If you’re a woman business owner or organizational leader who needs funding, business grants for women can help you access the capital you need without taking on unnecessary debt or accruing interest. Grants for women are available from many federal, public, and private organizations, and each organization has its own eligibility criteria, application process, and award cycle.
If you plan on applying for a grant, one of the best things you can do is thoroughly review the eligibility requirements, awards amounts, and most importantly, the award cycle. Understanding grant award cycles will help you identify application deadlines and award announcements, both of which can help you decide which grants fit your business needs.
The grant application field is highly competitive, but the resulting award can be well worth your time and energy. Identifying grants created specifically for women is a great way to jump-start your search and identify awards for which you’re uniquely qualified. To help you get started, Investopedia reviewed over 30 grants for women and evaluated them based on eligibility requirements, the application process, funding amounts, and reward cycles. Read on to learn about the best grants available to women and additional tips on finding and applying for the right grants.
The Best Grants for Women for 2021
- Best Overall: The Amber Grant
- Best Company Sponsored: FedEx Small Business Grant
- Best Angel Network: 37 Angels
- Best Government Grant: SBIR Grant Program
- Best Environmental Grant: EILEEN FISHER Environmental Justice Grant
- Best Grant for Furthering Business Education: Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program
Best Overall : The Amber Grant
The Amber Grant was our overall best pick because of its monthly application and award cycle and easy-to-meet requirements. The application process is also easy to navigate and does not require extensive paperwork or familiarity with traditional grant cycles.
$10,000 awarded monthly
Recipients are eligible for another annual grant for $25,000
Loose eligibility requirements
$15 application fee
Smaller reward than some other grant opportunities
Founded by WomensNet in 1998, the Amber Grant Foundation was established in memory of 19-year-old Amber Widdahl, an aspiring entrepreneur. The group awards a $10,000 grant to one recipient every month, and recipients can compete for an additional $25,000 year-end grant.
One of the most appealing aspects of this grant is its accessibility, which is why it garners our top nod. Applications are accepted each month, and the process is uniquely simple. Though other grants may require various types of paperwork and a detailed business plan, among other things, the Amber Grant Foundation only asks that you tell them about your business and what you would do with the grant money. Despite the simplicity of the application process, applicants are encouraged to spend time crafting impassioned responses that show a healthy mix of personality and “business smarts.”
In addition to an easy application process, the grant is also a favorite because of its inclusive eligibility requirements. U.S. and Canadian businesses that are at least 50% female-owned are eligible, regardless of industry, time in business, or monthly revenue. As such, this grant is one that is well-fit for female entrepreneurs at various points in their business journey.
Best Company Sponsored : FedEx Small Business Grant
The FedEx Small Business Grant is awarded to 12 businesses with awards up to $50,000. All small businesses are welcome to apply, but awards focus on products for underserved and niche markets, making this one of the best small business grants for women.
Prizes range from $15,000 to $50,000
Limited to businesses with less than 100 employees
Open to all businesses, not just those owned by women
Social engagement recommended
FedEx is an American-based, multinational company that provides delivery services to businesses and consumers with a commitment to building other small business ventures, thus earning our nod for best company sponsored women's grant. For the last nine years, they have helped small businesses through their annual FedEx Small Business Grant Contest. The contest isn’t limited to female business owners, but winners typically represent businesses that strive for positive social change and cater to underserved markets.
Twelve businesses will receive grants of $50,000 (1), $30,000 (1), and $15,000 (10). Each prize also includes a credit toward FedEx Office print services.
The contest starts in late January/early February and ends in March. The 2021 contest began on February 16. If you'd like to apply, you'll need to submit a business profile, logo, and photos that "best represent” your business. FedEx also recommends that you submit a one-minute YouTube video.
After your application is submitted, your next step will be to garner votes by engaging with your loyal fans, be it through social media, email, or other marketing efforts. These social engagement and voting periods are used to narrow the application pool, and then a panel of judges selects the final winners.
To be eligible for this contest, your business must be a small, for-profit business (one to 99 employees) based in the United States. Applicants must have a valid FedEx shipping account number at the time of entry.
Best Angel Network : 37 Angels
37 Angels is a network of seed investors that strive to close the business gender gap. In addition to funding, they also provide educational opportunities, are committed to communication transparency, and offer business mentorship opportunities, making them one of the best angel networks for women.
Pitch forums every two months
Average investment of $50,000-$200,000
Accepts applicants with business revenue between $50,000-$500,000
Typically doesn’t invest in retail brands, games, movies, life sciences, and clean energy businesses
Seed-stage investments only
Required in-person pitch in NYC
37 Angels is an angel network that aims to decrease the long-existing gender gap in business and build stronger young businesses, winning our vote as the best angel network. Approved applicants can typically expect funding between $50,000 and $200,000 as well as mentorship opportunities and a resource collection specifically cultivated for businesswomen.
You can apply for funding through 37 Angels by submitting an online application on Gust.com. Your application must include basic business information (e.g., incorporation type, number of employees, etc.), but it’s recommended that you provide as much information as possible, including an executive summary and a pitch deck/video.
Once you submit your application, a member of 37 Angels will contact you for a brief phone call to determine if the relationship is a mutual fit. Applications are reviewed every two months, and if your company is one of eight selected, you must head to New York City to give an in-person pitch at the 37 Angels headquarters.
To be eligible for funding through 37 Angels, your business must be in the startup phase, have at least six months of customer data, and be valued between $3 million and $8 million. Though 37 Angels investors typically avoid certain industries, they don’t set specific limits on what businesses can apply–a stark contrast from some of the other most popular angel networks for women. That makes this angel investor a reasonable option for many women-led startups.
Best Government Grant : SBIR Grant Program
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant makes it possible for small businesses to leverage federal funds for research and development, making this one of the best and highly sought-after government grants.
Significant funding available
Business maintains intellectual property rights
Award winners gain significant brand visibility
Eligibility based on federal research and development needs
Complex application and eligibility standards
The SBIR Grant program funds small businesses that can help the U.S. Government meet its research and development needs, with a focus on technological innovation, earning our spot for best government grant program. Though any business is welcome to apply, SBIR aims to increase entrepreneurial success for women and those considered to be socially or economically disadvantaged.
Award totals vary based on the program phase, with concept development grants (Phase 1) ranging from $50,000 to $250,000 and prototype development grants (Phase 2) ranging from $500,000 to $1.5 million.
To be eligible for SBIR grants, your business must be owned and operated in the United States and employ no more than 500 people. All work carried out in accordance with the grant award requirements must be done in the U.S.
Grants are awarded based on the needs of 12 U.S. agencies (e.g., Department of Defense, Department of Education), and therefore grant requirements vary based on the participating agency and their specific needs.
If you’re interested in applying for an SBIR grant, you can view a current solicitation list, including up-to-date information regarding opening dates, deadlines, and closing dates.
Best Environmental Grant : EILEEN FISHER Environmental Justice Grant
We chose Eileen Fisher’s grant because of its commitment to funding environmentally sound companies seeking to reduce a carbon footprint.
Multiple grant opportunities available
Awards between $10,000 and $40,000
Limited to women-run companies
Only available for non-profit organizations
Business with religious or political affiliations are not eligible
Business must provide a direct service
The EILEEN FISHER company sells ethically sourced and well-made apparel, but the company's mission extends beyond retail. The brand’s founder, Eileen Fisher, runs several mission-based programs that positively impact women and the environment, which is why we chose it for this category.
One such program, the EILEEN FISHER Environmental Justice Grant, was started in 2019 as a way to address climate change and the negative impact it has had on vulnerable populations, specifically young women and girls. The company has committed to awarding $200,000 in grant money to eligible applicants, with grant amounts ranging from $10,000 to $40,000.
Grants are awarded to organizations that can demonstrate how they will contribute to positive environmental outcomes, train women and girls on climate advocacy, and create sustainable opportunities for women.
To be eligible for this grant you must operate a non-profit organization with leaders that identify as women. In addition, your business must refrain from promoting a specific religion or political view, and must closely align with at least one of EILEEN FISHER’s key goals: to have a positive impact on the environment, to equip women and young girls with the knowledge required to improve the climate, and to create opportunities for women to improve their well-being.
Information about the annual grant cycle, including application deadlines, typically becomes available in their earlier part of the year.
Best Grant for Furthering Business Education : Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program
Many grants, even those for startups, carry significant revenue requirements that can make it difficult for startups with minimal revenue to apply. The Tory Burch Foundation grant offers business making as little as $75,000 a year access to funds as well as the support and guidance many first-time business owners need.
Low revenue requirements
Up to 50 award winners annually
Low award amount
Requires a one-year commitment
Funds must be used for business education or related expenses
The Tory Burch brand may be synonymous with fashion and retail sales, but for women who become Tory Burch Foundation Fellows, the brand also represents an opportunity to learn how to lead and scale their business, earning it the winning spot for furthering business education.
The Tory Burch Foundation Fellows program provides award winners, also known as fellows, with a $5,000 grant to be used for educational expenses, but the benefits extend beyond financial gain. Fellows, who must commit to a year-long virtual education program, also gain valuable insights from experts, a thriving peer network, and a full-expense-paid trip to the Tory Burch Offices for a workshop and networking event.
The Tory Burch Foundation accepts applications between September and November and selects fellows in the spring of the following year. The award cycle culminates in the summer with the Tory Burch Office workshop.
To be eligible for this award, you must be a majority-stake business owner that identifies as a woman. Further, your business must be in an early stage with at least $75,000 in annual revenue.
Grants are a great way to fund your business or organization without worrying about accruing debt. Because grants are so beneficial, they are also highly competitive. Finding the right one can help you increase your chances of receiving the award. Some grants, like the Amber Grant and the FedEx Small Business Grant, are easy to apply for and can give you a capital boost to be used as you see fit. Others, like SBIR program grants, come with strict eligibility requirements, a lengthy application process, and post-award requirements that can last several years.
Before you apply for the grants above or other grants you may find, do your research, identify key dates and eligibility requirements, and enter the application with a solid understanding of your business. That means having a formal or informal business plan, defining your mission, and having a clear understanding of how the grant funds could help you achieve your goals.
|Best Grants for Women||Why We Picked It||Key Benefit|
|The Amber Grant||Best Overall||Awarded monthly
Easy application process
|FedEx Small Business Grant||Best Company Sponsored||Grant amounts up to $50,000
12 winners each year
|37 Angels||Best Angel Network||Startup funding from $50K-$200K
Bimonthly pitch forums
|SBIR Grant Program||Best Government Grant||Multiple grant opportunities based on federal needs
Funding from $50K-$1.5M
|EILEEN FISHER Environmental Justice Grant||Best Environmental Grant||Specifically for women with a commitment to the environment
Multiple awards for up to $40,000
|Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program||Best Grant for Furthering Business Education||Preference for new female business owners
Yearlong mentorship program
What Are Business Grants for Women?
Business grants for women are monetary awards given to women business owners. Grants are awarded by federal, public, and private entities. Recipients are not required to repay grant funds, but they may need to meet spending and post-award activity requirements as outlined by the awarding organization.
How Can Women Get a Grant to Start a Business?
The best way to get a grant to start a business is to research the best ones for your business and build a solid application. Grants are made available through numerous public and private entities, including local, state, and federal government bodies as well as private corporations and organizations. Though your search can take you anywhere, the following places are a great place to start:
- Business incubators and innovation centers
- State and local government websites
- Local, state, and national small business associations
- Private and public companies and organizations websites
- Grant search engines (access may require a paid account)
What’s the Best Way to Qualify for a Small Business Grant?
The best way to qualify for a small business grant is to be prepared and explore all your options by following these steps:
- Research: There are many organizations, both public and private, that award grants to qualified individuals.
- Understand eligibility requirements: Before you complete the application process, make sure you and your business meet all the eligibility requirements. In many cases, grant requirements are listed with grant application information, but if you don’t see them, it’s a good idea to reach out to the organization for more information.
- Take note of all deadlines: Grants are highly competitive and there’s little room for applicant mistakes, especially missed deadlines. Always find out when applications are accepted and when the application period has closed.
- Read follow-up information: In some cases, you can submit your application and await word from the organization, but that’s not always the case. Be on the lookout for follow-up communications from the organization so you can meet any additional requirements or deadlines specified.
- Be true to yourself: Everyone wants their business to succeed, but your application should set you and your business apart from the rest. Your application and related assets should show your passion and motivation and explain why your business or concept is unique and worthy of the grant funds.
What Are Some Alternatives for Grants for Women?
If you can’t qualify for a grant or need additional funding, there are several alternatives. Here are a few to consider:
- Traditional Business Lending: Small business loans and lines of credit may not offer a debt-free financing option, but they are often easier to secure and can help you with immediate or substantial expenses.
- Business Credit Cards: Like a loan, a business credit card, when used, will result in monthly payments and accrued interest, but they can be a reliable option for emergencies or everyday business expenses. Business credit cards also may offer unique rewards and benefits, like cash back or 0% financing, to qualifying applicants.
- Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding, lets you tap into a “crowd” of lenders—both experienced investors and everyday consumers—who are willing to put up smaller amounts of capital to fund your project in exchange for everything from rewards (e.g., products, early access) to equity in your company. Successful crowdfunding efforts often have a strong social media presence and leverage crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
- Venture Capitalist & Angel Investors: There are significant differences between venture capital and angel investors, but they share one fundamental principle: Experienced investors provide the capital to businesses, often in the startup phase, that show potential for long-term growth.
- Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Lending: P2P lending refers to individuals or groups who grant loans to qualified borrowers. Lenders benefit from interest returns and borrowers often benefit from lower interest rates than they’d typically receive through a bank.
How Does the Grant Cycle Work?
Grants all follow the same three-stage process.
- Pre-Award: During this phase, the awarding organization announces and accepts applications. At the end of this phase, the organization will close the submission window and begin to review applications.
- Award: After reviewing applications, the organization will determine and announce the winner(s).
- Post-Award: At this point, the awardee receives or draws upon the funds and uses the funds. The post-award phase may be as simple as an exchange of funds or it may be a period of several years during which the awardee carries out any activities required. This may include progress reports, audits, performance monitoring, or closeout activities.
How We Chose the Best Grants for Women
We researched over 30 grants and their providers to identify the best ones for women business owners. Included in this research are grants that are designed specifically for women as well as grants that are designed to support businesses owned by underserved or vulnerable groups. As part of this research, we focused on specific characteristics: award values, business requirements (e.g., revenue, time in business, etc.), number of recipients, and any additional resources that accompanied the monetary award.