By U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Despite leading nearly half of U.S. businesses, women entrepreneurs typically receive less funding. These 16 funding options aim to address this problem.
While women-owned businesses have always played a crucial role in the economy, more women are taking the leap into entrepreneurship in recent years. According to a Gusto study, 49% of entrepreneurs in 2021 were women — up from 28% in 2019. Yet in 2021, startups founded solely by women received just 2% of venture capital investments.
To help bridge that gap, here are 16 organizations, government agencies, and resources that offer funding support for women-owned businesses.
37 Angels - The investment firm 37 Angels was founded on the belief that the gender gap in startup investing needs to be closed. The organization invests in early-stage startups from both women and men and has a transparent and open process that makes it easy for entrepreneurs from any background to apply for funding. Pitch forums with 37 Angels investors are held every two months.
Amber Grant Foundation - The Amber Grant Foundation was founded by WomensNet in 1998 in honor of Amber Wigdahl, an aspiring woman entrepreneur who died at 19 years old. The Amber Grant Foundation carries on the youthful spirit of Wigdahl by offering women entrepreneurs grants to help their businesses take off. Each month, the Foundation gives away $30,000 in grant funds as well as two year-end grants of $25,000 each.
BELLE Capital USA - BELLE Capital USA offers early-stage funding for high-growth companies in underserved markets, particularly for women-led businesses. Its investors plan to invest in 10-15 companies that are currently making $1 million in revenue but are “capable of reaching $120 million or more within 3-5 years.”
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BELLE Capital USA focuses on startups in four sectors — IT, digital health, technology-enabled products and services, and CleanTech — and typically funds between $100,000 and $1.5 million, delivered in portions dependent upon milestone achievement. Post-investment, the angel fund helps its companies prepare for high-value exits by recruiting top female talent, all while continuing to work closely with founders and upper management.
Cartier Women’s Initiative - The Cartier Women's Initiative is an international entrepreneurship program that provides multiple awards each year to “women-run and women-owned businesses from any country and sector that aim to have a strong and sustainable social and/or environmental impact.” Grant awards range from $30,000 to $100,000. In 2021, the organization also launched a “Science & Technology Pioneer Award,” which hopes to help women entrepreneurs working on innovative scientific and technological projects.
Fearless Fund - Businesses led by women of color can apply for financing from Fearless Fund, which is “built by women of color for women of color.” The venture capital fund invests in organizations in need of pre-seed, seed-level, or series A financing. Fearless Fund boasts an array of big-name corporate partners, including Coca-Cola, Mastercard, and UPS.
In 2023, the company also launched its Fearless Strivers Grant Contest, open to Black women who are the principal owner of any U.S.-based small businesses. The four selected contest winners will receive $20,000 grants, along with digital growth tools and mentorship opportunities.
Female Founders Fund - If the name wasn’t clear enough, the VC firm Female Founders Fund aims to invest in up-and-coming women-owned and women-run startups. Since 2014, Female Founders Fund has put money toward “category-defining female leaders with a strong community to fuel their success,” with investments in B2B, consumer, healthcare, fintech, and social companies.
Grants.gov - The website Grants.gov offers the most comprehensive look at federal grant options for businesses. Not all grants specifically target women-owned businesses; however, given the thousands of grants to apply to, there are many opportunities here for companies from all backgrounds. Grants.gov lists federal grants from agencies including the Department of the Interior, Health and Human Services, National Science Foundation, and more.
GrantsForWomen.org - The website GrantsForWomen.org is a simple but incredibly useful website for women business owners who are looking for grants. What makes the site more useful than many is that it lists grant opportunities at the local and national level, making it easier to find lesser-known organizations that are offering funding. The site also does a good job of outlining recent and timely opportunities, so it’s worth checking frequently.
The website GrantsForWomen.org is a simple but incredibly useful website for women business owners who are looking for grants. What makes the site more useful than many is that it lists grant opportunities at the local and national level, making it easier to find lesser-known organizations that are offering funding.
iFundWomen - iFundWomen offers a range of funding options for women-owned businesses. One of the organization’s most convenient tools is the iFundWomen Universal Grant Application, which matches its partners’ grant criteria to businesses in the database. Qualified applicants who are a match for a sponsored grant will be notified.
In addition to grants, iFundWomen also offers a platform for women-owned businesses looking to crowdfund, as well as educational resources to help them get started. Site visitors who wish to contribute to a crowdfunding campaign can filter their search by business category, date, and funding goal.
Kapor Capital - Oakland-based venture capital firm Kapor Capital has a mission to empower founders who come from all backgrounds, including many women entrepreneurs. The firm says 38% of its “first-time investments have a founder who identifies as a woman” and works to fund startups working to solve big problems in education, finance, health, work, and justice.
Ms. Foundation for Women - The Ms. Foundation for Women’s mission is to advance equity for women by supporting female entrepreneurs, centering women of color who have been historically underrepresented. In addition to funding, the nonprofit provides strategic assistance to help women-owned businesses achieve lasting success and growth.
The Ms. Foundation’s grants focus on supporting grassroots organizations in three categories: economic justice, safety, and women’s health. Grants are typically administered via targeted requests for proposals, offered to a limited number of applicants. However, open calls for proposals will sometimes be posted on the organization’s website, so entrepreneurs can keep an eye out for these opportunities.
SoGal Ventures - Women-led venture capital firm SoGal Ventures invests in “early-stage diverse founding teams” in the U.S., Asia, Africa, and Europe, including many women-owned startups. To date, the firm has invested in more than 70 companies. SoGal Ventures works side by side with the organization SoGal, which provides “advisory, coaching, mentorship services, startup resources, and events” to diverse startups who are looking for help and networking.
Small Business Administration (SBA)For years, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has been one of the best places for women-owned businesses to look to for assistance with funding. On top of providing general resources and guidance through its Women’s Business Centers, the SBA can connect women-owned businesses with financing opportunities through its Lender Match tool. The SBA also can help with obtaining federal contracting opportunities for women-owned businesses through the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting program.
Tory Burch Foundation - The Tory Burch Foundation, which was founded in 2009 in support of empowering women entrepreneurs, provides funding through its fellows program targeted at women-owned businesses. Fellows receive a five-day workshop series at the Tory Burch offices, a $5,000 grant for business education, and more. Additionally, some fellows are invited to pitch at a Pitch Day event.
Visa Global She’s Next Grant Program - Female entrepreneurs looking to launch beyond the U.S. can seek out the Visa Global She’s Next Grant Program. In collaboration with the above-mentioned iFundWomen, Visa offers grant and coaching opportunities for women-owned small businesses across the globe. Since its launch, the She’s Next Grant has been made available to entrepreneurs in Chile, Poland, the Dominican Republic, the Baltics, the Nordic region, and the Mena region. Though the application period has closed as of February 2023, global business owners can monitor the page in the coming months for the next round of grants.
Women Founders Network Fast Pitch Competition - Each year, the Women Founders Network hosts its Fast Pitch Competition for female entrepreneurs. The top 10 selected finalists will receive personalized coaching, mentorship, and feedback to prepare for their pitch. Winning pitches will earn cash prizes totaling $55,000: $25,000 to first-place winners in each of two tracks (tech and non-tech), plus $5,000 to one winner in the Junior Judge program (open to young women in grades 9-12).
The competition is open to U.S.-based women-owned businesses that have raised no greater than $750,000 in outside funding. Applications will be accepted between April 1 and May 31 for the 2023 competition.
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