I recently had the opportunity to interview Steve Lindbergh from the Carolina Pie Company and, in our discussion of funding my business, he told me to look at all the grants, loans, and opportunities I could take advantage of as a woman. This week I want to share my early research.
Grants, loans, contests are all avenues to help pursue funding for women-owned businesses. Grants come with eligibility requirements and stipulations but they do not have to be paid back. It is important to understand the grant process as it can be lengthy and time consuming.
- Research eligibility and find the appropriate grant for you and your organization.
- Understand the eligibility and make sure you meet the requirements.
- Competition — remember there are others seeking the same monies.
- Reporting — there are requirements regarding what you do with the money.
You may have seen ads for “Federal Grants for Women” all over the Internet. Be wary. There are no federal grants specifically for women-owned businesses. There are grants for medical research, science, education, and technology development, and they are available to anyone applying and meeting their requirements. Here are two grant opportunities.
- The Eileen Fisher Women Owned Business Grant Program is available for companies past the startup phase and ready to expand. The minimum grant is $10,000 and they grant $100,000 annually. https://www.eileenfisher.com/grants/women-owned-business/grant-program-guidelines/
- WomensNet gives grants to women-owned businesses. Each month they give a $500 grant and, at the end of the year, they give another $2500 to one of the twelve winners. There are still three months left to this year. https://ambergrantsforwomen.com/
It is best to start looking within your own state and see what grants and resources are available there.
Another avenue to pursue when seeking funding in your state is the Minority Business Development Agency. The MBDA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce and their mission is to promote the growth of minority-owned businesses. The first step is locating the MBDA business center nearest you to see what resources are available. For example, in the state of North Carolina, the Raleigh agency provides financial and technical assistance to minority-owned businesses. https://www.mbda.gov/
The Institute is a nonprofit organization in Durham, North Carolina, focused on business diversity. http://www.theinstitutenc.org/ In Charlotte, the Institute has a Women’s Business Center that helps women starting new businesses and those with existing businesses to grow. Helping with loan preparations and lender referrals are just two of their many services. They are partially funded through the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has loan programs but not grant programs. The SBA does not make direct loans to businesses. What they do is set the guidelines for the loans which are made available by different lenders and organizations that partner with the SBA. There are five different types of loans and each one has certain requirements https://www.sba.gov/loans-grants/see-what-sba-offers/sba-loan-programs/loan-programs For the past three years, the SBA has sponsored a business challenge for women with up to $70,000 in prize money. The challenge is to reward women entrepreneurs who are creating products or services impacting women and families, solving a need in the marketplace and can be commercialized. The information for the 2018 challenge has not been posted yet. Check out their website to view past winners. https://www.sba.gov/content/2017-innovateher-innovating-women-business-summit-and-challenge
Another loan possibility is applying for a loan on the Internet with Kabbage, a company focused on helping small businesses access capital. The idea is faster access to funds with one of their loans. To date they have lent over $3 billion to small businesses. They do have two minimum qualifications: be in business at least one year and a minimum of $50,000 in annual revenue. Even if you are not ready for this type of lending they are very transparent with fees and terms. There is also no fee to apply and you do not have to take the funds. https://www.kabbage.com/
A contest offered by the FedEx Small Business Center is open to all small businesses and the grand prize for 2017 was a grant of $25,000, 1 grant of $15,000 and 8 grants for $7,500 for a total of $100,000. This looks like a great contest for the social media experts out there. The contest is not yet open for 2018 but check out this link to prepare yourself for the coming year. https://smallbusiness.fedex.com/small-biz-grant.html
As women entrepreneurs, we may not be able to fund our businesses with family, bank, venture capitalist or angel investor funds. We might be too small, too risky or the idea may not resonate with those traditional funders. Let that not detour us on the path to entrepreneurship. Perhaps one of the resources above could play a part in funding your business; it will not hurt to check it out.
The Staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc. “Grants and Loans for Women-Owned
Businesses.” Entrepreneur, Entrepreneur Media, INC, 24 May 2017,