The National Women’s Business Council’s latest survey showed that the number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. continues to grow each year. Even so, the amount of VC funding and other forms of financing made available to women hasn’t always kept pace with this trend.
Fortunately, as we enter 2017, more and more organizations and companies are showing their support for women in entrepreneurship in the form of grants for aspiring women business owners.
If you’re a female entrepreneur in need of funding for your business, consider applying for one or more of these six top grants available to women in 2017.
2017 SBA InnovateHER Business Challenge
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) InnovateHer Business Challenge is accepting applications now through May 12, 2017. For the grant program, the SBA selects local host organizations including universities, accelerators, and scale-up communities, to sponsor regional competitions whose winners will advance to compete for one of the top three awards and a portion of the $70,000 total in grant funds.
While competition will be fierce, the unique tiered competition style of the InnovateHer Business Challenge offers women entrepreneurs a unique opportunity not only to be eligible for grant-based funding but also to connect with and learn from fellow women in business who are facing similar challenges and experiences.
Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program
Eileen Fisher will begin accepting applications in April for their 2017 grant program for women-owned businesses. Unlike many grant programs which tend to focus on businesses in more of a start-up phase, the Eileen Fisher program focuses on companies that have been in operation for at least three years.
To be eligible, applicant companies must have under $1 million in annual revenue and be centered around a socially conscious mission. Up to ten companies are selected annually to receive a portion of the $120,000 total grant funds.
The Amber Grant
Named after a nineteen-year-old aspiring entrepreneur who tragically passed away before she was able to realize her business dreams, the Amber Grant Program provides small grants of $500 to $1,500 on a monthly basis. While this isn’t a huge amount of funding, it can be game changing for female micro-entrepreneurs who need only a small investment in supplies or equipment to reach their next step in business.
If you’re just getting started as a business owner, don’t panic! Unlike most grant applications, the Amber Grant Program does not require that applicants already have a fully-realized company. Instead, you’ll be encouraged through the application process to speak from the heart about your business ideas, your mission, and what drives you to be an entrepreneur.
The Idea Cafe Grant
Idea Cafe’s Small Business Grant is another program that’s ideal for women entrepreneurs in the early stages of starting a business. Applicants don’t need a formal business plan—Idea Cafe is just looking for the most creative business ideas out there. Winners are awarded $1,000 each, and there’s no fee to apply.
Zion Bank Smart Women Grant
In the coming months, Zion Bank will begin accepting applications for the 2017 Smart Women Grants. Each year, they award one $3,000 grant in each of six categories: business, community development, continuing education and teacher support, child and elder care, health, and human services, and arts and culture.
This grant program looks specifically to provide grants to companies who serve women or under-served communities in Utah and Idaho, where the bank itself is based.
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest
The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest, while it’s not expressly for women, the ten prizes—with the grand prize of a $25,000 grant plus $7,500 in FedEx services—makes it worthy of mention. To qualify, entrants must have a business that’s been formally registered with the Secretary of State in their home state and has been in operation for at least six months.
Grants are not as widely available as traditional financing, so be prepared to face stiff competition from your fellow women entrepreneurs. After all, as one of the only forms of outside funding that don’t require business owners to divest equity or to repay the funds with interest, grant programs are seen by most as an ideal source of funds.
There is really no downside to applying for a grant, so find the grant that best fits your business’s needs, and start writing!