Do an online search for “business grants for women” and a slew of articles will come up. But when you click to read the articles, you’ll find that there is scant, if any, information on actual grants. Often, when you do find the name of a specific grant for female-led businesses, like the “Huggies Mom Inspired” grant, there will be no link to apply, because the program has been discontinued. Most of these articles will also toss you a link to Grants.gov — which does not offer any grant expressly for women-owned businesses.
The truth is that while there is a lot of demand for business grants, i.e., free money to help start or continue your business, there are hardly any such programs in existence. While both government and private grants do exist,Â most of that money goes to not-for-profit organizations, and the majority of these programs do not give preferential treatment to female applicants.
However, there are a select few grants offered specifically to female owners of for-profit businesses. This article includesÂ real grants for women entrepreneurs only. Meaning, there will be an actual link to apply in most cases. Woohoo! Hopefully, this will save you some time scouring the web. I could only find a handful of legit, worthwhile business grant opportunities for women, but if you know of any others, feel free to mention them in the comments!
1. Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant
Eileen Fisher is a socially conscious clothing brand that emphasizes sustainability. The clothing brand offers a yearly grant to women-owned businesses, particularly those that focus on using their businesses to bring about environmental and/or social change. Each year, Eileen Fisher awards Women-Owned Business Grants totaling $100,000 to up to 10 recipients, with a minimum grant amount of $10,000. Additionally, grantees are invited to New York City in the spring following their reward for two days of business collaboration with Eileen Fisher.
To be eligible for an Eileen Fisher grant, businesses must meet the following criteria:
- At least 51% woman-owned
- Have been in business at least 3 years
- Revenues not exceeding $1 million
- Business founded on principal of creating social and environmental change
Franchises, startups, and past award winners are not eligible to receive the grant.
How To Apply
Visit the Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant website to find more information about the grant and apply.
Visit the Eileen Fisher website
2. Amber Grants
Amber Grants began in 1998. After a young woman named Amber died before being able to fulfill her entrepreneurial dreams, WomensNet started offering grants for women in Amber’s name. These are smaller grants, but they are very accessible and easy to apply for. Amber Grants awards $500 to a woman-owned business every month, and at the end of the year, one of the 12 monthly qualification winners wins another grant forÂ $2,500.
Amber Grants do not have any particular qualification criteria, other than that recipients must be female entrepreneurs (age 18 and up) living in the United States or Canada. Amber Grants are open to any type of business.
How To Apply
Simply fill out the application template on the Amber Grant Application Page and pay a nominal $7 fee. Amber Grants recommends that rather than trying to “sound professional” in your application, you focus on conveying the passion you have for your business.
Amber Grants receive between 200 and 600 applicants every month. Visit the website for information about application deadlines.
Visit the Amber Grant website
3. Cartier Women’s Initiative
The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, a joint partnership created in 2006 by Cartier, McKinsey & Company, and INSEAD business school, awards annual grants to support projects by women entrepreneurs. This is one of the largest and most prestigious business grants for women, but the competition is steep. The first-place prize in this international business competition is $100,000; second place comes with a $30,000 prize.
Women entrepreneurs in the initial stages of development (2-3 years old), in any country, of any nationality, and operating in any industry can apply for this grant. The business must have an original concept and the business must have a for-profit model.
You can download the official Cartier Women’s Initiative rules of participationÂ for more details.
How To Apply
When applications are open (which is only during certain times of year), you will be able to apply using the online Cartier Women’s Initiative application form.
From the Cartier Women’s Initiative website:
The call for applications for the 2018 edition of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards is now closed. The call for applications for the 2019 edition of the competition will open in May 2018.
Before applying, be sure to read up on the grant application process. In addition to filling out the application form, you’ll need to supply supporting documentation including your resume, scanned copy of your business registration, proof of patent (if applicable), and detailed financials. Optionally, you can also include three additional attachments, such as your logo, images of your product, press articles, etc.
Visit the Cartier Women’s Initiative website
4. Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program
Fashion designer and philanthropist Tory Burch created the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 to help empower female entrepreneurs. The Foundation has been quite successful in this goal, and today runs one of the most preeminent business grant competitions.
Each year, up to 10 finalists of this grant competition receive a $10,000 grant for business education, a 1-year Tory Burch Fellowship, and a 3-day business workshop at Tory Burch Headquarters in NYC. Note that the $10,000 grant cannot be used for purposes other than business education.Â Fellows will also participate in a Shark Tank-style pitch competition before a panel of judges to choose one winner of aÂ $100,000Â award, of which 50% is a grant and 50% is a “recoverable grant” (fancy way of saying 0%-interest loan).
Applicants to this business grant must be female business owners who meet the following criteria:
- Own a majority stake in for-profit business, from any industry, in early-stage growth (minimum of 1 year and no more than 5 years of operations), generatingÂ minimum revenues of $25,000 and maximum revenues of $500,000 per year
- Manage said business on a day-to-day basis
- 21 years or older as of the application due date
- Legal resident of the United States
- Proficient in English
Read more about Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Grant eligibility.
How To Apply
Here is the application page for the Tory Burch grant. The application period is pretty short — it opens in early fall and closes in November. But that’s okay; in the meantime, you can download the application help guide to start perfecting your business plan and application essay so you will be ready to go when the next round of application opens.
Visit the Tory Burch Foundation website
5. Girlboss Foundation
Launched in 2014, The Girlboss Foundation funds female entrepreneurs pursuing creative endeavors. Specifically, these grants are for women in the fields of art, fashion, design, and music. Every six months, one grant beneficiary receives $15,000 to be used for a creative project within the following 12 months, in addition to online media exposure.
To be eligible, Girlboss applicants must be US-based female creative business owners who are 18 or older.Â Note that the Girlboss Foundation only awards grants to individuals; GB can award the grant to an individual representing a business, but not to a business as an entity.
How To Apply
Fill out the onlineÂ Girlboss Foundation grant application. First, however, read the information on the selection process so you’ll get a better idea of what to include and how you’ll be judged.
Visit the Girlboss website
6. Women Founders Network Fast Pitch Competition
The WFN is an organization that provides both capital and mentorship to women business owners. The organization’s Fast Pitch competition awards $20,000 in free grant money to a female-led business each year; runners-up receive $7,500, $5,000, and $2,500 respectively. If you make the top 10 finalists, you’ll pitch your business at a live in-person event in Los Angeles.
These are the criteria for this women’s business grant competition, from the WFN website:
- Founder/CEO must be a woman or business must be majority-owned by women.
- Must attend in-person to present in Los Angeles at the Fast Pitch Event.
- Business must be past the idea stage (revenue preferred)
- Must have raised no more than $1M in outside funding, excluding research grants.
- Seeking early stage businesses based in USA with high-growth potential.
How To Apply
You can apply for this grant on the Women Founders Network Fast Pitch website as of May 1, 2018. The next round of applications will be accepted fromÂ May 1 – June 10, 2018.
WFN has postedÂ grant application guidelines with detailed information about the contest and tips for applying, but note that these guidelines are for the 2017 contest.
Visit the WFN website
7. InnovateHER Challenge
The InnovateHER Challenge, est. 2015 under the Obama administration, is a national women’s business grant contest hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership. Each year since 2015, InnovateHER has given out three grants to especially worthy women-owned businesses, including a first-place prize of $40,000, a second-place prize of $20,000, and a third-place prize of $10,000. InnovateHER is the only federal grant money earmarked specifically for women-related businesses.
To arrive at the top 10 finalists for this nationwide competition, organizations such as universities and economic development associations run their own local competitions throughout the year. Then, from all of the local winners, 10 national finalists are chosen to pitch their businesses to an expert panel in Washington D.C.
This contest is for innovative entrepreneurs whose products and services create a measurable impact on the lives of women and families. These business solutions must also “have the potential for commercialization, and fill a need in the marketplace.”
Further eligibility requirements from last year’s InnovateHer Challenge page are as follows:
- Citizens or permanent residents of the United States who are at least eighteen (18) years of age at the time of their submission of an entry (or teams of such individuals)
- Private entities, such as corporations or other organizations, that are incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States. Individuals submitting on behalf of corporations, nonprofits, or groups of individuals (such as an academic class or another team) must meet the eligibility requirements for individual contestants. An individual may belong to more than one team submitting an entry in this Challenge.
Note that the rules don’t say this grant is only for women (even though it’s all about solutions that improve women’s lives). However, all of the past grant winners and finalists have been women, so perhaps this is an unspoken rule.
How To Apply
I assume that once the competition opens for 2018, there will be information about how to apply to any local InnovateHer competitions posted on the official InnovateHer Challenge website.
As of February 2018, this website had no information on the 2018 InnovateHER competition, despite the fact that if things were to follow the same schedule as last year’s and the previous years’ competitions, the contest would have kicked off this past December. I emailed the SBA Office of Women’s Business Ownership about this and they told me that they will get back to me as soon as they have any information regarding the 2018 InnovateHer Challenge; I’ll update this post if/when I hear back from them.
Visit the InnovateHER website
Runner-Up: Halstead Grant
Halstead Grants are given to new jewelry designers who work primarily in silver. While this grant is not strictly for women, I’m including it as a runner-up, as the jewelry industry is mostly female-dominated, and most (but not all) of the past winners of this grant have been women. Plus, there is an actual link to apply for the grant. Score!
The grant consists of $7,500 in start-up capital and $1,000 in Halstead merchandise.Â Finalists receive $500 cash for Top 5 placement, or $250 for Top 10 placement.
- Applicant must have opened business within the past three years.
- Applicant must be pursuing jewelry design as a full-time career, not as a hobby or part-time job.
- Applicant must be a US citizen.
How To Apply
Download and fill out the Halstead Grant Application. As part of the application, you mustÂ submit a jewelry collection along with answers to 15 questions that form the basis of a business plan.
Visit the Halstead Grant website
Grants represent a viable form of free funding for select, exceptionally talented women business owners. If you can present an especially impressive application, essay, business plan, and in some cases an in-person pitch, you might come away with some free cash to help bring your entrepreneurial dreams to fruition. However, such grants are extremely competitive, and in most cases even if you win a prized spot, you won’t receive a large amount of capital. There are some select grants available to small businesses in general, including grants for startup businesses, but these grant programs are similarly competitive. Generally, there just isn’t a lot of grant money to be had for for-profit businesses.
More attainable small businesses funding options for women includeÂ online loans, personal loans, or even alternative financingÂ options such as crowdfunding. If you’re a female entrepreneur reading this article, I strongly recommend you also check out my article on theÂ best loans for women. For more guidance on how to get financing for your women-owned business, feel free to contact us!
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