $25,000 at the end of the year. Visit The Amber Grant online to learn more.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative Award is given annually to 21 female entrepreneurs around the world. Seven finalists receive $100,000 and individual business mentoring from an expert. The remaining 14 finalists receive $30,000. All 21 finalists get a spot in the six-day INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Programme and the opportunity to participate in workshops and seminars.
IFundWomen is a crowdfunded grant platform for female entrepreneurs. In addition to business coaching and an online community, it offers general grants and grants funded by partners with specific requirements. Visit IFundWomen online to learn more.
If you’re comparing a business loan versus crowdfunding, consider how fast you need the money, your odds of being approved for a business loan, and whether you have the marketing resources for a crowdfunding campaign.
She’s Connected by AT&T awards $20,000 to female entrepreneurs and small business owners. Winners also get a full year of service with a new device and are featured on #ShesConnected. Visit She’s Connected by AT&T online to learn more.
The Fearless Strivers Grant Initiative is funded by Mastercard and awards $20,000 to four women-owned businesses annually. It also provides mentorship and digital business tools to the winners.
According to Guidant, in 2023, 18 percent of U.S.-based women-owned businesses were new independent businesses, 29 percent were independent businesses purchased from someone else, 41 percent were new franchise operations and 11 percent were franchises bought from someone else.
The Tory Burch Foundation started in 2009 to empower women and provide them with capital, education and networking resources for their businesses. Through its Fellows Program, women can receive a $5,000 grant toward their business education, access to zero-interest loans through Kiva, a trip to the Tory Burch offices for workshops with founders and business experts, and an opportunity to pitch their business to investors. Visit the Tory Burch Foundation online to learn more.
A small business grant is money that federal, state, county or local governments or private corporations give to a business. Grants are unique in that they do not require repayment of any kind — a highly beneficial consideration for small business owners.
Grant funding can help small businesses avoid riskier or more expensive funding sources, like venture capital investments, small business loans and alternative lenders. However, applying for grants is a notoriously long and challenging process, and funding is never guaranteed. Many small businesses hire a professional grant writer to help them with the process.
There are four primary grant types available to small businesses and startup founders:
Government grants for small businesses come in three forms: federal, state and local.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is one of many government agencies that offer grants to small businesses. The SBA offers three types of business grants each year: two for businesses involved in research and development and one for businesses pursuing scientific endeavors that could be commercialized and utilized by the federal government.
The SBA also works with state governments to help local small businesses investing in export development through the State Trade Expansion Program.
The SBA also facilitates loans. SBA loans usually have flexible limits and repayment terms, as well as lower interest rates than conventional bank loans.
Minority grants cover funding for specific groups, including women, veterans, and different racial or ethnic groups. Some government agencies and private organizations offer grants specifically for female entrepreneurs and minority-led businesses. [Read related article: Top Small Business Grants for Minorities in 2023]
Outside the government, many private companies invest in entrepreneurial projects to advance their philanthropy efforts or to nurture innovative new projects they may wish to acquire or use in the future.
Generally, to obtain a corporate grant, businesses are asked to turn in portfolios, essays or business plans as part of their application. These are some examples of popular corporate grants:
Getting approved for a grant is challenging, so prepare for a lot of time and work if you decide to apply. Most grants have strict requirements or highly specific qualifications, so the hardest part is often finding grants that are well suited to you.
While the process differs according to the grant, follow these general tips to increase your approval chances:
Jennifer Dublino contributed to this article.