The Truth About Grants for Women-Owned Businesses

Are there really grants for women-owned businesses out there? If you’re leery of any advertisement or website that promises to connect you with grants for small businesses, you’re smart. As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is—and “free money” certainly sounds pretty good.

However, it’s a little different for women business owners. In fact, there are many grants for women-owned businesses that meet specific criteria, and being a woman is often one of them.

Here are some resources that can help you find grants for women:

  • The SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership maintains Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) across the country that can help you find and apply for relevant grants.
  • Grants.gov has a database you can use to search for grants from all of the grant-giving agencies of the federal government, as well as forms, resources and information about how to apply for grants.

As an example of a woman-focused grant program, the Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program awards grants to 100 percent women-owned businesses that are founded on the principles of social consciousness, sustainability and innovation and are ready to move to the next phase of development. This year, the program will award a total of $125,000 in grants, with a minimum of $12,500 per grant.

So what do you do when you find a grant that sounds perfect for you?

  • Make sure you are eligible. Pay attention to every detail. If the grant requires your company to be 51 percent women-owned and it’s 50 percent women-owned, you don’t fit the criteria.
  • Start early. Applying for grants requires filling out lots of forms, so don’t wait until the last minute.
  • Follow the rules. The last thing you want is for your application to be denied on a technicality, like not submitting the right form.
  • Know the deadlines. Don’t assume—if an application deadline is May 1, does that mean it must be turned in before May 1 or can it be turned in on May 1? Is May 1 the deadline for postmarking your application, or for it to arrive in the office?
  • Never assume. When in doubt about any aspect of the application, ask!
  • Provide all documentation requested promptly and be ready to answer questions.
  • Consider hiring a professional grant-writer if the application is complex. If it’s a substantial grant, this investment can be well worth the money.
  • Have patience. It can take months for a grant to be awarded, so be ready to wait.