Women business owners and female entrepreneurs face a number of obstacles, one of the most significant of which is access to capital. In fact, at a time when there are more women-owned businesses than ever before, women business owners’ access to funding has taken a significant turn for the worse. According to Biz2Credits 2017 State of Women-Owned Business Finance Study, the average small business loan granted to women dropped nearly 50 percent — from $99,000 to $57,097 — between 2016 and 2017. During that same time, the average loan granted to male business owners was stable at $103,604.
The reasons for the disparity in lending between men and women are complex. For example, the average credit score for female entrepreneurs in the study was 598, while male entrepreneurs averaged 612. Additionally, women-owned businesses tended to have lower revenues and shorter lifespans: The average age of the male-owned businesses surveyed was 62 months versus 56 months for businesses owned by females. Women also tended to own businesses in the service and hospitality sectors, where growth has been less robust than industries that typically attract males, such as trucking, warehousing, and construction.
But even though the lending landscape for female entrepreneurs is less than ideal, funding opportunities are available for those who know where to look. To point you in the right direction, here’s a list of some small business grants that are open to female entrepreneurs this year.
Awarded by the Amber Foundation in honor of a young woman who died at the age of 19 before realizing her entrepreneurial dreams, the Amber Grant program has been run by WomensNet since 1998. The program awards $1,000 each month to a woman-owned business and an additional $10,000 to one of the monthly grantees at the end of each year.
Qualifying for the Amber Grant is very simple — simply pay a $15 application fee and tell your story on the WomensNet. (The application deadline is the last day of every month.) The award recipients are selected by the WomensNet advisory board (Christina Lambert, Kelsey Ptucha, Marcia Layton-Turner) and an occasional guest judge. Winners are usually announced by the 10th of the month; each winner is automatically eligible for the $10,000 annual award.
Cartier Women’s Initiative Award
Open to female entrepreneurs who are the current owners of for-profit businesses, the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award was founded in 2006 by Cartier, McKinsey & Company and INSEAD Business School. The grants are awarded to a total of 21 female entrepreneurs from seven global regions: Latin America, North America, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and North Africa, East Asia, South Asia, and Australia. The top seven finalists (one from each region) receive $100,000 in prize money and one-on-one business coaching from an expert in their field. The remaining 14 semi-finalists receive a $30,000 grant. Additionally, all 21 finalists will have an opportunity to attend the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship 6-Day Executive Program and participate in workshops, business coaching seminars and networking events.
The application period for this year is currently closed. The organization will begin accepting applications for the 2020 period in June 2019. Learn more about the application process here.
Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant
Since 2004, fashion designed Eileen Fisher has been awarding a total of $100,000 annually to 10 women-owned business in the United States. The awards go to small businesses that have a positive social and/or environmental impact and are typically open to businesses that are beyond the start-up stage.
Unfortunately, in 2018, the organization paused the grant program to reassess its charitable portfolio and determine next steps. New programs and guidelines are expected in Spring 2019. Check the Eileen Fisher grants page for updates, which should be announced over the next couple of months.
GirlBoss Foundation Grant
The GirlBoss Foundation Grant is a $15,000 biannual award in the amount of $15,000 for individual women business owners in the fields of design, music, fashion and/or the arts. Since its inception in 2014, the foundation has awarded over $130,000 to female entrepreneurs.
To be eligible for the GirlBoss grant you must identify as female and be at last 18 years old and a citizen of the United States.
Applicants are judged on the basis of creativity and innovation, business acumen and financial need. Additionally, each applicant must submit a detailed plan demonstrating that the project for which the funding is requested can be completed over the ensuing 12 months. Winners are selected by a committee of GirlBoss staff and company founder and CEO Sophia Amoruso.
Interested? Apply here.
Created specifically for emerging female entrepreneurs in the jewelry industry, the Halstead Grant is an annual cash award of $7,500 plus $1,000 towards Halstead jewelry supplies. Started in 2006, the award is given annually to one silver jewelry designer who demonstrates a combination of business acumen and innovation in jewelry design.
Open Meadows Foundation Grant
Open Meadows Foundation is an organization that awards grants to women and girls who are working to promote gender and racial justice through social and political activism. The grants are available to emerging women-owned businesses that reflect the diversity of the community served and have limited financial resources (specifically an operating budget of $75,000 or less.) Preference is given to small start-ups, and awards are up to $2,000 each.
To apply for an Open Meadows Foundation grant, download an application here.
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