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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Fortney

Top Funding & Support Opportunities for Female-led Startups and Small Businesses

In recent years, there has been a huge movement towards funding female entrepreneurs. While some opportunities have always existed, there are now more players in the game offering women, and women of color, more access to grants and capital than ever before.


Why is this? It’s because female entrepreneurship has grown thanks to access of information, networks off and online and funders want to bridge the gap to support women business owners in their pursuit of entrepreneurship. This leads to job creation, something that only continues to help the economy locally and nationally.


Also, funding female entrepreneurs meets the objectives of many organizations, including banks. The bonus for women is that grants are not loans. There is some paperwork and reporting to show how the money was used, but they otherwise do not need to be paid back.


Still, many women believe that grant money is out of reach for them. The old adage, “How do you know if you don’t try?” is one that women need to live by. There are opportunities out there just waiting for you and they are all over. The list below is not exhaustive. Look at your local community as well.


Local organizations, like a chamber of commerce, have a vested interest in seeing your success. Business centers and women’s business groups and programs can help you define the kind of capital you need to raise and often make direct introductions to help you access money – grants to lines of credit.


Female Startup and Entrepreneur Funding

 

An Expert Tip

A recent tip that I heard from fellow entrepreneur friend who raised more than $350,000 off of grant programs - TRUE STORY - is to write your first grant and save it for use on other grants. While each grant has its own set of questions and requirements, you can ensure that your brand messaging and story remain consistent by simply copying and pasting that information.


Again, this list isn’t exhaustive, but it shows that there are a lot of funding opportunities for female startup founders and business owners. At first, $10,000 might not seem like much but the more of those you collect, the bigger the impact. This is exactly how my friend grew her business into a national brand.


What funding opportunities are out there for female entrepreneurs? This list is fairly thorough and shows the kinds of opportunities that you might not know about for you, your startup or small business, even your industry niche, of grants, loans, angels, and more.


1. Grants for Women Entrepreneurs


Amber Grant

  • Description: Monthly $10,000 grant and a year-end $25,000 grant to a female entrepreneur.

  • Eligibility: Open to all women entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Canada.

  • Website: Amber Grant

Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program

  • Description: Annual grants up to $200,000 to support women-owned businesses focused on social and environmental change.

  • Eligibility: Women-owned businesses in the U.S.

  • Website: Eileen Fisher Grant

Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards

  • Description: Grants ranging from $30,000 to $100,000 for women-led businesses with impactful and sustainable solutions.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs worldwide.

  • Website: Cartier Women's Initiative


2. Loans and Financing Programs


SBA 7(a) Loan Program

  • Description: Loans up to $5 million for small businesses, including women-led businesses.

  • Eligibility: U.S. small businesses.

  • Website: SBA 7(a) Loans

Kiva

  • Description: Crowdfunding platform offering 0% interest loans up to $15,000 for women entrepreneurs.

  • Eligibility: Entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: Kiva


3. Investment Funds and Angel Investors

Astia


  • Description: Global organization providing capital, mentorship, and networking to women-led startups.

  • Eligibility: High-growth businesses with at least one woman in a leadership role.

  • Website: Astia

Golden Seeds

  • Description: Angel investor network funding women-led businesses in various sectors.

  • Eligibility: U.S.-based women-led startups.

  • Website: Golden Seeds


4. Accelerators and Incubators


Women’s Startup Lab

  • Description: Accelerator offering mentorship, funding, and resources for women entrepreneurs.

  • Eligibility: Women-led startups globally.

  • Website: Women's Startup Lab

Springboard Enterprises

  • Description: Accelerator that connects women-led businesses with investors, advisors, and strategic partners.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in the U.S.

  • Website: Springboard Enterprises


5. Corporate Programs and Competitions


Women Who Tech Startup Grants

  • Description: Grants up to $50,000 for women-led tech startups.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in the tech industry worldwide.

  • Website: Women Who Tech

Visa Everywhere Initiative

  • Description: Global innovation program offering cash prizes and mentorship for women entrepreneurs.

  • Eligibility: Startups solving payment and commerce challenges.

  • Website: Visa Everywhere Initiative


6. Non-Profit and Government Programs


iFundWomen

  • Description: Crowdfunding platform offering coaching, funding, and connections for women entrepreneurs.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: IFundWomen

National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants

  1. Description: Grants up to $4,000 for small businesses, including women-led businesses.

  2. Eligibility: U.S. small businesses that are NASE members.

  3. Website: NASE Growth Grants


7. Industry-Specific Funding Opportunities


InnovateHER Challenge (U.S. Small Business Administration)

  • Description: Annual competition that awards grants to innovative products and services that impact and empower the lives of women and families.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in the U.S.

  • Website: InnovateHER Challenge

Pipeline Angels

  • Description: Angel investing bootcamp and network funding women and non-binary femme social entrepreneurs.

  • Eligibility: Early-stage startups led by women or non-binary femmes.

  • Website: Pipeline Angels

Comcast RISE

  • Description: Grants and marketing services to women and minority-owned small businesses.

  • Eligibility: Small businesses in the U.S. that are at least 51% owned by women or people of color.

  • Website: Comcast RISE


8. Regional and Local Programs


Texas Woman’s University Center for Women Entrepreneurs Grant Program

  • Description: Annual grants of up to $5,000 for women-owned businesses in Texas.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs based in Texas.

  • Website: TWU Center for Women Entrepreneurs

Chicago Foundation for Women

  • Description: Grants supporting women-led initiatives and businesses in the Chicago area.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs and organizations in the Chicago metropolitan area.

  • Website: Chicago Foundation for Women

The Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program

  • Description: Fellowship providing women entrepreneurs with $5,000 for business education and access to a network of peers and mentors.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in the U.S. with a majority stake in their business.

  • Website: Tory Burch Foundation


9. International Opportunities


SheEO

  • Description: A global community of women who support, finance, and celebrate women entrepreneurs.

  • Eligibility: Women-led ventures focused on social impact.

  • Website: SheEO

UN Women – WE Empower UN SDG Challenge

  • Description: Global business competition for women entrepreneurs who are advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

  • Eligibility: Women-led businesses worldwide.

  • Website: WE Empower Challenge

Cherie Blair Foundation for Women – Mentoring Women in Business Programme

  • Description: Mentorship and support program connecting women entrepreneurs from developing and emerging economies with mentors worldwide.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in developing and emerging economies.

  • Website: Cherie Blair Foundation


10. Resources and Networks

National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO)

  • Description: Provides resources, advocacy, and networking opportunities for women entrepreneurs.

  • Eligibility: Women business owners in the U.S.

  • Website: NAWBO

Lean In Circles

  • Description: Community and support network for women in business.

  • Eligibility: Open to women worldwide.

  • Website: Lean In

Ladies Who Launch

  • Description: Offers resources, grants, and support for women entrepreneurs.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in the U.S.

  • Website: Ladies Who Launch

 

11. Educational and Training Programs


SCORE for Women Entrepreneurs

  • Description: Offers free mentoring, workshops, and educational resources specifically for women entrepreneurs.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in the U.S.

  • Website: SCORE

Women's Business Centers (WBCs)

  • Description: A network of nearly 100 educational centers throughout the U.S. providing training, counseling, and resources to women entrepreneurs.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in the U.S.

  • Website: WBCs

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women

  • Description: Provides women entrepreneurs around the world with business and management education, mentoring, and networking.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women


12. Technology and Innovation Funding


Women in Technology Venture Fund (BDC Capital)

  • Description: Investment fund focused on women-led technology businesses in Canada.

  • Eligibility: Canadian women-led tech startups.

  • Website: BDC Capital Women in Technology

Google for Startups Women Founders Fund

  • Description: Provides equity-free funding, Google Cloud credits, and mentorship to women-led startups.

  • Eligibility: Women-led startups globally.

  • Website: Google for Startups


13. Minority and Underrepresented Women Funding


Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)

  • Description: Offers grants, loans, and resources specifically for minority-owned businesses, including those led by women.

  • Eligibility: Minority-owned businesses in the U.S.

  • Website: MBDA

Black Women Talk Tech

  • Description: A collective that supports black women tech founders through funding opportunities, networking, and mentorship.

  • Eligibility: Black women tech entrepreneurs.

  • Website: Black Women Talk Tech

Navajo Women's Entrepreneurship Program


14. Green and Sustainable Business Funding


Conservation International Ventures

  • Description: Investment fund for women-led businesses with a focus on environmental conservation and sustainability.

  • Eligibility: Women-led businesses globally focused on conservation.

  • Website: Conservation International Ventures

Echoing Green Fellowship

  • Description: Fellowships for social entrepreneurs, including women, working on environmental and social impact projects.

  • Eligibility: Social entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: Echoing Green


15. Creative and Arts Funding


National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Grants

  • Description: Grants supporting women-led arts projects and organizations.

  • Eligibility: U.S.-based artists and arts organizations.

  • Website: NEA

The Awesome Foundation

  • Description: Monthly $1,000 grants for creative projects, including those led by women.

  • Eligibility: Open to individuals and groups globally.

  • Website: The Awesome Foundation


16. Health and Wellness Industry Funding


Johnson & Johnson Women in STEM²D Scholars Program

  • Description: Grants for women pursuing research in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Manufacturing, and Design.

  • Eligibility: Women researchers globally.

  • Website: Women in STEM²D

Springboard Health Innovation Hub

  • Description: Provides mentorship, funding opportunities, and resources for women-led health and wellness startups.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in health and wellness.

  • Website: Springboard Health


17. Agriculture and Rural Development Funding


Annie’s Grants for Gardens

  • Description: Grants supporting school gardens and community gardens led by women.

  • Eligibility: Women-led initiatives in the U.S.

  • Website: Annie’s Grants

Rural Women’s Business Fund (USDA)

  • Description: Loans and grants for women entrepreneurs in rural areas.

  • Eligibility: Rural women entrepreneurs in the U.S.

  • Website: USDA Rural Development


18. Financial and Business Services


Female Founders Fund

  • Description: Early-stage fund investing in women-led businesses in e-commerce, media, platforms, and financial services.

  • Eligibility: U.S.-based women entrepreneurs.

  • Website: Female Founders Fund

All Raise

  • Description: A nonprofit organization focused on diversity and inclusion, providing funding and mentorship for women entrepreneurs in the tech and venture capital industries.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in tech and venture capital.

  • Website: All Raise


19. Networking and Community Support


Ellevate Network

  • Description: Global community of professional women providing networking, events, and funding opportunities.

  • Eligibility: Professional women globally.

  • Website: Ellevate Network

Girlboss Foundation Grant

  • Description: Grants for women entrepreneurs in the creative fields, awarded biannually.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in the U.S.

  • Website: Girlboss Foundation


20. Startup Competitions


PitchHer Competition

  • Description: Pitch competition specifically for women entrepreneurs, offering cash prizes and exposure.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: PitchHer Competition

TiE Women

  • Description: Global initiative providing mentorship, networking, and funding opportunities through pitch competitions for women-led startups.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: TiE Women


21. Tech and Innovation Hubs


The Female Foundry (SAP)

  • Description: Accelerator program providing mentorship, funding, and networking for women-led tech startups.

  • Eligibility: Women tech entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: Female Foundry

Microsoft Women in Cloud Accelerator

  • Description: Cloud accelerator program offering support and funding for women-led cloud businesses.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: Microsoft Women in Cloud


22. Social Impact and Nonprofit Funding


Global Fund for Women

  • Description: Provides grants to women-led organizations and initiatives promoting gender equality and women’s rights.

  • Eligibility: Women-led organizations globally.

  • Website: Global Fund for Women

Vital Voices GROW Fellowship

  • Description: Fellowship program offering training, mentorship, and funding to women leaders with a social impact focus.

  • Eligibility: Women leaders globally.

  • Website: Vital Voices GROW


23. Research and Academic Funding


L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Program

  • Description: Awards and fellowships for women researchers in the sciences.

  • Eligibility: Women researchers globally.

  • Website: For Women in Science

American Association of University Women (AAUW) Fellowships

  • Description: Fellowships and grants for women in academic research and education.

  • Eligibility: Women researchers in the U.S.

  • Website: AAUW Fellowships


24. Creative and Cultural Funding


National Geographic Society Grants

  • Description: Grants for women-led projects in research, conservation, education, and storytelling.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: National Geographic Society

Creative Capital Awards

  • Description: Grants for women artists working on innovative and impactful projects.

  • Eligibility: Women artists in the U.S.

  • Website: Creative Capital


26. Veteran Women Entrepreneurs


Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE)

  • Description: Provides training, mentorship, and funding opportunities specifically for female veterans.

  • Eligibility: Female veterans in the U.S.

  • Website: V-WISE

StreetShares Foundation Veteran Small Business Award

  • Description: Awards grants to veteran-owned businesses, including those led by women veterans.

  • Eligibility: Veteran-owned businesses in the U.S.

  • Website: StreetShares Foundation


27. Microfinance and Community Lending


Grameen America

  • Description: Provides microloans, training, and support to low-income women entrepreneurs in the U.S.

  • Eligibility: Low-income women entrepreneurs in the U.S.

  • Website: Grameen America

Accion Opportunity Fund

  • Description: Offers small business loans and financial education to women entrepreneurs.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in the U.S.

  • Website: Accion Opportunity Fund


28. Global Women Entrepreneurship Programs


Cherie Blair Foundation for Women

  • Description: Provides mentorship, business skills training, and access to networks for women entrepreneurs in developing countries.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in developing countries.

  • Website: Cherie Blair Foundation

Vital Voices Global Partnership

  • Description: Supports women leaders with training, mentorship, and grants to help them grow their businesses and create positive social impact.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: Vital Voices


29. Sector-Specific Funding for Women


Food and Beverage: The James Beard Foundation Women's Leadership Program

  • Description: Offers grants, scholarships, and mentorship to women in the culinary industry.

  • Eligibility: Women in the food and beverage industry in the U.S.

  • Website: James Beard Foundation

Fashion: CFDA + Lexus Fashion Initiative*

  • Description: Grants and mentorship for women-led fashion businesses focused on sustainability.

  • Eligibility: Women fashion entrepreneurs in the U.S.

  • Website: CFDA + Lexus

Education: Teach For America’s Social Innovation Award

  • Description: Grants and support for women-led ventures in the education sector.

  • Eligibility: Women educators in the U.S.

  • Website: Teach For America


30. Women in Energy and Cleantech


Women in Cleantech & Sustainability (WCS)

  • Description: Provides funding, networking, and mentorship for women entrepreneurs in the cleantech and sustainability sectors.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: WCS

Clean Energy Trust

  • Description: Offers grants, investment, and support for women-led startups in the clean energy sector.

  • Eligibility: Clean energy startups in the U.S. Midwest.

  • Website: Clean Energy Trust


31. Women in Media and Entertainment


Women in Film Finishing Fund

  • Description: Grants and support for women filmmakers to complete their film and media projects.

  • Eligibility: Women filmmakers globally.

  • Website: Women in Film

Gotham Documentary Feature Lab

  • Description: Provides mentorship, funding, and networking opportunities for women documentary filmmakers.

  • Eligibility: Women documentary filmmakers.

  • Website: Gotham Film & Media Institute


32. Support for Women in E-commerce


Shopify Women Entrepreneurs

  • Description: Provides resources, grants, and mentorship to women running e-commerce businesses on Shopify.

  • Eligibility: Women e-commerce entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: Shopify Women Entrepreneurs

Amazon Launchpad Innovation Grant

  • Description: Grants and support for women-led startups and small businesses selling innovative products on Amazon.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: Amazon Launchpad


33. Additional Resources


FEM-START

  • Description: A community and accelerator program for female founders offering networking, mentorship, and funding opportunities.

  • Eligibility: Female entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: FEM-START

SheEO Radical Generosity Fund

  • Description: A funding initiative where women entrepreneurs support other women-led ventures through interest-free loans and mentorship.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: SheEO

Enterprise Ireland - Female Entrepreneurship Unit

  • Description: Provides funding, mentorship, and resources specifically for women entrepreneurs in Ireland.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs based in Ireland.

  • Website: Enterprise Ireland


34. Awards and Recognition Programs


Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit

  • Description: An invitation-only summit that provides women leaders with the opportunity to network and gain recognition.

  • Eligibility: High-profile women leaders and entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: Fortune MPW

Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women Program

  • Description: Annual competition and executive education program that identifies and supports high-potential women entrepreneurs.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Canada.

  • Website: EY Winning Women


35. Women in Finance and Fintech


Fintech Innovation Lab

  • Description: Accelerator program offering mentorship, funding, and networking for women-led fintech startups.

  • Eligibility: Women-led fintech startups globally.

  • Website: Fintech Innovation Lab

SheEO Finance Program

  • Description: Provides financial support and mentorship for women entrepreneurs in the finance and fintech sectors.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: SheEO Finance


36. Arts and Culture Specific Funding


National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Grants

  • Description: Provides grants for women-led projects in the humanities, including research, education, and public programs.

  • Eligibility: U.S.-based humanities projects.

  • Website: NEH Grants

The Awesome Foundation for Arts and Sciences

  • Description: Monthly $1,000 grants to women-led projects in the arts and sciences.

  • Eligibility: Open to women globally.

  • Website: The Awesome Foundation


37. Advocacy and Policy Programs


The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)

  • Description: Certification and support for women-owned businesses, providing access to large corporations and government contracts.

  • Eligibility: Women-owned businesses in the U.S.

  • Website: WBENC

National Women's Business Council (NWBC)

  • Description: An advisory council to the President, Congress, and the SBA on economic issues of importance to women business owners.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in the U.S.

  • Website: NWBC


38. Sector-Specific Awards


Women in Agribusiness Summit

  • Description: Annual summit offering recognition, networking, and funding opportunities for women in the agribusiness sector.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in agribusiness globally.

  • Website: Women in Agribusiness

Women in Construction Awards

  • Description: Awards program recognizing the achievements of women in the construction industry.

  • Eligibility: Women in the construction industry globally.

  • Website: Women in Construction


39. Innovation and Technology Funding


Intel Capital Diversity Initiative

  • Description: Investment initiative focused on women and underrepresented minority entrepreneurs in technology.

  • Eligibility: Women and minority entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: Intel Capital

SAP.iO No Boundaries Initiative

  • Description: Accelerator providing funding and support for women and minority entrepreneurs in the tech industry.

  • Eligibility: Women and minority entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: SAP.iO No Boundaries


40. Media and Communications Funding


Women Make Movies Production Assistance Program

  • Description: Provides fiscal sponsorship and funding for women filmmakers.

  • Eligibility: Women filmmakers globally.

  • Website: Women Make Movies

CineReach Grants

  • Description: Grants for women-led independent film projects focusing on innovative storytelling.

  • Eligibility: Women filmmakers globally.

  • Website: CineReach


41. Advocacy and Community Building


Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC)

  • Description: Provides programs and services to support women entrepreneurs, including funding, mentorship, and advocacy.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in the U.S.

  • Website: WBDC

NAWBO Institute for Entrepreneurial Development

  • Description: Offers educational programs, resources, and support for women business owners.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs globally.

  • Website: NAWBO Institute


42. International Development Funding


Women’s World Banking

  • Description: Provides financial products and services to women entrepreneurs in developing countries.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in developing countries.

  • Website: Women’s World Banking

The Asia Foundation – Lotus Circle

  • Description: Provides funding and support for women entrepreneurs in Asia.

  • Eligibility: Women entrepreneurs in Asia.

  • Website: The Asia Foundation


43. Creative Writing and Publishing


PEN America Emerging Voices Fellowship

  • Description: Provides mentorship, funding, and support for emerging women writers.

  • Eligibility: Emerging women writers in the U.S.

  • Website: PEN America

Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Pannell Award

  • Description: Recognizes bookstores and organizations that enhance children’s literacy and promote women writers.

  • Eligibility: Bookstores and organizations in the U.S.

  • Website: WNBA Pannell Award


44. Women in STEM


Women in STEM Entrepreneurship (WISE) Program

  • Description: Offers funding, mentorship, and networking for women entrepreneurs in STEM fields.

  • Eligibility: Women in STEM globally.

  • Website: WISE Program

National Science Foundation (NSF) ADVANCE Program

  • Description: Provides funding to increase the participation of women in STEM fields.

  • Eligibility: Women in STEM in the U.S.

  • Website: NSF ADVANCE

 

The bottom line when it comes to being an entrepreneur, especially a female entrepreneur, is that there are untapped resources for you and your business. It may take some work and dedication, but finding and securing funding for your business can be the one thing that takes your business to the next level. Not to mention the network you can build around you for support, mentoring, learning and growth.

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