If you're looking for a boost for your business, here's some good news: you may be eligible for a special selection of grants tailored to empower female entrepreneurs. These grants are highly competitive and require you to submit an application, but if you aspire to be the next leader among women in business, they offer a unique opportunity to jump-start your next venture.
Grants are funding opportunities you earn based on the merit of your business venture and the challenges you'll need to overcome to make your business successful. Almost every grant program seeks businesses that will significantly contribute to social or environmental causes. If you don't think your business will fit that criteria, you might be a better candidate for a private loan—this way, your business still gets the funding it needs.
Women are a minority among entrepreneurs, and these grants seek to level the playing field and inspire the next generation of leaders. Your business could change the world—why not let it flourish with federal, state, or private grant opportunities?
1. Federal Grant Programs
The federal government offers a host of grant opportunities for non-profits, and these grants usually come in the form of funding for state programs and initiatives. Grants.gov is a broad web portal that connects business leaders to seed funding opportunities, and there's a section dedicated specifically to small-business grants. The database is extensive, but searching for specific keywords can help you find an opportunity that suits your business venture perfectly, increasing your application's chances of success.
2. Women's Business Centers (WBCs)
The Small Business Administration (SBA) sponsors over 100 women's business centers across the US. These educational organizations are tailored specifically to the challenges women entrepreneurs face. Many of these grants prioritize women who are economically or socially disadvantaged, helping them overcome any obstacle to their businesses' success. Even when grant funding is unavailable, these centers are amazing resources for training and counseling to bring ideas to life.
3. Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)
Small Business Development Centers are much more common than WBCs; almost all states have several SBDC offices. These offices can be equally helpful in tracking down grant programs in your area and are a gold mine of useful information, expertise, and local knowledge. You can tap into this network to give your small business a big advantage, even if you don't receive funding directly.
4. Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR)
If your business plan is to innovate in your field, you could seek seed funding from the SBIR/STTR network. This program supports technological and scientific innovation that spurs the American economy.
And it explicitly seeks to sponsor female entrepreneurship—that ideal is right in the organization's mission statement. If your business venture is based in science, research, or technology, these grants are a perfect match.
5. InnovateHER Challenge 2017
The SBA-backed InnovateHER challenge is entering its third year and offers over $70,000 in funding for products and services that empower women and families everywhere. This grant is a true competition, and finalists for 2017 have already been chosen. You can put your business idea on the table for this challenge by applying to a host organization in your local area. Host organizations submit their nominees to the national board for review, and the competition is a great way to network with organizations that put women entrepreneurs first.
6. Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant
Many private businesses give back to their community in the form of grants and seed funding. As one of the premier privately funded business grants in America that specifically seeks to empower women, the Eileen Fisher grant program is highly competitive, but businesses with the right combination of female leadership and a focus on environmental and social change can receive an award of $100,000.
7. Amber Grants for Women
For smaller businesses and first-time ventures, Amber Grants for Women offers a monthly award designed to bring new ideas to life. Created to honor a young entrepreneur who passed away in 1998, this long-standing program has provided thousands of dollars in funding to women all over the United States. The program has backed everything from outdoor paddle board fitness classes to STEM curriculum for homeschooling. If your idea trends towards outside-the-box thinking, this is the grant for you.
What other opportunities have you found in your local network? Share in the comments below.
WRITTEN BYMonique Serbu