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Small-Business Grants for Women: Best Options for Free Funding

From the federal government to economic development agencies, here's a list of business grants for women.
By Randa Kriss
Last updated on January 17, 2023
Edited byRyan Lane

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Business grants for women can help you grow your business for free, as opposed to small-business loans or other types of debt-based funding that you must pay back. But competition for small-business grants is fierce, and it takes considerable time and effort to win them. 
If you’re up for the challenge, though, grants can be a great way to fund your new or existing business. Here are 17 places women entrepreneurs can look for small-business grants and other free financial resources.

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Private small-business grants for women

Some private corporations and organizations offer business grants for women. Here are five to consider:

1. Amber Grant

Every month, WomensNet awards a $10,000 Amber Grant to a woman-owned business in a specific, rotating category — like health and fitness, food and beverage or animal services — and one $10,000 grant to an additional woman-owned business. On top of that, the organization awards a quarterly $10,000 grant to one startup and one nonprofit.
At the end of each year, two of the 12 general grant winners and one of the industry-specific grant winners are awarded an additional $25,000. 
The application is relatively simple: Explain your business, describe what you’d do with the grant money and pay a $15 application fee. The foundation’s advisory board chooses the winners, looking for women with passion and a good story. Businesses operating in the U.S. and Canada are eligible.
Because there’s no time in business requirement, companies seeking startup business grants for women may want to prioritize the Amber Grant.

2. IFundWomen Universal Grant Application Database

IFundWomen is a grant marketplace that specializes in funding and coaching for women-owned businesses. You can submit one application and when IFundWomen adds a grant from an enterprise partner, it will match the partner’s grant criteria to applications within the database.
If your business is a match, you’ll receive a notification and invitation to apply. Previous grant partners have included companies like Visa, Neutrogena and American Express.

3. SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant

The SoGal Foundation — along with company sponsors like Bluemercury, Twilio and others — offer startup grants to businesses owned by Black women or Black nonbinary entrepreneurs. Grants are available in amounts of either $5,000 or $10,000.
Awardees also receive fundraising advice, with a focus on investor financing, and lifetime access to the SoGal Foundation team. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, so you can apply on the SoGal website at any time.

4. Fearless Strivers Grant Contest

The Fearless Fund, in collaboration with Mastercard, offers $10,000 grants to businesses owned by Black women through the Fearless Strivers Grant Contest. The winners also receive digital tools to help them get and sustain their businesses online and one-on-one mentorship with a Mastercard small-business mentor.
The Fearless Fund runs a national grant program, as well as city-specific grant contests in Atlanta; Birmingham, Alabama; Dayton, Ohio; Los Angeles; New Orleans; New York City; and St. Louis. To qualify for this small-business grant, you must have a U.S.-based business, 50 or fewer employees and have made $3 million or less in annual revenue in the past year.

5. Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards

Every year, Cartier awards three grants to women-owned businesses in nine different regions around the world. The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards program is designed to support early-stage businesses that are focused on a range of social, economic and environmental development issues.
The first-place business is awarded a $100,000 grant, second place receives $60,000 and third place gets $30,000. Winners also receive executive coaching and the opportunity to participate in a variety of training workshops.

6. Comcast RISE

Comcast awards $10,000 grants to businesses owned by women and people of color several times per year. Each Comcast RISE Investment Fund application cycle is open to entrepreneurs in specific target cities. You can also apply for “marketing services and tech makeovers,” which don’t include cash prizes but can still help your business grow.

Additional private business grant options

Although these options aren’t specifically for women, they’re good small-business grants to consider for any entrepreneur.

7. FedEx Small Business Grant

FedEx awards up to $30,000 apiece to 10 small businesses annually. One veteran-owned business from among those 10 winners can receive an additional $20,000 from USAA Small Business Insurance. Winners also receive money to use toward FedEx Office print and business services.
The application requires an explanation of your business, how you’d use the money, photos of your business and — this part is optional — a short video explaining your business. To be eligible, you must operate a for-profit business with fewer than 99 employees and at least six months of operating history.

8. National Association for the Self-Employed Growth Grant

Every quarter, the NASE awards up to $4,000 to up to four small businesses via its growth grants. These funds can be used for a variety of business needs, including marketing, advertising and hiring employees.
To apply for this grant, you must be a NASE member in good standing for at least three months. Annual members can apply at any time.

9. Halstead Grant

The Halstead Grant is an annual award for entrepreneurs looking to break into the silver jewelry industry. The winner receives a $7,500 startup grant, as well as $1,000 in jewelry merchandise. Five finalists and semi-finalists also receive $250 or $500 and help with promoting their businesses.
Both men and women-owned businesses are eligible for this small-business grant. To apply, you must answer 15 business-related questions and submit a design portfolio. Applications are due August 1 each year.

10. Fast Break for Small Businesses

These $10,000 grants — funded by LegalZoom, the NBA, WNBA and NBA G League and managed by the Accion Opportunity Fund — are available twice a year. Winners also receive LegalZoom services worth up to $500. You can sign up on LegalZoom’s website to be notified when applications open.

Federal small-business grants for women

Some federal government grants for small-business owners are designated for specific purposes, such as research and development projects, or for businesses in rural areas. Government grants typically can’t be used for startup costs or day-to-day expenses.

11. Grants.gov

Grants.gov is a database of federally sponsored grants, including grants for small businesses. Although these grants are not exclusive to women-owned businesses, this database is a great place to start if you’re looking for free financing.
To apply, you must obtain a Unique Entity ID for your business (a 12-character alphanumeric identification number), register to do business with the U.S. government through its System for Award Management website and create an account at Grants.gov.
To view grants specifically for small businesses, filter the results on the left side of the page under “eligibility.”

12. Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs

The SBA facilitates these two competitive programs, which provide grants to small businesses that contribute to federal research and development. Eleven federal agencies — including the departments of Agriculture, Defense, and Health and Human Services — post business grant opportunities on their websites. You can search current grant opportunities on the SBIR website.
To qualify, you must operate a for-profit business with no more than 500 employees and meet other eligibility requirements.

13. Program for Investors in Microentrepreneurs (PRIME)

Although the SBA coordinates some grant programs, the agency doesn’t typically offer grant funding directly to small businesses. With the PRIME program, however, the SBA provides federal grants to microenterprise development organizations so that they can offer training, technical assistance and coaching to disadvantaged small-business owners.
These grants are available to nonprofit, private, state, local or tribal-run organizations, including those that focus on working with women-owned small businesses. The Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, for example, was awarded a $200,000 grant in 2022.

State and local small-business grants for women

Because federal small-business grants are limited in number and often very competitive, you may have better luck seeking out grants for women at the state and municipal levels. You’ll have to do your own research to pinpoint specific grant programs in your area, but here are some places to help you get started:

14. Women’s Business Centers

The SBA sponsors more than 100 Women’s Business Centers nationwide, designed to help women entrepreneurs with business development and access to capital. Some, such as the California Capital Financial Development Corp., lend money directly while others help you find small-business grants and loans that you may qualify for.

15. Economic Development Administration

Every state and many cities have economic development resources focused on promoting strong local economies. For example, New York has several economic development districts, such as the Lake Champlain - Lake George Regional Planning Board, which helps local businesses access state and federal funding.

16. Small Business Development Centers

There are hundreds of SBA-sponsored Small Business Development Centers around the country, typically housed at colleges and universities. SBDCs offer free, one-on-one business consulting, such as help with developing a business plan, researching markets and finding financing — including grants, business loans and crowdfunding.
Some SBDCs offer training on certification programs like the SBA 8(a) Business Development Program and Minority and Women Business Enterprise Certifications. These programs can help businesses level the playing field when competing in the public and private sector.

17. Minority Business Development Agency Centers

The MBDA operates a network of business centers across the country that are designed to help minority business owners access capital, secure contracts and develop financial strategies. Your local MBDA business center can work with you to identify the right financing options for your business, including federal, state and private small-business grants.
The MBDA also runs the Enterprising Women of Color Initiative, or EWOC, to support minority women in their business endeavors. The EWOC provides access to resources, events and other opportunities for women minority-owned businesses.

Alternatives to small-business grants

Finding and applying for business grants can be difficult, as well as time-consuming. If you don’t qualify for certain grants — or simply want to explore other ways to fund your women-owned business — here are some avenues to explore:
  • Best small-business loans for women: Compare SBA loans, online term loans, lines of credit, microloans and learn about other available resources for your business.
  • Crowdfunding for business: Tap into the power of the internet to raise money for your business and promote your company’s product or service.
  • Small-business credit cards: Compare dozens of cards and find the best choice for financing your everyday business purchases — and earn rewards in the process.
  • SBA microloans: Work with a nonprofit financial institution to apply for these government-backed loans, which can be a good choice for new or very small businesses.

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