Although women-owned businesses are on the rise, female entrepreneurs and small-business owners still face more bias and higher barriers to success than their male counterparts typically experience.
One of the biggest challenges for women business owners is the gender gap in funding. Although access to capital is a challenge for all entrepreneurs, getting traditional financing is particularly difficult for women entrepreneurs and even harder for women of color: in 2019, women-owned companies received only 28% of federal loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
While women owned business loans are hard to come by, non-traditional financing options, like grants for women owned small business, are easier to obtain. Many federal and state agencies, non-profits, and other organizations offer grant programs that provide financial and other assistance to support the women-owned business community.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Dun & Bradstreet has curated a comprehensive list of small business grants to help women entrepreneurs and business owners bring their vision to life and grow their businesses.
Business Grant Databases for Women
- Grants.gov – If your business qualifies for federal grants, grants.gov is a database of over 1,000 grant programs funded by federal grant-making agencies.
- Grants for Women – GrantsForWomen.org is a database of grants specifically for women entrepreneurs and business owners. The site also includes information about the different types of grants available and how to apply.
- IFundWomen Universal Grant Application (UGA) Database – Women entrepreneurs can submit their business information to this universal grant database to receive notifications about grants they qualify for. IFundWomen’s grant pool of over $8M includes programs like the IFundWomen Entrepreneur of the Year, Visa She’s Next Black Women-Owned Business Grant Program, Caress Dreams Fund for women of color founders, and others.
- National Institute of Small Business Grants (NISMB) – NISMB’s website BusinessGrants.org is an information hub designed to help prospective and existing small business owners find grants.
Federal Business Grants for Women
- Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs – If your business is in technology or scientific research, you may qualify for federal grants under the SBIR and STTR programs. These programs provide grants to qualifying startups and small businesses to encourage participation in innovation and entrepreneurship and help commercialize new products.
- Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Grants – The U.S. Department of Commerce’s MBDA is the only federal agency dedicated to helping minority-owned small businesses grow. The MBDA helps qualifying small businesses gain access to funding, secure contracts, and access global markets.
- SBA 8(a) Business Development Program –The SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program provides qualifying businesses with various forms of management, technical, financial, and procurement assistance.
- USDA Rural Business Development Grants Program – The USDA’s Rural Development office provides technical assistance and training for small rural businesses (businesses with fewer than 50 new workers and less than $1 million in gross revenue). Your business must also be in an eligible rural area.
- USDA Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program – The USDA provides both grants and business loans to qualified applicants in the field of water or waste disposal (businesses with fewer than 50 new workers and less than $1 million in gross revenue). Your business must also be in an eligible rural area.
State and Local Business Grants for Women
- Women’s Business Centers – The SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership offers Women’s Business Centers. in nearly every U.S. state. Women’s Business Centers provide training in finance, management, marketing, and the internet, as well as access to the SBA’s financial assistance programs.
- Small Business Development Centers – The SBA also has Small Business Development Centers nationwide that provide one-on-one assistance to small business owners, including help finding financing.
- U.S. Economic Development Administration –The EDA is dedicated to growing local economies and helps local businesses find state and federal funding.
Other Business Grants and Funding Opportunities for Women
- Amber Grants – The Amber Grants program awards $450,000 each year to women-owned businesses across a variety of grant programs. The best part? You only need to fill out one application to be considered for all available grants.
- Ms. Foundation for Women – The Ms. Foundation for Women offers grants to grassroots, tribal, state, and national organizations that are advancing solutions in economic justice, safety, and women’s health. The grants include with skills-building, networking, and other strategic opportunities for recipients..
- Cartier Women’s Initiative Award –The SBA’s Cartier Women’s Initiative is an international program that offers awards to women entrepreneurs across a range of global regions and themes.
- Voodle Visionaries Grant Contest – Video messaging platform Voodle’s Visionaries Grant Contest is open to female, non-binary, and BIPOC business founders. The winner receives a $10,000 grant and promotional support.
- SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant – SoGal Foundation has teamed up with multiple sponsors to award several $10,000 and $5,000 cash grants to Black women or nonbinary entrepreneurs. Awardees will also receive assistance navigating the fundraising environment and get lifetime “ask-me-anything” access to the SoGal Foundation and SoGal Ventures teams. The application process for this program is rolling.
- National Black MBA Association® (NBMAA®) Scale-Up Pitch Challenge – This annual pitch competition support’s the NBMAA’s mission to create and support wealth-building opportunities for MBA members. In 2021, the grand prize winner received $50,000.
- EnrichHER Grant Contest – EnRichHER is the only Black woman-owned fintech lender serving women and founders of color. Each year, the EnrichHER Grant Contest awards a $5,000 small business cash grant.
- FedEx Small Business Grant Contest – This contest awards 10 small businesses with grants of up to $50,000, plus additional prizes. The top 100 finalists will receive a package of resources for their business.
- National Minority Supplier Development Council – The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) is a corporate member organization focused on advancing business opportunities for certified minority-owned businesses and connecting them to corporate members who want to purchase their products, services, or solutions. NMSDC’s corporate membership includes some of the largest public and privately owned companies, as well as healthcare companies, colleges, and universities.
- National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants – NASE is a nonprofit trade association that awards grants of up to $4,000 through its Growth Grants program. The grants can be used for marketing, advertising, hiring employees, expanding facilities, and other business needs.
- Operation HOPE’s Small Business Development Program – This program offers small business workshops and an intensive entrepreneurial training program for current and aspiring business owners in underserved communities. The program provides business training, personal development, access to professional services, and financial counseling.
Additional Financial Resources for Women Business Owners
Dun & Bradstreet offers educational resources and insights to help women small business owners realize their dreams of becoming entrepreneurs and growing successful businesses. Check out our guide on small business grants, including how to apply for grants and how to write a grant proposal. And in addition to business grants, you might want to consider exploring alternative loans for small businesses.
The information provided in articles and blog posts are suggestions only and based on best practices. Dun & Bradstreet is not liable for the outcome or results of specific programs or tactics. Please contact an attorney or tax professional if you are in need of legal or tax advice.