Federal government and private grant programs give away millions of dollars in grants every year to small businesses. Some of these grants are aimed specifically at businesses owned and operated by women. If you’re a woman and currently run a small business, or have an idea for a business, it might be worth putting the time and effort into tracking down and applying for these grants
This guide reviews how to start your grant search, lists some popular small business grants for women business owners, and provides tips on how to apply for a grant once you’ve tracked one down.
Where to look for grants
Whether you’re looking for public or private funding sources, these are some good places to start your search for grant opportunities:
This is the biggest database of U.S. government grants on the internet. (Last we checked, there were over 2,300 active grants available to apply for on the site.) If you intend on applying for a federal grant, start your search here.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
The SBA is an agency of the U.S. federal government whose purpose is to help entrepreneurs and small business owners in the United States succeed. One of the primary ways that the SBA helps small businesses is by improving their access to funding—including low-interest small business loans and grants.
Be sure to check out the SBA’s grants page for information about any grants your business might be eligible for.
Your local Women’s Business Center
One specific way that the SBA supports women small business owners is through its support of a national center of women’s business centers, which offer businesses mentoring and networking opportunities, business development training, business plan development, and access to funding.
Use the SBA’s lookup tool to find an SBA-supported Women’s Business Center (WBC) near you.
Maintained by the U.S. General Services Administration, Challenge.gov is where federal agencies ask individuals and small businesses for help in solving big public problems. These “challenges” work a lot like grants, and often involve a lengthy application process, but the rewards can be great.
If your business involves technology in some way, it might be worth checking out the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which offers grants for small businesses pursuing valuable research and development. Check out the Solicitations Listing page for a list of current funding opportunities.
This site keeps an up to date list of small business grants for women that is definitely worth checking out.
The Open Society Foundations
Founded by philanthropist George Soros, the Open Society Foundations fund groups working for “justice, democratic governance, and human rights.” Check the Foundations’ grant page for an up to date list of active grants.
Specific grants to look out for
Although some of these are also aimed at nonprofit organizations, most of these grants are aimed specifically at for-profit businesses owned and run by women.
Funded by the popular women’s clothing retailer, this grant is aimed at initiatives specifically addressing environmental justice in some way. Grant amounts vary from $10,000-$40,000.
Awarded to “women entrepreneurs heading businesses with the potential to grow significantly in the years to come,” this super-competitive program awards seven grants of $100,000 each, and another fourteen grants of $30,000 each.
This program awards 100 grants of $5,000 each to women entrepreneurs, who also receive a five day trip to the Tory Burch campus in Jersey City, NJ, where ten fellows will get a chance to pitch their business to a panel of experts.
These $10,000 grants are awarded once a month by WomensNet, and each winner becomes eligible for an additional $25,000 awarded at the end of the year.
This organization’s website claims it has distributed $3.6 million in funding to 256 programs since 2002. Fill out this form to receive information about future funding opportunities.
These grants support “start-up and on-going grassroots efforts led by womxn, girls or anyone who identifies as such, that address racial, social and economic injustice.” The organization offers grants through different partners for amounts ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. You can apply through their partners here.
In addition to offering grants that range from $15,000 to $150,000 and support organizations within the Chicago metropolitan area, the Chicago Foundation for Women now also offers smaller rapid response grants of up to $7,500 to support projects outside of the Foundation’s spring and fall grant cycles. Learn more and apply here.
These grants are targeted specifically at “game changing organizations that are successfully addressing pivotal issues of reproductive health; affordable child care with living wage jobs; and fighting gender-based violence.” Visit the Ms. Foundation website to apply.
Every year, the Women Founders Network, hosts a Fast Pitch Competition. Female entrepreneurs can apply for the opportunity to pitch investors for the opportunity to win cash prizes. Finalists will still get access to a pitch coach, financial mentor, a connection to a potential investor, and feedback on their business. Applications for 2021 will run from April 1 to June 15.
Grant application tips
Want to maximize your chance of getting a grant? Consider doing the following.
Don’t waste your time on the wrong grants
Take the time to understand which grants you’re a great fit for, and throw your energy into making those applications great. If you have a feeling your business isn’t really a fit for a grant, you’ll sink hours and hours into an application that will just get tossed anyway.
Put together a business plan
Most of the grants we go over here require some kind of business plan, particularly if you’re applying for a business that doesn’t exist yet. If you’re not sure where to start, try outlining your business’ goals, how you plan to make money, how you plan to grow, and what financial resources you plan to draw upon.
Consider hiring a grant writer
If you’re busy and don’t think you’ll be able to devote the time and effort required for the grant application process, you might still be able to apply! Grant writers can be one way to get around this. For a fee and/or a percentage of the grant money, they’ll take care of the entire grant application process.