In 2019, women-owned firms employed over 10 million workers and grew the country’s workforce by 28 percent, according to the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) 2022 Annual Report.
Despite their many contributions, female entrepreneurs still face more hurdles compared to male entrepreneurs when it comes to accessing funding.
Business grants present an opportunity to level the playing field. And with many agencies, corporations and organizations creating grants specifically for women entrepreneurs, they can get the financial support necessary for their businesses to thrive.
Here’s a look at 16 small business grants for women and additional resources to help you start or grow your business.
Federal small business grants for women
This site is a database of federal grants. You can narrow your search by those available to small businesses. Keep an eye out for grants from the Small Business Innovation Research Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program, two SBA programs. While results are not exclusively for women-owned enterprises, this can be a great starting point to cast a wide net and see what is available. To apply, your business must meet size standards established by the SBA.
To apply, you must register an account and acquire a UEI (unique entity number). Applications are submitted and processed using the Workplace platform. Find more guidance in the website’s help section.
Private small business grants for women
If you’re looking to apply for a grant, private organizations are often the most direct way to acquire funding. Privately-funded grants are sponsored by foundations, companies, and private individuals, and many seek women as applicants.
1. Amber grants
These monthly awards are named for entrepreneur Amber Wigdahl, who passed away at age 19 before realizing her business dreams. Amber grants include monthly $10,000 prizes, with two $25,000 end-of-year awards given to previous monthly winners.
Applicants for Amber grants must complete a brief, straightforward application outlining their business and goals. The $15 application fee may be paid using a credit card or Paypal account. An advisory board selects award recipients. Applicants are automatically eligible for other grants administered by WomensNet.
2. Cartier Women’s Initiative
Women selected to participate as fellows in the Cartier Women’s Initiative see large-dollar capital funding up to $100,000 and enjoy other kinds of support, including media exposure, access to an exclusive network of other women entrepreneurs and intensive training programs.
To be eligible, businesses must be owned by women, for-profit in nature, generating revenue and in early-stage development (years one to six of operations). Other eligibility criteria are listed here.
Applicants submit a resume, pitch deck, business registration document and a one-minute video. Women are selected annually from nine regions worldwide to participate in the Cartier Women’s Initiative fellowship program. Awards are made in spring.Applications are being accepted until June 30, 2023.
3. Tory Burch Foundation
The Tory Burch Foundation offers capital funding for small businesses, including in partnership with the Fearless Fund for Black women small business owners. Up to 75 grants are awarded annually with the Fearless Fund and range from $10,000 to $20,000. To qualify, businesses should be one to five years old and generate at least $100,000 in annual revenue.
Capital programs for women entrepreneurs are available online, with details and a “funding finder” tool available on the foundation’s website. Fearless Fund applications for 2023 are closed, so check back in 2024.
4. SoGal Foundation
The SoGal Foundation awards several small business grants annually, including $5,000 and $10,000 startup grants for Black female and nonbinary entrepreneurs. To qualify, you must be a Black woman or nonbinary entrepreneur. You must legally register your business and plan on seeking investor financing to scale either presently or in the future. Applicants should have the “ambition to be the next billion-dollar business.”
5. National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE)
NASE grants are available to all small business owners, not just women. Applicants must be members in good standing of this organization. The Growth Grants awarded range up to $4,000 per business. Grants cannot be used to pay debts, rent or mortgages; recipients should document how they use the funds.
Applicants must provide recent profit/loss statements, a business plan and a statement of grant use. Members may apply online after logging in on the NASE website. Grant applications are reviewed quarterly.
6. HerRise Micro-Grant
The HerRise Micro-Grant is offered by the Yva Jourdan Foundation, a HerSuiteSpot non-profit. Through this organization, donors and sponsors contribute money to women of color entrepreneurs needing capital, coaching and community. Every month, a $1,000 micro-grant is awarded to one female business owner of color. Grant funds can be used for the purchase of business equipment, marketing, website creation and more.
7. Fearless Strivers Grant
In collaboration with MasterCard, the Fearless Fund created the Fearless Strivers Grant to improve access to venture capital funding for small businesses. Four black women-owned small businesses will each receive a $20,000 grant as well as digital tools and mentorship to encourage the growth of their business. It is strongly preferred that businesses have a minimum annual revenue of $50,000, but any revenue-generating business is eligible.
8. High Five Grant for Moms
The Mama Ladder, in partnership with Proof, Belly Bandit and Caden Concepts, launched the High Five Grant for Moms in 2018. The goal was to create an opportunity for women business owners who are caregivers, including stepmoms, first-time expecting moms and foster moms, to secure funding to grow and expand their businesses. To date, $32,000 has been awarded, and an additional $40,000 in grants will be awarded this year. Eight small businesses will be selected, and the public will vote on the top three winners, who will receive a $25,000, $10,000 or $5,000 grant.
Applications can be completed online via The Mama Ladder website between September 1, 2023 and September 30, 2023.
9. Atomic Grant
The Passion Collective, a community built to encourage professional women to rediscover their passion and purpose, awards its Atomic Grant to women entrepreneurs passionate about changing their lives and the lives of others. Each winner receives a $1,500 grant, coaching and a free year subscription to Passion Collective On Demand, which includes access to all virtual and in-person events, coaching sessions, private networking and more.
Grants are awarded quarterly, with September 22, 2023 and December 15, 2023 as the final two deadlines for this year. Applicants must sign up for a free Passion Collective account before completing an application online, where they will be asked to discuss why they want the Atomic Grant and the impact it will have on their life.
10. You Glow Girl Woman Entrepreneur Grant
The You Glow Girl Women Entrepreneur Grant is offered by Eat Me Guilt Free, a line of health food products. Created in 2021, the program supports one female entrepreneur in expanding her business by providing her with a $10,000 grant. Additional prizes include a one-year supply of Eat Me Guilt Free items, mentoring from Cristie Besu, founder and CEO of Eat Me Guilt Free, and a physical health and wellness product.
11. Galaxy Grant
The Galaxy Grant is a program launched by the nonprofit Hidden Star. The program’s focus is to ensure the success of women or minority entrepreneurs by awarding the winner a $3,750 grant. When referring a friend, your chances of winning are doubled since you also win if your friend wins. Applicants will also be entered to win a 2023 Mercedes-Benz.
12. Backing the B.A.R. Grant
In an effort to support Black-owned businesses operating in the hospitality, sales and beverage alcohol service industries, the NAACP and Bacardi are offering the Backing the B.A.R. Grant. To date, this initiative has awarded more than $350,000 in grants, support, education, support and entrepreneurship solutions. This year, Black female owners of bars, lounges, restaurants, liquor stores and nightclubs have the chance to receive a $10,000 grant, mentorship and educational support to help them grow their businesses.
13. Comcast Rise Grant
The Comcast Rise Grant is part of an initiative launched by Comcast to support the growth of small businesses focused on diversity, inclusion and community investment by awarding 500 grants, each totaling $5,000, to 100 businesses in five cities. Winners also receive business consultative services and mentoring, educational resources, creative media services and a technology makeover. Businesses must have been in operation for at least three years and have no more than 100 part-time or full-time employees. Note that certain types of businesses are ineligible, including nonprofits and tobacco/vape retailers or manufacturers.
Small businesses located in Baltimore, Detroit, Memphis, Philadelphia and Portland can apply online through June 30, 2023.
14. Beyond Open Small Business Grant
The Beyond Open Small Business Grant provides capital to businesses owned by a woman, minority, veteran, LGBTQ+ individual or persons with a disability that is located within Charlotte’s Corridors of Opportunity. Administered by FFTC Partners for Empowering Communities (FPEC) and supported by the Wells Fargo Open for Business Fund, this specific program has the goal of awarding a total of $15 million in grants, $5 million per round, with Round 2 winners receiving between $10,000 to $150,000 per grant. Funds can be used to cover the cost of inventory, real estate, equipment and technology, but they cannot be used to cover the business’s operational expenses.
Businesses can submit applications for Round 2 online between August 1, 2023 and August 31, 2023. Applications for Round 3 are set to open in 2024.
15. IFundWomen Grant
IFundWomen is an online marketplace where women entrepreneurs can seek funding for their businesses. The database includes multiple grant opportunities with varying criteria, funding amounts and deadlines. Using the business’s information and partner’s grant criteria, the system determines which grants a business is eligible for and sends a notification to the business owner.
The Universal Grant Application is always open. When grants become available, you will be notified if your business matches the funding organization’s criteria.
Check back often for new and updated grant opportunities. And for more information on grants for underserved communities, check out the following guides:
Additional resources for women
Because the federal grant application process is so competitive, you may find applying for funds through state and local agencies to be more approachable.
1. State chambers of commerce
Your state chamber of commerce likely has grant funding opportunities available and may even earmark some of these funds for minority business owners, including women. In addition, these organizations are interested in growing local businesses, so building a relationship with them is a good way to explore other funding opportunities.
2. Women’s Business Centers
The SBA supports more than 100 Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) nationwide. These community organizations exist to help women develop and grow small businesses. Because women continue to face unique challenges when securing small business funding, these centers provide counseling, business training, federal contacts and more.
Your nearest WBC can connect you with local opportunities best suited to your business. To search for a center closest to your zip code, visit the SBA location finder and narrow your search to Women’s Business Centers.
SCORE is a nonprofit organization and SBA partner that provides education and mentoring to small business owners. Business owners can participate in free training and workshops focused on the many aspects of owning a small business. They can also match with a mentor who will guide them on their journey through entrepreneurship.
Community Development Financial Institutions are focused on promoting economic development in underserved communities. The CDFI designation is provided following the receipt of a certificate from the CDFI Fund, which is managed by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Since CDFIs offer products and services to business owners who may not be approved for funding through traditional financial institutions, many business owners in low-income communities can get the funding they need to cover their business expenses. This includes:
Alternatives to small business grants
Grants are a competitive funding option, so not every small business that applies will be awarded funds. Luckily, there are alternatives you can consider. Although they require repayment, funds are guaranteed if you qualify and are approved.
Business loans: Business loans are available through banks, credit unions and online lenders and offer funding of up to $5 million for a variety of purposes, including growth and expansion or the purchase of inventory, equipment or real estate. With this option, businesses can establish and build credit, but the available loan amounts, interest rates and fees are determined by lenders, so the overall cost will vary.
Business credit cards: Small business credit cards function similarly to personal credit cards, allowing businesses to make purchases, track expenses and build credit. Businesses can spend up to the limit and pay off the balance in full to avoid paying interest. Most cards offer rewards and perks, but interest rates can be high with this funding option, and a personal guarantee may be required from the business owner.
Business lines of credit: By providing a predetermined amount of funds that a business can access as needed, business lines of credit help businesses better manage daily expenses. It operates like a revolving credit account, allowing businesses to borrow, repay and reuse funds. With interest-only payments and lower interest rates compared to credit cards, businesses can keep the cost of borrowing low.
Microloans: Microloans, often available through the SBA and nonprofit organizations, provide small-scale funding to businesses. These loans typically range from $500 to $50,000 and can be used to start or expand a business or cover various expenses.
The bottom line
Small business grants are a powerful tool for business owners looking to grow and expand without the added stress of paying funds back with interest. If you can wait for funding and have a compelling business model or story, grant funding can be a great way to get operations off the ground.
Once you have chosen a grant, understand the eligibility requirements before applying. These funds often come with specific rules and qualifications.
Frequently asked questions
What is a business grant?
A business grant is free money provided by corporations and nonprofit organizations to support businesses needing funding for start-up costs, projects, initiatives or operations.
How do you qualify for a small-business grant?
Every small business grant has its own requirements, which are determined by the funding organization. Some organizations may only require an application, while others may require an application, interview and presentation.
What are the disadvantages of grants?
Disadvantages of grants include limited availability and intense competition. Additionally, grants do not help build business credit, and they may not cover the full funding needs.