The Best Small Business Grants for Women
Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs—as well as their quality, handmade goods—and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.
Jaclyn Johnson, CEO and founder of Create & Cultivate, believes that encouraging entrepreneurship in women is simply good business. "If we want to see higher stock returns, more innovation, and increased profits, we have to hire women and put them in leadership roles," says Johnson, who ventured into entrepreneurship in her 20s; by the age of 28, she had sold her first business, invested in multiple female-owned startups, and launched her second multi-million dollar company, Create & Cultivate. "Numerous studies show that women-led companies tend to perform better than those led by men. Companies with a female founder performed 63 percent better than investments with all-male founding teams and deliver twice as much per dollar invested than those founded by men, she cites, adding that "Put simply, diverse and inclusive businesses can significantly improve your bottom line and outperform your competitors—the stats don't lie."
Johnson knows firsthand that there are many obstacles (she cites cultural and societal barriers, the confidence gap, and an overall lack of support for women who are balancing work and family life as being just a few of the most prevalent) and established Create & Cultivate to offer inspiration, resources, and support to other women in business. This guidance and assistance is arguably needed now more than ever as a result of the pandemic and the restrictions that come along with that, says Johnson. "Women are now having to figure out how to work from home while being a primary caregiver and a teacher," she explains. "As a result, more than 860,000 women dropped out of the labor force in September."
For those women starting their own business or for those with a small business seeking the assistance of a small business grant, Johnson stresses the importance of grants in enabling viability. "Without adequate access to venture capital funding, business grants are a lifeline for women entrepreneurs and you should definitely apply for all of them where it makes sense for your business goals," she says. "Building a business requires capital and if you're not ready for investment yet or the pressures that come with that, then business grants are a great option to inject cash into the areas that need it most."
Lisa Nicole Rosado, founder of We Are Women Owned, a community, events, and service-based business platform dedicated to empowering female entrepreneurs through connection and collaboration by offering one-on-one mentorship and group masterminds for women in the creative, lifestyle, and retail space, as well as hosting for-women-by-women pop-up events throughout New York City, shares her favorite grants for women. "When I started my own online boutique business there wasn't a lot of resources available to me," she says, "so I started to seek out a community of peers who really understood the entrepreneurial journey as a woman and as a minority."
Founded in 2016 by Karen Cahn, the organization IFundWomen offers information on grants through its corporate partners, fundraising, free coaching, and its very own "Caress Dreams to Reality Fund" in which 150 diverse founders will receive $1,000 grants and $1,500 coaching scholarships to execute successful crowdfunding campaigns.
The Red Backpack Fund
Backed by Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx and the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation, GlobalGiving is making at least 1,000 grants of $5,000 each to female entrepreneurs in the United States via The Red Backpack Fund to help alleviate the impact of the pandemic.
WomensNet founded the Amber Grant Foundation back in 1998; each month, the organization awards an Amber Grant of $10,000 to a woman with a dream of her own business. They've since expanded so that one of its dozen monthly recipients receives an additional $25,000.
Cartier Women's Initiative
The Cartier Women's Initiative is a set of grants that are open to women-led for-profit businesses in their first three years in business. Created in 2006, they are a joint partnership project initiated by Cartier, the Women's Forum, McKinsey & Company, and INSEAD business school to encourage women entrepreneurs.
Tori Burch Foundation Fellows Program
The Tori Burch Foundation Fellows Program offers 50 American-based women entrepreneurs a $5,000 business education grant and more. Apply and upon acceptance, you will be enrolled into a year-long program to help you lead, grow, and scale your business.
Hello Alice Business for All
With the Hello Alice Business for All Grant, apply for up to $50,000 in grants to support business growth. Access incredible leaders and business experts from across industries, who are partnered to support each Business for All Grant winner (think Kristen Bell, Rebecca Minkoff, Lisa Price, Gwyneth Paltrow, and many more).
Women for Success
Founded by Lauren Marsicano Esq., the Women for Success organization provides tools and resources that will help women define success on their own terms, as well as small business grants.
Other Grants to Consider
Whereas the following two grants are not specific to women-owned businesses, Rosado believes that they are worth mentioning: The first is Shea Moisture Fund, which, in partnership with WeBuyBlack, provides grants to Black-owned small businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19; then there's the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest, which awards $250,000+ across 12 U.S. based small businesses in 2020. The application opens for 2021 early next year.
For grant seekers who are finalizing their applications, Johnson offers the following advice: "Really think about what makes you unique. There are a lot of other beauty brands or haircare brands—let's face it, there's competition in every category, but ultimately, it comes down to you. So put that in your application: Why are you doing this? What is your mission? What are you bringing to this brand that is unique and special and different? How does your uniqueness set you apart from the other brands on the shelf? Tell your story and give your business some heart—ultimately, that is what will get consumers (and pitch judges) excited and interested to invest in your brand."