Ever dreamed of running your own business, but not sure where to get started with funding? If so, you’re not alone. According to Fundera, women are approved for business funding at a lower rate than men and have received only 7% of equity funding globally. However, a number of funding options have arisen that are focused exclusively on empowering women entrepreneurs. If you’re interested in tapping into grants, funding resources, and other options for women-owned tech small businesses, here’s a guide to help you get started.
Venture Capital for Women-Owned Tech Businesses
One option to consider for growing a women-owned technology business is seeking venture capital. From women-founded funds to funds with explicit missions to invest in women-owned technology businesses, innovative investors are working hard to close the gender gap. The amount of investment varies widely, from $100,000 to multi-million-dollar investments. Inc. Magazine has provided a round-up of some of the latest funds working hard to achieve this mission. If you’re looking at venture capital, understand what the funds’ missions are, what industries and technologies they typically invest in, and the terms they’re looking for concerning returns. The right venture partner can make contributions that go beyond just the capital they invest, by connecting you with their expertise and even opening up their network to help expand your customer opportunities. Other options for research include Grants for Women’s VC resource and the Women in VC Global Directory.
Federal Grants for Women Tech Entrepreneurs
At the federal level, there are a number of grant programs available to small businesses that women business owners can pursue. Grants.gov should be your first stop when seeking a grant for your small business. The website contains a database of all federally funded business grants and can be filtered to show small business results. To apply for a grant through this site, you’ll need to apply for a DUNS number for your business (a unique identifier), register through the U.S. government’s System Award Management site, and create an account on the grant website. The Grants.gov website will walk you through each step of the process, starting with that DUNS number, making it easy for business owners to find and apply for grant opportunities faster.
For small businesses that contribute to federal research and development, the SBA runs two programs that provide grants in association with 12 federal agencies: the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transferprograms. The grants are searchable via the SBIR website, which lists grants for for-profit businesses with fewer than 500 employees that meet other eligibility requirements.
Women-Focused Small Business Lending
If you’re interested in a small business loan, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has a range of solutions that can help women-owned technology businesses grow. The SBA-managed Office of Women’s Business Ownership manages a network of women’s business centers in cities around the U.S. The centers provide services, as well as advisory services on credit and funding solutions. If you qualify for an SBA loan, they offer competitive interest rates and repayment terms. There are options ranging from microloans, to help start very small businesses, to long-term options, for more established enterprises. Your local bank or credit union may also have options that are right for you. Some banks partner with non-profits or other organizations to target women entrepreneurs: the Tory Burch Foundation, for example, connects women entrepreneurs and local community lenders.
Regional, State, and Local Grants
At a more local level, your area’s economic development agency may be able to connect you with grant opportunities. These resources are allotted to support local businesses and invest in local economies at a state, regional, or city level, and individual districts award grants to business owners who operate in their region. The Economic Development Administration’s resource page has a searchable database to help you find local EDA offices, state government contacts, and other resources.
In addition to federal programs, the SBA coordinates resources on a local level. Hundreds of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) operate across the country and are often connected to colleges and universities. Your local SBDC offers free business consulting, and their agents can help you develop a business plan, perform market research, and find grants you may be eligible for.
Non-profits and Foundations Empower Women Entrepreneurs
Some of the most interesting grant opportunities for women-owned business come out of the private sector. The National Association for the Self-Employed, a non-profit trade association, awards $4,000 to small businesses every month. These grants are available to small businesses that are experiencing growth, and the funds are earmarked for marketing, advertising, and hiring employees in order to support the growth of that business.
Does your business have a positive social or environmental impact through technology? If so, you could be eligible for the Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program. The program awards up to $10,000 to each of 10 women-owned businesses each year, provided you’ve been in business for at least three years and meet the other requirements.
The Amber Grant was established in honor of a young woman who died before she could realize her entrepreneurial dreams, and the program awards $2,000 each month to one woman business owner, and one of the monthly grant winners is awarded an additional $25,000 at the end of the year. The grant application requires business owners to tell a compelling story and pay a small application fee in order to be considered, and applications are accepted throughout the year for the monthly award. These are just a sampling of the grants available to help you grow your business.
Women entrepreneurs are helping shape the future of technology. However, starting and launching a business requires capital, and there may come a time in your growth trajectory when you need a cash infusion to take you to the next level. From venture capital investments to loans and grants, there are a wide range of options on the market. As you think about your long-term growth plans, explore these options to find the right solution.