Competition for business funding at any level can be steep. And for women business owners and entrepreneurs, the competition can be even steeper. Thankfully, there are many resources available to provide women business owners and entrepreneuers with important funding opportunities.
Valley Bank is a longstanding supporter of women in business, providing educational and banking opportunities for entrepreneurial women. Our Women in Business program provides a platform for developing a community among these leaders, establishing support, and providing resource development and mentorship opportunities. As part of our commitment to women in business, we compiled this list of grants and funding opportunities that women anywhere can take advantage of today.
Federally supported small business grants
Supporting small business growth is an important mechanism for the government to stimulate the economy. By funding your business ideas and projects, these grants help build small businesses across the country. Take advantage of these great resources for small businesses by researching government departments and grants in your specialty. These are not restricted exclusively to women in business, but women are encouraged to apply.
Resources for federal grants:
- Grants.gov — This online database is the only central portal where you can search and apply for grants throughout the federal government’s vast resources. Here you can access more than 1,000 grant programs provided by 26 federal agencies. Be sure to review stipulations and requirements to determine which grants might be a good match for you.
- Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program —The SBIR program supports projects with a high potential for commercialization and offers an opportunity for small businesses to explore their technological potential. For scientific and technical businesses, participating in the national Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) program can help provide funding for innovative research endeavors. There are several federal agencies participating in this program, from agriculture to aeronautics. If R&D is your thing, this may be just the program for you.
- Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program — The STTR is another program that supports funding for research and development. This grant bridges the gap between science and commercialization by creating partnerships between small businesses and research institutions. The program is based on the idea that small businesses are an invaluable resource for innovative thought. It’s true that small business is the backbone of not just our economy, but also our innovative progress. The STTR program helps brings expensive R&D processes and technologies to the hands of our nation’s most important thinkers.
Private grants are funded by a variety of sources, generally selecting recipients based on specific mission-based and social, environmental, and economic criteria. A number of industry-specific grants can provide many levels of funding for women in business.
Noteworthy private grants to consider:
- The Girlboss Foundation — This organization was established in 2014 to fund female-identifying entrepreneurs in artistic fields, including fashion, design, music, and art. Girlboss awards recipients $15,000 for entrepreneurial projects and provides exposure through their media platform. Check out Girlboss.com for more information.
- The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards — The awards, a partnership between Cartier and INSEAD business school, supports projects by women entrepreneurs around the globe. The grant is one of the most impressive of its kind, awarding $100,000 to a first-place winner, while 14 finalists receive $30,000 each. Finalists and laureates also receive coaching and educational resources to help build their businesses into successful enterprises. Submissions for this grant are currently open until August 14. Check out the CartierWomensInitiative.com for more information and application details.
- Women Founders Network Fast Pitch Competition — The Women Founders Network was established on the idea that “women supporting women” is the best way to positively advance female entrepreneurs. The Fast Pitch competition selects 10 finalists to receive individualized attention preparing their business plans to scale their companies and strategically attract Angel and Venture Capital investors. Each year the organization awards a first-place prize of $25,000 for a pitch, and second and third place winners $10,000 and $5,000. Find out more at WomenFoundersNetwork.com.
- Eileen Fisher Women Owned Business Grant – Eileen Fisher has been a longstanding leader in the private grant sector aimed toward women. This year, the company is shifting their focus to environmental consciousness, awarding substantial funding to women-led non-profits demonstrating excellence in sustainability efforts. Read more about this impactful grant at EileenFisher.com/grants-overview.
Regional small business resources
Local and regional resources are another great source of assistance for women entrepreneurs. These public and private centers provide access to local grant opportunities in addition to professional development support.
Where can you find local grants:
- Small Business Development Center (SBDC) — The hundreds of Small Business Development Centers around the country provide business consulting, marketing services, business plan development, and help securing financing. Universities are common hosts for SBDCs. The SBDCs at Rutgers University-Camden, New Jersey, and Auburn University in Alabama, for example, have been supporting women in business through services that include educational and professional support for matters like state and federal certifications, cash flow management, leadership and employee management, and loan acquisition.
- Women’s Business Centers — Women’s Business Centers help women gain access to capital and teach business development. The locally placed groups can help entrepreneurs find public or private small-business grants and loans. Some even lend you money directly. The Florida Women’s Business Center in Delray Beach, offers Business Incubation services to women seeking affordable office space. The center also provides access to programs that help small businesses spur economic development to create new jobs.
- The Business Outreach Center Network — Located in Brooklyn and Staten Island, the BOC Women’s Business Center (WBC) offers business training, one-on-one counseling, and financing resources to help women start and grow their businesses. The WBC focuses on educating and empowering women entrepreneurs in underserved areas so they can contribute to the economic, cultural, and social fabric of their communities. The WBC offers a start-up grant package for low-income entrepreneurs, as well as a range of other services, including workforce development assistance, access to financing, and legal assistance.
Angel investment and other funding
Although not strictly grants, angel investments can be great resources to help start or grow your business. Going this route means you’ll receive funding from an investor in exchange for equity in your business. There are thousands of investors willing to hear out your business plan. The following organizations are open to women seeking investment.
Key organizations for angel investments:
- Tiger Labs — Although not exclusively for women, TigerLabs in Princeton, New Jersey, has certainly backed women-led companies. If you’re interested in seeking capital to start a software company, this investment fund supports entrepreneurial ventures across a range of areas, including digital health, financial services, advertising/media, and education. TigerLabs has invested in 38 companies to date. These companies have collectively raised $40 million and are valued at more than $120 million.
- WE NYC — WE NYC, which stands for Women Entrepreneurs New York City, is a unique partnership between the city and venture capital firms. It was reported earlier this year that New York City’s Economic Development Corporation will give $10 million to WE NYC along with $20 million provided by VC firms. The money goes to support early-stage New York-based tech start ups established by women. However, WE NYC doesn’t only support tech companies. From the publishing industry to food services, the organization backs all kinds of companies established by women. WE NYC also offers a variety of free financial services, including crowd funding opportunities where the City of New York donates money to your campaign.
- Alabama Launchpad — Started in 2006, Alabama Launchpad is the state’s most prominent early-stage seed fund investor and drives innovation and job growth through their startup competitions. They also mentor Alabama entrepreneurs. This group has funded 86 startups with $4 million in seed money. These successful companies are now worth $212 million. Entrepreneurs may be awarded up to $150,000 in their pitch sessions.
- Florida Funders — This organization’s moto is ‘sunshine state to startup state’ and they mean it. Florida Funders typically invest $500,000 to $750,000 into Seed or Series A rounds, but often syndicates on deals beyond this amount. They invest in technology or technology-enabled companies that are highly scalable. Florida Funders does not specifically target female entrepreneurs; however, it is only one of a few organizations available in Florida to seek startup capital. Florida is set to grow in venture capital financing and currently ranks fifth nationwide in venture capital support.
Women have come a long way in the business world and are making great strides in many entrepreneurial areas. Valley Bank encourages these enriching endeavors. We are proud to support this invaluable sector with numerous resources and encourage these entrepreneurs to take advantage of all available funding opportunities.