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A business grant is money awarded either to a new or existing business based on certain needs or eligibility requirements. Unlike a business loan, a grant doesn’t have to be repaid making it one of the most sought-after types of business funding.
Women business owners, in particular, face unique obstacles related to inequality and gender bias as well as having to overcome the challenge of entering male-dominated fields.
This year's International Women’s Day theme is Embracing Equality.
This theme is very fitting for women entrepreneurs who are looking for funding and opportunities to grow their businesses and grants are a helpful option.
If you’re a Black woman with a business, there are plenty of small business grants for Black women to consider.
What Dedicated Business Grants for Black Women Are There?
Black women are one of the fastest-growing demographics of entrepreneurs in the US. The rate of black women in business showed 50% growth from 2014-2019.
Forty-two percent of the businesses in general opened during that time were by Black females.
According to this same study, these business owners earn an annual revenue of $24,000 compared to $142,900 for other female-owned businesses.
Grants can help supplement business startup costs or expenses needed to grow the business in addition to loans and other types of funding.
Here are some grants that are either dedicated to Black women or that women, in general, can apply for.
Ford Foundation for African American Women
In 2021 the Ford Foundation committed $15 million in seed funding and launched the Black Feminist Fund to help support black women.
This was unique as it was the first global fund focused on increasing funds for black feminist organizations in Europe, the Americas, and Africa. A goal of the organization is to advance gender and racial equality around the world.
The Ford Foundation hosts a Well Black Woman Market each year to support local Black women entrepreneurs and award mini-grants.
This event tends to take place during the summer each year and here is some more important information about this grant:
- Location specific: You must operate a business in Dane County near the Madison, WI area
- Grant amount: Mini grants range from $1,000 - $5,000 and can be used for equipment, marketing, developmental support, and more
- Number available: Five to 10 mini-grants are typically available each year
- Eligibility: Awards are granted based on available funding, business need, business capacity and readiness
Fearless Strivers Grant
The Fearless Fund has partnered with Mastercard to help bring grants to eligible women entrepreneurs.
- Location specific: No
- Grant amount: $20,000
- Number available: 4
- Eligibility: At least 18 years old black women who are legal U.S. residents. The principal owner of a U.S.-based small business
Amber Grant for Women
Womensnet founded the Amber Grant in 1998. It was created to help minority women start a business.
- Location specific: No
- Grant amount: $10,000- $25,000
- Number available: Two monthly, and then two of those monthly winners are chosen at the end of the year for an additional $25,000
- Eligibility: Businesses have to be at least 50% women-owned. The business must be based in either the U.S. or Canada. The applicant also must be at least 18 years old.
Sage Invest in Progress Grant
The Boss Network is a community of entrepreneurial and professional women looking to make a difference. To help remove barriers for black female entrepreneurs the Sage Invest in Progress Grants was born.
- Location specific: No
- Grant amount: $10,000
- Number available: 25
- Eligibility: Black women in their first 5-years of business.
SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant
Do you have a legally registered business? Then the SoGal Black Funder Startup Grant can be for you.
- Location specific: No
- Grant amount: $5,000-$10,000
- Number available: Several
- Eligibility: Plan to seek investor financing in order to scale, now or in the future, self-identify as a Black woman or Black nonbinary entrepreneur
The FinImpact Women's Empowerment Grant in recognition of International Women's Day 2023
The Finimpact Embracing Equality Women's Empowerment Grant is a program that will take our intended objective a step further by not only providing the required informational tools but also facilitating direct funding to a greatly deserving demographic of professional women. The grant will be awarded on March 8, 2023, in recognition of International Women's Day. The grant provides:
- The first-place winner will receive a $10,000 grant.
- The second-place finisher will get a $5,000 grant.
- Third-place winner receives a $2,500 grant.
Submissions are being accepted until May 1st, 2023. The winner will be announced on June 1st, 2023. Please use the following link to apply. Please note this is a one-time grant opportunity.
Other Business Grant Programs Black Women Could Apply For
In addition, there are other grants Black women can apply for through different local, state, or private resources.
Private Small-Business Grants For Women
A private business grant is money provided by a private business or organization. Perhaps this business collects donations or will sponsor a grant program in order to help Black women entrepreneurs begin business operations.
The type of grant, amount, and eligibility requirements will vary depending on the company or organization funding the grant.
However, you can start by looking at colleges or career programs and companies with a focus on helping minorities succeed to help find viable grant opportunities.
Federal Small-Business Grants For Women
The federal government provides several grant opportunities for women. One of the best places to research federal small-business funding would be grants.gov.
This site works like a database to help you search for grants based on the type of business you have and other demographics.
You can conduct your search by the agency providing the grant, the day it was available, as well are upcoming deadlines.
Applicants can also see if the opportunity status is ‘forecasted’ or ‘posted’. Forecasted means the money is not yet formally available and is still pending due to discretionary and budgetary spending approvals. Posted means the money is readily available.
You’ll also know the estimated program funding and some of the eligibility requirements as well.
State and Local Small-Business Grants For Women
Local grants are another option for women entrepreneurs and this can also limit the competition you’d have when applying for grants open to the entire public.
Specific states might offer more options than others and some grants are even available at the city or county level.
The nice thing about local grants is that it gives you a chance to share how you plan to contribute back to the community with your business whether that involves hiring local or donating a portion of your profits to a community charity effort.
Contact your City Hall or city’s Chamber of Commerce to learn more about local grant options.
Startup Business Grants for Women
Launching and running a startup can be stressful but startup grants can ease the financial pressure so you can focus more on your overall operations.
There’s an overwhelming amount of startup business grants for women including the Comcast RISE Investment Fund which is available to minority women entrepreneurs in multiple cities. This grant awards $10,000 per deserving business owner.
Expansion grants are ideal for black businesswomen who have already established their business but are looking to grow.
The funding can be used for opening a new location, expanding your business into a new market, or buying up an existing company.
Some grants are industry specific to help incentivize business growth in certain fields. For example, the SBA offers specific grants to Small Business Innovation Research as well as technology firms as well.
Military Spouse Business Grants
Military spouses tend to move more often in support of their loved one being a service member. In order to help spouses launch a business, there are a few business grant opportunities in place.
Military spouses can find training, counseling, and even cash for a start-up business. The Community Advantage Loan Program and the Microloan Program are a few funding opportunities available.
Scholarships for African American Women and Other Education Opportunities
Another opportunity for funding for African American women is scholarships. Education can be an important step in gaining funding There is an initiative out there called Embracing Equality. They are all about creating an inclusive, equitable and affirming educational ecosystem.
Scholarshipsforwomen.net has a whole list of scholarship options for women. You can even categorize it to show you the specific ones for African American females as well.
Dr. Julianna Malveaux Scholarship for African-American Women
Dr. Julianne Malveaux is the President of Bennett College for Women. She is also an author, economist and commentator. Her application and information on her scholarship can be found here
- Class: Sophomore or Junior
- GPA: 3.0 or higher
- Degree Specific: Yes: Journalism, Economics or a Related Field
- Scholarship amount: $1,000
- Number available: Handful
Joshua David Gardner Memorial Scholarship
The scholarship was established in 2006. It’s available for undergraduate students at historically black colleges and universities.
- Class: US Citizen, between 18-25 years old, who are admitted or enrolled at a 4-year historically black college.
- GPA: 3.0 or higher
- Degree Specific: No
- Scholarship amount: $2,000
- Number available: At least 2 a year
Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund
The Jeannette Rankin Scholarship focuses on the older college student not as much on a traditional student.
- Class: Low income, age 35 or older.
- GPA: n/a
- Degree Specific: Students pursuing a technical or vocational education. Also are eligible if they are going for an associate’s degree, or a first bachelor’s degree.
- Scholarship amount: $2,000
- Number available: Scholarships are distributed straight to recipients and are renewable for up to five years.
Free Business Training and Other Resources for Black Female Entrepreneurs
Many of the aforementioned grants offer free business training for entrepreneurs. Some resources you can take advantage of are online business classes.
To become a successful business owner, it’s important to invest in yourself. The University of California at Berkeley developed the Effective Business Writing course to help others learn how to write effective business letters, reports, and emails.
Challenges Faced by Black Women Entrepreneurs
Black women entrepreneurs face several challenges including barriers to credit, lower level of wealth, and liquidity limitations. The racial wealth gap in particular leaves Black people with far less wealth than other races due to years of racial inequality and disparities.
These circumstances directly impact women business owners as data indicates that Black entrepreneurs are 20% less likely to fund their startups with bank business loans. This could be due to clear findings that show Black business owners are twice as likely to be rejected for loans.
Grants help Black women entrepreneurs gain access to initial or additional funding with no strings attached in order to fund their business. Grants are also generally easy to access and apply for.
Tips on Applying for Small Business Grants for Black Female Entrepreneurs
Grants can seem very competitive since you’re basically receiving free money that you don’t have to pay back. It’s important to make sure you’re doing what you can to set your application a part and honor all the requirements for your best chance of getting approved.
Here are some tips for Black female entrepreneurs applying for small business grants.
- Be aware of deadlines and give yourself enough time to apply. Deadlines are so important and it’s very easy to lose track of time and miss out on the chance to apply. When you see a grant you’re interested in, start the application process as soon as possible. To be more mindful of the deadline, set up calendar reminders or create an event on your phone to remind you when the deadline is two weeks, one week, and three days out so you can submit your application on time.
- Dip into who is funding the grant and learn something about them. Don’t just look at the grant award amount and decide to apply. Spend some time researching the company or organization to learn more about them and why they’re offering the grant. This will help you learn more about what they’re looking for and also to find some common ground especially if you need to write a short essay.
- Really focus on your essays and get proofreading help if needed. Grammatical errors just distract the person reading your grant application and could even indicate a lack of attention to detail on your part. Play it safe and hire someone to proofread your essay or help you format it better.
- Be sure to be looking in the right places for these opportunities. This article provides a lot of great information on where to look for credible grants and business funding. You can always expand the information here by using these ideas to locate even more opportunities that your business may qualify for.
- Be running a successful business or have a plan. If you don’t have a business plan already, it’s important to create one early on. Grant applications may require you to submit your business plan. Or, the organization or company providing the grant can ask you specific questions about your business during an interview. It’s best to have this information ready to go as this proves that you are serious and already have an effective plan for the grant money. Also, realize you can look for grants even after you’ve started a business. In fact, this can show decision-makers that you’re already serving customers and clients but looking to expand.
What to Avoid when Applying
When applying for a grant, don’t mention any business failures unless specifically asked how you overcame an obstacle. This isn’t to say you need to be dishonest, but do your best to focus on the positive aspects of your business and how you plan to grow it in the future.
People want to be inspired and get their hopes up about the future of your business and who you will impact.
Also, don’t expect certain grants to renew each year automatically. If you’re within the application deadline, just apply and don’t wait until the following year.
Even if the grant is referred to as an ‘annual opportunity’, there is no guarantee it will be available each year.
Finally, be careful not to rush through the application process. Instead, read carefully through the requirements and terms to make sure there are no strings attached. For example, winning a particular grant may come with a clause that you must do something specific in your business within the next 12 months to show how you used the grant money.
Some grants for new businesses may require that you officially launch your business within a few months to a year after receiving the grant and show proof that your business is up and running.
If there are any conditions, make sure you’re okay with them before applying for the grant.
Alternatives to Small Business Grants for Black Women
Even though grants are a worthy option to fund your business, they may not provide all the money you need to operate depending on the grant. Sometimes, it’s also helpful to supplement with a small business loan.
Below are some small business loan options to consider:
- SBA Microloans: The SBA offers microloans for up to $50,000 for businesses to get started or expand. The average microloan amount is $13,000.
- Small Business Loans: Small business loans for women are offered by banks, credit unions, and online lenders. If you qualify, you can borrow much more for your business with a small business loan.
- Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Fundable, allow you to accept donations from friends and other supporters to fund your business. These sites make it easy to set up a crowdfunding campaign that you can share online to fundraise for your business.
- Business Credit Card Funding: Business credit cards can also help you cover business expenses. If you can qualify for a business credit card with a 0% introductory APR, this will help you save on interest as you pay the balance off.
- Peer-to-peer lending: Peer-to-peer lending allows you to borrow money from private investors for various reasons including to grow your business. Lending Club is a popular peer lending platform that offers small business loans for up to $500,000.
- Business Lines of Credit: A business line of credit is similar to a business loan, but allows you to draw from a credit limit as business expenses come up. Banks, credit unions, and online lenders typically offer a business line of credit.
Business Mentoring Organizations That Could Help
Some business mentoring organizations can also help you network with other entrepreneurs and find funding opportunities and grants for women business owners. Here are a few free or low-cost options.
- Black Connect’s Business and Entrepreneur Assessment (BEA): BEA is Black Connect’s developing business incubator that helps Black business owners receive advice, mentorship, and funding recommendations to help start their business. In order to participate, you need to be a member of Black Connect and dues are just $75 for the year.
- All Raise: All Raise is an organization that helps women with startups learn more about venture capital and find funding opportunities. Mentorship opportunities and informative masterclasses are included.
- Score: Score is an SBA resource partner that provides free business mentoring and other services to entrepreneurs through its more than 230 local chapters and partner locations. Score mentors are experts in various business fields.
Grants are widely available for Black business owners looking to start their journey into entrepreneurship or grow an existing business. Start with your local area or state for grant options but also don’t count out private grants and industry-specific opportunities.
Prepare in advance by ironing out your business plan and paying close attention to deadlines and other eligibility requirements. Finding the right grant for you can relieve some financial pressure that so many small business owners face.