The Small Business Administration assists women business owners in attaining small business grants. Many women are surprised to learn these grants are not issued exclusively to women business owners. Instead, they are often the same grants issued to all small business owners. The key difference with the grant programs, though, is that they give special consideration to women or minority applicants. Only in unique cases will there be a grant that is designated exclusively for a woman.
Women's Business Center
The Women's Business Center is a part of the Small Business Administration (SBA) designated solely to promoting the growth of women entrepreneurs. The WBC website posts regular grant opportunities for women business owners. These opportunities typically take the form of state grants, and you must be operating in the state where they are offered in order to receive the funding. For example, the WBC just (in the spring of 2010) initiated a grant for any individual opening a nonprofit women's business center in the state of New Jersey. It is interesting to note that the grant is not exclusively for women but for any owner opening a business assisting women business owners. This is common with grants through the SBA.
Office of Women's Business Ownership
The SBA offers the continuing support of the Office of Women's Business Ownership. The resources of this office are given only to women business owners. These resources include assistance with grant applications, applications for federal funding and assistance writing a business plan. Applying through the OWBO for an SBA grant or loan guaranty can help you get approval for the funding.
The Count-Me-In organization raises money from existing women-owned business to promote new opportunities for other women. The loans and grants are rather small, capped at $10,000. The main benefit of this program, though, is that it takes into consideration more than just the business credit when determining whether to offer funding. The SBA and WBC will both have high credit standards before supplying either grants or loans. Count-Me-In, though it does not ignore credit, will place the experience of the business owner and quality of the business plan as a higher priority than credit.
American Association of University Women
If you want to go complete your education prior to starting your business, you will need immediate financing for the cost of college. The American Association of University Women assists first-time students and those going back to finish or attain a degree. The funding is given to women pursuing graduate degrees in a few specific areas; teachers and community activists, women at turning points in their careers and women entering professions where there is a small representation of women receive this funding. This opens the door for a variety of women business owners to go get a graduate degree in their field of choice for relatively low cost.
Women's Funding Network
The Women's Funding Network is a nationwide allegiance of local offices supporting women business owners. You may find specific grant programs in your state or local area through the network. In addition, the network offers resources to help you apply for these grants through local service partners. Once you are a member of the network through an annual membership, you will have access to a listing of grants immediately through the network of business owners. You may even receive priority application status for some of these grants, increasing your chances of gaining the funding.
Challenges in Women Business Funding
In reality, you will be awarded a grant based on your ability to fulfill a market need in your specific area, not because you are a woman. Any website promising to show you how to get grants specifically because you are a woman is misleading you. Grant suppliers want to support quality businesses with sound business plans. You will often be applying for the same grants as male business owners; the main difference is there is more support to help you achieve the grant in some scenarios. Do not expect to suddenly be eligible for a plethora of funding simply because of your sex. You will be competing with men and with other minority business owners for most grants, so you will need to work hard to find the funding.