Each year, women-led businesses generate a staggering $1.8 trillion in revenue and have shown a higher ROI than their male counterparts.

But when women attempt to secure business loans, they are shown to have a slightly lower approval rate than men.

Even when women are approved for loans, their loans are smaller and have higher interest rates.

Luckily, there are alternative financing options, such as federal grant programs created to fill the gender funding gap.

Here are some grants to consider applying for, as well as some resources you can use to find more federal funding opportunities.


1. Small Business Technology Transfer Program and Small Business Innovation Research Grants

The Small Business Administration established the SBIR and STTR grants to provide financial assistance to companies engaged in technological research.

Although the SBA is the main contributor to this program, recipients have the opportunity to work with a range of federal agencies, depending on the type of work they do. In connecting with other agencies, you may be able to secure more funding for your research.

Eligibility requirements include:

  • 500 employees or less
  • Cannot be a non-profit organization
  • Must be over half owned by us citizens or permanent residents

The SBIR and STTR application process can be difficult to navigate. Fundera has a very helpful guide for small businesses who need assistance in this regard.

Other SBA Resources

The U.S. Small Business Administration offers much more than just financial aid. Their website is a gold mine of resources for any women entrepreneur.

On the site’s Learning Platform, you’ll find information regarding networking opportunities, small business loans, and even help with your taxes.

Plus, you never know when they will offer another grant, so it’s wise to keep up with any updates from their site.


2. Dream Big Small Business of the Year

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Dream Big grant program is an annual contest created to help small businesses and contribute to the overall economic growth of this country.

The grant awards $25,000 to one company each year. As the COC says, they aim to “recognize a small business that exemplifies the spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship, and individual initiative.”

In order to be eligible for this grant, businesses must meet the following requirements:

  • For-profit business
  • At least one year old
  • 250 employees or less
  • $20 million or more in annual revenue


U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Achievement Awards

There are eight more Business Achievement Awards that a small business can receive through this program.

One, in particular, is the Women-Owned Business Achievement Award.

To be eligible for this award, your business must be two things:

  • 51% owned by a US resident woman or women
  • Managed and operated on a daily basis by a woman or women

The prize for all Business Achievement Awards is a free one-year membership to the Chamber of Commerce and a sticker to place on your website. Prizes are awarded at an annual dinner.

It may not be grant money, but this is good publicity for your business!


3. 8(a) Business Development Program

Happy business woman

The 8(a) Business Development program is not exactly a grant, but it can help to propel your business forward by awarding you a very profitable government contract.

The federal government has a goal to award 5% of their contracting dollars to disadvantaged small businesses, and this program helps them to do just that.

To apply for this business opportunity, your small business must check the following boxes:

  • SBA-certified small business
  • Show good character and the ability to complete the contract
  • Not a previous 8(a) contract recipient

Additionally, applicants must be owned 51% by economically or socially disadvantaged entrepreneurs.

This is defined as a business with:

  • $750,000 or less in personal net worth
  • $6 million or less in assets
  • $350,000 or less in adjusted gross income

Applying to this program can give you the ability to apply for federal contracts worth millions.

Related: How to Get Certified as a Disadvantaged Business Owner


4. Grants.gov

This website is a database of hundreds of grants available to all. It lists government grants offered from both federal and private institutions.

Keep in mind that this database includes grants for all types of individuals and businesses.

When choosing a grant to go for, you should read the information about the grant carefully before applying so that you don’t waste any time or money on an application that you are not eligible to receive.

To apply for any grant through Grants.gov, you need to register. Then, you can filter your search to make it possible to find one that matches your business criteria and needs.


5. Challenge.gov

This program gives individuals and organizations the opportunity to help the federal government solve problems.

Depending on the nature of your business, you may have just the solution that the U.S. government is looking for.

There are numerous competitions in fields ranging from healthcare to engineering. Each competition has its own eligibility requirements and prizes.


Non-Federal Grants for Women

Grants offered by government agencies are super competitive and, at times, hard to qualify for.

But many private organizations have business grant programs, too. By applying for these programs, you can secure some free money to help meet the financial needs of your small business.

Here are a few designed specifically for women entrepreneurs:


Amber Grant

The WomensNet Amber Grant has been helping young women fulfill their business dreams since 1998.

This grant is awarded to one individual in the amount of $10,000 every month, with four finalists each getting $1,000.

Each of the twelve monthly recipients will be eligible to win the $25,000 award at the end of the year.

WomensNet also offers business-specific grants in the amount of $5000 and some mini-grants in the amount of $2000.

So even if you aren’t awarded the bigger amounts, you still have plenty of opportunities to be awarded some money from this organization.


Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards

This grant opportunity is open to women worldwide whose startups have a positive social, economic, and ecological impact.

To be eligible for this grant, businesses must:

  • Be a for-profit organization in its early stages
  • Have generated revenue for at least a year
  • Meet one of the UN SDGs

There are seven regional awards with three winners in each region, as well as a Science and Technology Pioneer Award with three more winners.

They award a $100,000 prize to the winner of each grant and $30,000 to the runner-ups.

All winners will become a part of the Fellowship Programme, which equips them with the knowledge and skills needed to run a successful business.

This includes mentorship from industry experts, established entrepreneurs, and academics.

Winners also become part of a lifelong community of like-minded women who are crushing it in the business world without damaging the environment and standing up against social injustices.



Four business women sitting at a table

iFundWomen is a women’s business center that offers several grants each year.

Here are a few of them:


The Entrepreneur of the Year Award

This award gives $100,000 to one special female entrepreneur who has captured the organization’s attention.

Runner-ups and honorees are awarded either monetary grants or mentoring and coaching scholarships.


The Jane Walker • IFundWomen First Women Grant Program

This program awards fifteen recipients with $10,000 for developing female businesses in the following fields:

  • Entertainment & Film
  • Music
  • Sports
  • Journalism
  • Hospitality

The application for this grant requires entrepreneurs to submit a 60-second video that demonstrates why their business is unique and how it’s breaking boundaries within their industry.


Visa She’s Next Grant Program for Black-Women-Owned Businesses

iFundWomen partners with Visa to offer $10,000 to sixty black-woman-owned businesses across the country.

This program also offers exclusive networking and coaching opportunities to black women entrepreneurs.


The IFundWomen X Neutrogena Fund

Neutrogena paired up with iFundWomen to offer $10,000 to eighteen woman-owned businesses in the health and wellness field.

Qualifying businesses are women-owned and help promote healthy living through physical health or mental wellbeing.


iFundWomen Monthly Pay-It-Forward

Start a crowdfunding campaign on the iFundWomen website, and you are entered into the monthly Pay-It-Forward grant, which gives back 20% of the money iFundWomen received in crowdfunding fees that month.

No need to fill out an application — those who start a crowdfunding campaign are automatically entered into the pool of contestants.

This organization offers many more grants on their website (too much to cover in this article).  Many of the applications are now closed, but there will be new ones again in the near future.

iFundWomen is always looking for more ways to help female entrepreneurs succeed in the business world. They have offered grants for businesses in specific industries and locations as well as COVID-19 relief and minority groups.

Check back with iFundWomen regularly to be the first to know about a new grant being offered. Alternatively, you can fill out their universal grant application to be a part of their database of potential grant recipients.


Tory Burch Foundation

Each year, the Tory Burch Foundation offers a $5000 award to one woman small business owner.

To be eligible, your business must be three things:

  • Early-stage
  • For-profit
  • Already generating income

This grant is to advance your business and comes with a one-year fellowship that includes workshops and virtual classes to give you the knowledge you need to increase your chances of success.

You will also have the opportunity to visit the Tory Burch offices and be a part of a premier peer network.


Women’s Founders Network Fast Pitch Competition

In their words, the Women Founders Network exists “to provide access to capital, visibility, and mentorship to female founders.”

Their Fast Pitch Competition awards over $25,000 in cash, plus one-on-one coaching, mentorship, and networking to qualifying female entrepreneurs.

Here are the eligibility criteria:

  • Women-owned business
  • Located in the U.S.
  • Early-stage
  • For-profit
  • Cannot have raised more than $750,000 in outside funding or personal contributions
  • Not in the CBD or life sciences field

In order to be eligible, you must also participate in the annual Fast Pitch Event, where you will deliver a presentation on your products and business plan to a panel of judges.

There is a $50 application fee for this grant competition. For a full description of the application process, read their guidelines here.


The Eileen-Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant

Eileen Fisher created her very own clothing line with sustainability in mind. She wants to share her vision and success with other female entrepreneurs who value sustainability.

She created this grant for that very purpose.

To be eligible for this financing opportunity, businesses must meet these criteria:

  • Women-owned
  • At least three years old
  • Socially- and environmentally-driven
  • One million or less in yearly profits


Your business can receive up to $120,000 to help you in your work to improve social and environmental conditions around the globe. These grants provide financial assistance to women-led businesses in need of working capital. They’re a fantastic alternative to borrowing money from lenders. Of course, there is no guarantee that a small business would be granted any of these grants, whether government grants or private. However, the benefits of receiving a financial boost, no matter how small, from simply filling out a grant application are worth the effort.