Funding your business through a grant can be challenging but also very rewarding. Since a grant is not a loan or form of credit, there is no expectation to repay it, making this one of our best tips for entrepreneurs. And with record numbers of entrepreneurs starting businesses today, many business grant programs have emerged that specifically cater to the women-owned, small-business industry. Though terms and funding amounts vary, there’s a wide selection of grant programs to apply for — meaning you have a lot of options. Read on to find out some of the best small-business grants. Also related to business formation, you can seek legal help from top formation services and registered agents, as long as you know where to look - see our reviews of Swyft Filings, BizFilings, SunDoc Filings, Inc Authority, or MyCorporation.
1. Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program
Description: Grants for women-owned businesses involved in making a positive environmental impact
How much you can get: $10,000 to $40,000
How to apply: Online at Eileen Fisher website
The Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant is one of the best-known grant programs focused on women and promoting their leadership in the business world. Since 2004, this grant program has helped women-owned companies involved in making an environmental and social impact to expand their businesses. Originally, the Eileen Fisher grant awarded $100,000 in annual grants with a maximum of $10,000 per recipient. However, beginning in 2019, the grant value has been upped to $200,000 annually, with amounts ranging from $10,000 to $40,000. Equally important, Eileen Fisher currently only has one grant program, Supporting Women in Environmental Justice. (Its prior Community Partnerships Grant program has been suspended as of January 2020.) Applications for the available grant are accepted from April 1 to April 30, 2020, with a deadline of 5 p.m. EST on April 30. To qualify, your company must align with one or more of the grant’s key points, including increasing women’s participation in decision-making; training women and girls in climate change adaptation, mitigation and advocacy; and engaging women in the sustainable economy.
2. Amber Grant
Description: Grants for women-owned businesses in honor of Amber Wigdahl who died before realizing her entrepreneurial dreams
How much you can get: $4,000 to $25,000
How to apply: Online with $15 application fee
The Amber Grant began in 1998. It was launched by WomensNet to honor the memory of a young woman, Amber Wigdahl, who died at the age of 19 before she was able to chase her entrepreneurial dreams. Since then, the Amber Grant Foundation awards 12 women-owned businesses — one per month — throughout the year. At the end of the year, one business receives the maximum award of $25,000, while the monthly awards are $4,000. Although the award amounts are on the small side, there’s no expectation of repayment. Plus, any amount can be very helpful in enabling women entrepreneurs to get their business off the ground. The deadline for applications is by the last day of the month, for each month throughout the year. Also, all business types from any industry are eligible, except nonprofit businesses.
- Description: Large database of opportunities for women, including both grants, scholarships and investment funds
- How much you can get: Varies
- How to apply: Varies
GrantsForWomen isn’t a grant program in itself. Instead, it is a massive, very useful database filled with hundreds of grant programs, scholarships and other funding sources for women entrepreneurs. You can use this database to find relevant grant, scholarship or other funding opportunities and apply to them. Take note that most organizations listed in the database are for non-business purposes; however, there are still plenty of business-oriented opportunities on the website. Each organization has its own application process and funding amounts.
4. Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards
- Description: Grant awarding 21 women entrepreneurs across the globe
- How much you can get: $30,000 to $100,000
- How to apply: Downloadable application online
The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards aims to help women entrepreneurs all across the globe who lead businesses with the potential to grow significantly in the future. The grant program receives applications and chooses 21 finalists. These finalists break down into seven laureates — one female entrepreneur per region of the globe — who receive $100,000 in award money, and 14 finalists — two-runners-up from each region — who receive $30,000. In addition to grant money, all 21 finalists are awarded a scholarship to attend the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Executive Education Programme, as well as ongoing support for future growth and development of their business. To qualify, your business must be for-profit, early-stage, generating revenue and meet at least one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals — a collection of 17 global goals set by the U.N. General Assembly. Apply online at the Cartier Women’s Initiative’s website and submit your resume, business registration documentation and a pitch deck that describes your business and the impact it is making. Applications for 2020 are closed, but submissions generally take place between June and August, and results are shared with applicants the following January.
5. The Halstead Grant
- Description: Business grant for women entrepreneurs in the jewelry industry
- How much you can get: $7,500 in startup capital, $1,000 in Halstead merchandise
- How to apply: Downloadable application online
Created in 2006, the Halstead Grant is a small-business grant program aimed at female entrepreneurs with businesses in the jewelry industry. Each summer, the Halstead Grant is awarded to up-and-coming female jewelry designers in the United States. Eligibility requirements include being a student or professional jewelry designer pursuing a full-time career in metal jewelry design, with a cohesive collection of metal jewelry for resale and a line that includes significant sterling or fine silver elements. Eligible applicants also need to be a U.S. citizen with the intention of selling on a national level. Winners are awarded a $7,500 cash grant, plus $1,000 toward Halstead jewelry supplies. One cool feature is that applicants who don’t win still receive feedback on their business plan from the grant judges. The deadline for applications is Aug.1, 2020.
6. Girlboss Foundation Grant
- Description: Semiannual grant that is awarded to women entrepreneurs pursuing creative endeavors
- How much you can get: $15,000
- How to apply: Online application, including examples of your work
Led by Sophia Amoruso, Girlboss’s mission is to redefine success for millennial women by offering the tools and connections they need to own their futures. As part of this mission, the Girlboss Foundation awards two small-business grants for women entrepreneurs — exclusively in the design, fashion, music and art industries — twice a year, with $15,000 in funding for each. Winners also gain access to media exposure through the Girlboss platform and community, plus through local and regional press. Applications are judged based on factors including creativity and innovation in the specific field, business acumen and forward planning, financial need and proposed timing, and whether the entrepreneur’s work plan and budget are achievable within the next 12 months.
- Description: Database of grants sponsored by the federal government, including ones for small businesses
- How much you can get: Varies
- How to apply: Varies
Though not exclusively for women, if you’re looking for federally sponsored grants, the best place to get started is Grants.gov. This government website hosts a database of all federal grants, including those that are specifically available for small-business owners. Visit the official government grants website and check out their section for grant applicants to see if you’re eligible. To streamline your search, the database allows you to filter all the programs by funding instrument, eligibility — for example, being a small business or nonprofit or city or county government — category and agency providing the program.
8. National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants
- Description: Grants for NASE-member, small-business owners with specific needs for funding
- How much you can get: $4,000
- How to apply: Online at NASE website
The National Association for the Self-Employed conducts a yearly grant program that is available only to its 50,000 members. You’ll have to pay $120 a year for a basic NASE membership, which offers members expertise on business taxes, strategy, law, health care, insurance and more; discounts on business products, such as business liability insurance, office supplies and accounting software; as well as a ton of additional benefits that run the gamut of small-business needs. To qualify for the NASE Growth Grants program, you must be a member and demonstrate a specific business need that could be helped by the grant. This is part of the reason the grant is only worth up to $4,000: It’s meant for certain business needs rather than funding your full business launch. Also, grant applicants must be a member in good standing for at least three months before submitting an application. Deadlines for submissions work on a quarterly basis, with applications received in January, February and March to be reviewed in April, for example. Award decisions are made the month following the review month.
9. FedEx Small Business Grant
Description: Grants for small businesses of all types
How much you can get: $15,000 to $50,000
How to apply: Online at the FedEx website
The FedEx Small Business Grant isn’t solely for women, but the company stresses that it equally distributes awards to both men and women. In total, there are 12 winners: one grand prize winner who gets $50,000, plus $7,500 in FedEx office services; one silver prize winner who gets $30,000, plus $5,000 in FedEx Office services; and 10 bronze prize winners who get $15,000 plus $1,000 in FedEx Office services. The entry period is Jan. 28 to March 2, 2020. What’s cool about this grant is that you can campaign for votes toward your application profile.
10. AAUW Community Action Grant
- Description: Grants for projects that help women and girls
- How much you can get: $2,000-$10,000
- How to apply: Online
The AAUW Community Action Grant gives funding to chosen applicants, AAUW branches, AAWU state organizations and community-based non-profits that offer "innovative programs or non-degree research projects that promote education and equity for women and girls." THe AAUW has provided community supporting the U.S. since 1972. Projects focused on K-12 education, as well as community college or STEM will receive special considerations. Both one- and two-year grants are available. Applications open August 1 and are due December 1.
11. Nav Small Business Grant
Description: Grants for entrepreneurs
How much you can get: Up to $10,000
How to apply: Facebook
Although open to entrepreneurs of all genders, the Nav grant rewards multiple winners each round, with first prize taking home a $10,000 business grant. The grant helps small businesses that are growing and could use the funds to take the next step in their growth. Applications are accepted through the Nav Facebook page. The current grant round opened July 1 and closes September 1. Winners will be announced October 1.
The Bottom Line
Tons of options are open to female entrepreneurs in cities across the nation who need business funding. Going the route of applying for a small-business grant may take more time than applying for a loan, and being selected as a winner is a major uncertainty.
However, with so many grant programs geared specifically toward women, as well as grant programs open to anyone, you should try your hand at applying if the program makes sense. The best feature of small-business grants is that they are not loans: There is no expectation of repayment, so the money is all yours for your business.