Who just hands out strings-free cash so you can turn your side hustle into a fully-fledged small business? The answer is: Not many people (or organizations, for that matter).
While there are many options for small business loans, the number of small business grantsare limited. Unlike small business loans, which have to be repaid (often with interest and within a certain period of time), grants are funding you get to keep. That’s right, once a grant is distributed, you don’t have to repay a dime.
It’s a great deal—with a catch. The few small business grants that are available have arduous application processes. Expect a stringent written application, a meticulous review process, and a whole lot of competition. Small business grants can also be difficult to track down because of outdated websites, databases, or organizations that go out of business. The small business grant struggle is simultaneously extremely real and highly worth it.
Here are some useful places to start in your search:
Don’t mind our ~casual plug~, but you should totally apply to the Girlboss Foundation. Since 2014, we’ve given away over $130,000 worth of grants to women entrepreneurs making innovative moves in the industries of fashion, design, music, and the arts. Each grant winner receives $15,000 in project funding, plus features on Girlboss.com, our newsletter, and social media platforms (oh, and they get two tickets to the next Girlboss Rally!). Grants are awarded bi-annually, and you can submit your application here.
A good place to start your small business grant search if you’re a beginner is with your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which is funded in part through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). While the SBA doesn’t distribute grants to launch or establish a new company, they do provide grants for research and development. SBDCs serve as a good guide to local grants and funding options. They’re usually hosted by state universities or state economic development agencies.
Grants.gov is an online database of federally-backed grants across a variety of fields. Note that the grants listed aren’t specifically limited to women, but it’s a good entryway to discovering what your business can qualify for. It can be a tad overwhelming, but there’s no other database as comprehensive.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards are designed for female entrepreneurs in the early stages of their business. The grant is open to for-profit businesses that are one to three years old and woman-led. Recipients go through a two-round selection process and are narrowed down to 21 finalists, representing the top three projects from seven regions. The winning package for the top seven recipients is $100,000 in prize money. Second-place finalists get $30,000.
The Amber Grant is named after a young woman who died before fulfilling her dream of becoming an entrepreneur. WomensNet began the grant, which distributes $1,000 monthly grants to women with a range of small business ideas. The recipients who gain a $1,000 grant are also eligible for an annual $10,000 small business grant.
The Eileen Fisher grant is designed for women-owned businesses that have grown past the start-up phase. Judging is based on the potential for “positive social and environmental impact.” According to their website, their Women-Owned Business Grant and the Activating Leadership Grant are on pause, but their Community Grant Partnerships will remain open. Watch this space, as they expect to introduce new grants and funding opportunities in 2019.
Looking for more super-cool, female-founded, small-business brands to support? Don’t miss the Shopping Bazaar at the Girlboss Rally, where we’ve curated our very favorite ones. Register at girlbossrally.com to access the Shopping Bazaar and so much more.