Top Grants For Women-Owned Startups and Small Businesses In 2021

1. Merchant Maverick Opportunity Grant

  • Submission dates: Submissions are open as of February 1, 2021; the deadline for submissions is May 1, 2021
  • Entry requirements: Open to for-profit businesses that are 51%+ owned by a Black woman (cisgender or transgender) or a Black femme-identified individual. 
  • Website: merchantmaverick.com/grant-application-page

Great news: our first-annual Merchant Maverick Opportunity Grant Program has launched. The program will award $10,000 grants to a total of four businesses each year. This year, our Opportunity Grants will focus on businesses owned by Black women. Our latest data study, The 10 Best States for Black Female Business Owners, shows that Black women are severely underrepresented in the business community—despite equaling roughly 7% of the US population, our research found that Black women run 0.74% of all employer firms in the country.

In addition to receiving a $10,000 grant, each business selected will be profiled on our site over the next year, giving the winners a chance to share their small business story, promote their brand, and raise awareness about the problem their business addresses. Learn more here: Merchant Maverick Opportunity Grants

2. Amber Grant

  • Submission dates: The submission deadline is on the last day of every month; the winner is announced in the first week of the following month.
  • Entry requirements: Open to all female entrepreneurs age 18 and up living in the United States or Canada and who pay a $15 application fee.
  • Website: ambergrantsforwomen.com

This grant isn’t for a very large amount of money, but it is easy to qualify and apply for. Named after a young woman named Amber died before being able to fulfill her entrepreneurial dreams, the Amber Grant awards $10,000 to a woman-owned business every month. At the end of the year, one of the 12 monthly qualification winners wins another grant for $25,000.

3. Cartier Women’s Initiative

  • Submission dates: The 2021 submission deadline was July 31, 2020, and applicants who have not been selected will be informed of the status of their application by March 2021. The next call for applications has been postponed to Spring 2022.
  • Entry requirements: Open to women-run, for-profit, early-stage, revenue-generating, sustainable businesses from any country; Science & Technology Pioneer Award applicants must also be in the field of technology or scientific innovation.
  • Website: cartierwomensinitiative.com 

The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards is one of the largest and most prestigious women-owned business grants, but the competition is steep.

Cartier offers two different grants for women-owned businesses: The Cartier Women’s Initiative Regional Awards provides seven laureates (one from each of seven global regions) $100,000 each, and 14 finalists (2nd and 3rd runner-up businesses from each region) $30,000 each. Cartier’s Science & Technology Pioneer Award provides one $100,000 grant to the winner and two $30,000 grants to the runners up.

4. Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program

  • Submission dates: The 2021 submission deadline was November 12, 2020; you can apply again in Fall 2021
  • Entry requirements: Open to women-run, for-profit, early-stage, revenue-generating ($75,000 minimum strongly preferred) businesses operating in the US.
  • Website: toryburchfoundation.org

Each spring, up to 50 finalists of this women-owned business grant competition are selected for a $5,000 grant to be used for business education. The finalists also receive a one-year Tory Burch Fellowship and a free 5-day trip to Tory Burch Offices in NYC over the summer.

The free trip includes a workshop, networking opportunities, and a Pitch Day event where a select group of finalists will have the opportunity to pitch their business to industry influencers (pending CDC travel and event guidelines during COVID). Note that the $5,000 grant cannot be used for purposes other than business education.

5. Girlboss Foundation

November 2020 update: The Girlboss Foundation Grant Program is currently paused.

  • Submission dates: You can apply in June for the first cycle of the year, and in December for the second cycle.
  • Entry requirements: Open to US-based, female-identifying creative business owners (in design, fashion, music, and the arts) who are 18 or older.
  • Website: girlboss.com

Launched in 2014, The Girlboss Foundation funds female entrepreneurs pursuing creative endeavors. Specifically, these semi-annual grants are for women in the fields of art, fashion, design, and music. Every six months, one grant beneficiary receives $15,000 to be used for a creative project within the following 12 months, in addition to online media exposure. Note that the Girlboss Foundation only awards grants to individuals; GB can award the grant to an individual representing a business, but not to a business as an entity.

Girlboss also hosts the annual Girlboss Rally — which grant recipients receive two free tickets to –and runs the Girlboss Professional Network job marketplace for women.

6. Women Founders Network Fast Pitch Competition

  • Submission dates: Applications for the next WFN grant open in Spring 2021.
  • Entry requirements: Open to early-stage, women-owned businesses with high growth potential. Must be US based and have received no more than $1m in outside funding.
  • Website: womenfoundersnetwork.com 

The Women Founders Network is an organization that provides both capital and mentorship to women business owners. WFN is an excellent grant opportunity if you have an innovative company that you want to take to the next level. The organization’s Fast Pitch competition selects five finalists to receive free grant money and free professional services each year. Through two rounds of voting, judges select the five top female founders, who then pitch their companies in a “Shark Tank”-style competition to compete for more than $30,000 in cash prizes and over $50,000 in professional services.

7. 37 Angels

  • Submission dates: 8 finalists are selected every 2 months to pitch their company; the next application cutoff is February 8, 2021, and upcoming pitch dates for 2021 are Feb 19, Apr 30, and Jun 25.
  • Entry requirements: Open to early-stage, high-growth companies in attractive markets like technology and B2B/B2C.
  • Website: 37angels.com

Angel investment isn’t a grant, per se, as the investors that fund you will have an interest in your company. But angel investing can be a good option for women-owned startups who could benefit from some direction and industry expertise in growing their company, as well as the funds to do so. NYC-based 37 Angels is an angel investment group designed to close the gender gap in angel investing. The grant is open to both women and men-led companies (but the group’s portfolio favors woman founders).

There’s a simple online application to apply for funding, and if you’re selected as a finalist, you’ll pitch your company to a group of investors in New York. You should receive a decision within 4-weeks of pitching, and most angels receive $50,000 to $100,000 in seed funding, along with professional help growing their company.

8. Halstead Grant

  • Submission dates: The deadline is August 1 each year. Postmark your 2021 grant application by August 1, 2021.
  • Entry requirements: Open to US jewelry designers who work primarily in silver, have been in business 3-5 years, and are pursuing jewelry design as a full-time career (not a hobby or part-time job).
  • Website: grant.halsteadbead.com

Halstead Grants are annual grants given to emerging metal jewelry designers. While this grant is not strictly for women, I’m including it on our list, as the jewelry industry is mostly female-dominated, and most (but not all) of the past winners of this grant have been women. The grant consists of $7,500 in startup capital and $1,000 in Halstead merchandise. Note that as part of the application, you must submit a jewelry collection.

9. Women Who Tech

  • Submission dates: Applications for the 2021 Women Who Tech Emerging Tech grant opened February 1, 2021.
  • Entry requirements: Open to North America-based, women-owned startups in tech that have already raised $50K in seed revenue or that are already generating revenue.
  • Website: womenwhotech.com

Women Who Tech is the largest network of women-led startups, investors, and allies working to increase diversity and funding in the technology sector. The organization awards equity-free grants to women-led tech startups on a rolling basis throughout the year. For each grant period, there is a different theme. For the first grant period of 2021, the theme is Emerging Tech; applicants should be focused on emerging technologies to solve systemic global problems.

The first place prize for the Women Who Tech Emerging Tech grant is $15,000, and the second-place awardee will receive $5,000.

What About The InnovateHer Women Business Challenge?

There was previously a nationwide SBA business grant competition for women called the InnovateHer Challenge, organized by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership. The InnovateHer Challenge awarded federal grant money to three finalists every year from 2015–2017. These grants were reserved for businesses that used innovation to improve the lives of women. Among the group of winners who applied in 2016, the first place won $40,000; second place received $20,000; third place got $10,000.

Unfortunately, this SBA grant quietly disappeared during the Trump administration, but we’ll let you know if this program, or any other SBA grant for women, is funded under the new Biden administration.

Other Business Grant Resources For Women

Here is some more information on grants for women in business, as well as other opportunities and ideas for business financing.

SBA Resources

Note that the SBA does offer some resources for women-owned businesses, even if it doesn’t necessarily offer actual cash-money. For example, the Women Veteran Entrepreneurial Training Program can help you get free business training if you are both a woman and a veteran. You can (and should) also check with your local SBA Women’s Business Center (WBC) to see what local business resources they can connect you with. These resources may, potentially, include local women-in-business grants specific to your city or state.

Federal Contracts For Women-Owned Businesses

If you think your business could be eligible for federal contracts, you should also know that the government reserves a certain percentage of federal contracts for women-owned small businesses (WOSB) in industries where women are underrepresented. Some examples are forestry, construction, HVAC, manufacturing, and many, many others you might not expect, such as beauty salons, nail salons, family planning centers, and women’s apparel manufacturing. Some federal contracts are even restricted further to economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSB). So, if you own a business in a male-dominated field, which is pretty much all of them, be sure to look into this program.

Business Crowdfunding

There are some business crowdfunding platforms you can use to raise money for your woman-owned-business. In most cases, you may need to offer backers a tangible reward or even equity in your business in exchange for funding. However, with some platforms such as Kiva, you can raise up to $10,000 for your business, with no strings attached. Read Types Of Crowdfunding For Businesses: Rewards, Equity, Debt, & Donations to learn more about your business crowdfunding options.

Coronavirus Grants For Women Business Owners

Not-so-fun fact: female business owners have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Unfortunately, the already-awarded Women Who Tech COVID-19 Grant was the only coronavirus relief business grant I’ve found that is specific to women business owners. Still, there are some other COVID-related small business grants you might be eligible for:

Business Loans For Women

For many women business owners, a business loan might be the most viable option for funding. Unlike a grant, you do have to pay loans back—but they’re much easier to get. The following resources go over the best business loan options for women:

More Educational Resources On Grants

Want to learn more about how business grants work and how to find and apply for one? We’ve published numerous informative articles on small business grants you can use to educate yourself about grants in general. Here are a few to get you started:

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Credit source: Merchant Maverick

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