If you’re a woman business owner looking for financing to start or grow your business, one thing you may be dreaming of (aside from winning the lottery) is getting a grant. Unlike a loan that you have to pay back, or an investment in your business that requires giving up equity, a grant is basically free money that you don’t have to pay back.
Of course, that doesn’t mean grants are “no strings attached.” In fact, most grants typically come with quite a few strings. Similar to scholarships that are given to students to help finance their educations, grants can come from a wide range of sources: from the federal government to a wealthy individual, from a small nonprofit organization to a multinational corporation. What grants all have in common is they’re designed to reward organizations that are doing something the grant-giver believes is important. A corporation with a commitment to women might give grants for women business owners, for example.
In order to get a grant, you’ll have to go through an application process; this varies depending on the grant. However, your first step is finding grants to apply for. As women entrepreneurs have become a stronger presence in the business landscape, the number of grants specifically limited to women has dwindled. However, there are still a few grant programs that focus solely on women.
1. Amber Grant
Started by Women’s net.com 20 years ago, this grant honors the memory of a young woman who died at age 19, before achieving her dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Each month, the program awards a $1,000 grant to one woman business owner; at the end of the year, one of those winners is selected to receive an additional $10,000 grant. Find out more about the Amber Grant and how to apply.
2. Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards
This grant for women entrepreneurs is open to women in the initial stages of developing their businesses. They can be based in any country, of any nationality, and operating in any industry. From seven global regions, 21 finalists in total are selected to receive personalized business coaching, entrepreneurship workshops, access to networking events, and a scholarship to attend the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship 6-Day Executive Programme (provided the business meets INSEAD’s eligibility criteria). In addition, each finalist receives prize money: Seven laureates receive $100,000 in prize money, while 14 finalists receive $30,000.
This website offers information about obtaining grants and a database of grants for women. Although the majority of the grants listed are for nonprofit organizations, there are some available to help for-profit businesses.
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4. Tory Burch Fellows
Fashion entrepreneur Tory Burch founded the Tory Burch Foundation in 2004 to support women entrepreneurs. Each year, the Tory Burch Fellows program chooses 10 Fellows to receive a $10,000 grant, a trip to Tory Burch headquarters for three days of networking and workshops with innovative business owners, and a year of support from the Foundation. The 10 Fellows also have the opportunity to pitch a panel of judges in an effort to win a $100,000 investment, 50% of which is a grant and 50% of which is a recoverable grant (equivalent to a zero-interest loan). Apply for the Tory Burch Fellows.
5. Open Meadows Foundation
Open Meadows Foundation gives grants of $2,000 to organizations that benefit women and girls and promote gender, racial, and economic justice. Organizations must be women-led and may not have a budget of more than $75,000; small and startup organizations are given priority. The grants are not open to for-profit businesses; however, if you are running a nonprofit, the program is worth investigating. Find out more and apply for a grant.
Finally, anyone looking for a grant should check out Grants.gov. While it’s not specific to women business owners, Grants.gov is the place to go if you’re looking for information about federal government grants. These grants are awarded in order to provide public services and stimulate the U.S. economy. In addition to searching for federal government grants, you can use Grants.gov to learn the basics of grants, get tips for applying, and find out how to spot scams. Register with Grants.gov (it’s free) to submit your grant applications using the site’s online tool.