With a shockingly small 1.9% of venture capital (VC) funding in the US going to women-founded startups and only 13.7% of Small Business Administration loans going to women-owned companies, it’s no surprise that alternative options for funding for female entrepreneurs are highly sought after.
For African American women entrepreneurs, those numbers are even lower—they receive only 0.5% of venture capital dollars in the US. As a result of this inequality, many organizations and companies have stepped up to fill the gap in funding for women entrepreneurs, whose businesses are said to perform 63% better than male-run startups, according to the Female Founders Fund.
In keeping with this, Bank of America notes that for every dollar received in VC funding, women-run startups generate $0.78, while male-run businesses generate less than half that at $.31 per dollar.
These numbers add up to the fact that women leaders are a good investment—in fact, 63% of women entrepreneurs anticipate increased revenue in the coming year, while 71% feel equipped to survive a recession.
With such a disparity, where should you look for funding for female entrepreneurs? We’ve put together a list of 13 of the best alternative funding options for women leaders to consider—grants, funds, crowdfunding, small business loans, and even competitions.
[NOTE: Duckfund offers small business loans with low interest rates, fast processing and high approvals. Our loan process and program is especially friendly for women entrepreneurs, but is also available for all communities, both minorities and majorities.]
If you have never taken out a small business loan before and/or are worried about your credit history, don’t sweat. We care more about your business than your credit score.
That’s what makes us different—when evaluating your application, instead of making decisions solely based on your personal credit score, we focus instead on understanding the intricacies of your business and how a small business loan can help you grow.
We created Duckfund to help fuel the growth of women-run small businesses by providing easy loans and tailored financing options at affordable interest rates, and fast – we have high approval rates, low interest rates and (when approved) you get the money within 24 hours, guaranteed.
We believe in looking at the bigger picture, and we know that your time as women entrepreneurs is extremely valuable, so we won’t waste it.
It only takes one minute to apply for your small business loan, and you’ll get notice on the approval or denial quickly.
Use our simple loan calculator to quickly determine how much funds you can get and at what interest rate. (Remember that checking this will not impact your credit score.)
Second on our list of funding for female entrepreneurs is Enthuse Foundation's Annual Pitch Competition.
Competitive female entrepreneurs in the food, beverage, and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industries looking for funding for their businesses might want to consider entering the competition, which is held annually in November in New York City. Applications open in August 2023.
Enthuse Foundation Pitch Competition 2022 winner
Five entrepreneurs will be selected to pitch their business plans in front of industry experts, and two will talk away with first place and runner-up packages containing $10,000 and $5,000 in cash, respectively, plus 20 hours of in-kind business services from Enthuse Marketing, free company valuations, and one-on-one business mentoring for the winner.
“We started the foundation to really bring awareness to the funding disparity that exists with women-owned businesses,” said Enthuse CEO Kim Lawton, adding that “the community has grown and it’s just become this melting pot of individuals helping each other to grow and be stronger and better.”
For business support, community, and funds for female entrepreneurs, take a look at Enthuse Foundation. You can find eligibility rules, the schedule, and other details on the pitch competition here.
There are a number of women-focused funding platforms out there, and SoGal Ventures is among the most popular for giving out grants for female founders.
The SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant is specifically tailored toward securing funding for black female entrepreneurs and nonbinary entrepreneurs.
The SoGal Foundation, along with its partners, offers startup grants available in amounts of $5,000 or $10,000, and grant winners also receive invaluable advice on business needs and fundraising, as well as lifetime access to the SoGal Foundation team. Grant applications are accepted on a regular basis, so you can apply any time.
Previous SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant $10,000 winner Soulace
“For women-funded brands, there are exponentially growing numbers of venture-funded options dedicated to empowering diverse teams. One such option is SoGal Ventures. As a women-led firm, SoGal invests exclusively in early-stage companies with diverse founding members, all the while providing resources, mentorship, and tools for continued success,” shared Lori Price, co-founder of kids’ boutique clothing platform PixieLane.
Another fantastic option for funding for black female entrepreneurs is The Fearless Fund, awarded by the Fearless Strivers Grant Contest and in partnership with Mastercard.
They offer generous $20,000 grants to businesses owned by Black women, digital tools for effectively managing online businesses, and personalized mentorship from a Mastercard small-business mentor.
The Fearless Fund, a grant opportunity for black female entrepreneurs
To be eligible for this small-business grant, applicants must have a US-based business with a small number of employees (50 or fewer), and their annual revenue should not exceed $3 million in the previous year.
Our next option for funding for female entrepreneurs is directed toward the superwomen known as “mompreneurs” who balance child-rearing with running their own businesses.
The High Five Grant is the first and longest-running grant for moms who run businesses
The High Five Grant for Moms, offered by The Mama Ladder organization—along with co-hosts Proof, Belly Bandit, and Caden Concepts—is a yearly small-business grant designed to provide support to women caregivers with children of different ages. This includes first-time expecting moms, stepmoms, and foster moms.
To score a grant for women entrepreneurs—specifically mompreneurs—interested women bosses can submit an online application and post about the story behind their business on social media. A panel of judges will narrow down the applicants to eight, and then the top three winners will be decided through a public vote.
Unbuckle Me, winner of the 2019 High Five Grant for Moms, appeared on “Shark Tank” with their mom-designed product
The High Five Grant for Moms offers grants for female founders in the amounts of $25,000, $10,000, and $5,000. Applications are open from September 1-30, 2023.
A well-known fashion brand that sponsors grants and funding for female entrepreneurs, the Tory Burch Foundation is a non-profit organization fully dedicated to women's empowerment and entrepreneurship. In the past, the foundation has given up to $100,000 in funding and over $10,000 in grants for business education.
Each year, the The Tory Burch Fellows Program chooses 50 women entrepreneurs for a year-long lab designed to grow their businesses through workshops, coaching sessions, business development sessions, network-building, and financial resources. The program culminates in a company presentation and a trip to New York.
“They [the grant program] also provide connections to other successful female entrepreneurs who can provide advice, mentoring, and direction,” said Vicky Franko, founder of Insura, adding that “some of the foundation requirements include having a for-profit women-owned business with some type of socially conscious involvement.”
Businesses must be at least 51% owned by women of color
In the Women of Color Grant Program, panelists select 75 women of color-owned businesses to receive $10,000 and $20,000 grants, access to education and community, and amazing business networking opportunities.
“This grant was great because it was both financial support and tools for the founder,” shared Chantel Powell, creator and CEO of active kids’ marketplace Play Pits. “On this journey, entrepreneurs need so many things, [and] it’s great when you get a multi-pack of resources. That’s impactful on the growth of a business,” she added.
Apply for the Women of Color Grant Program here.
Founded by WomensNet in 1998 to honor the memory of a young woman named Amber Wigdahl who died at 19 years old before realizing her business dreams, the Amber Grant is one of the best grants for female entrepreneurs today.
Every month, the Amber Grant proudly provides $30,000 in funding for female entrepreneurs in different rotating categories. In recognition of the diversity of businesses owned by women, WomensNet has also expanded grant categories to “Marketing Grants,” “Business Category Grants,” as well as two “$25,000 Year End Grants.” Check out the full list of Amber Grant categories here.
April 2023 Amber Grant awarded to Neha Charnalia of Switch Grocery
The application process is easy—talk about your business (WomensNet advises women to “speak from the heart” and “talk about what matters to you”), describe what you plan to do with the grant money, and pay the $15 application fee. The advisory board of the foundation selects the winners, looking for passionate women business owners with a good story.
April 2023 Amber Grant awarded to Ashlee Kleinhammer of North Country Creamery
This is another grant for the hard-working mompreneurs who refuse to accept the status quo when it comes to their work, their children, and their worth.
A partnership between the Female Founder Collective and Boss Beauties Foundation, this $10,000 grant opportunity is geared toward “female-founded businesses making an impact on the future of parents, families and children."
The Female Founder Collective Inc., in partnership with Boss Beauties Foundation, is giving away grants to female-founded ventures
Amidst the physical, mental, and socio economic obstacles mothers face, these female business founders are “actively developing solutions to address maternal health and wellness, family care, parental employment support, ed-tech programs, and innovative frameworks for the family operating system at home. The world is rapidly changing, and female founders are at the forefront, keeping pace with the evolving landscape.”
The Cartier Women's Initiative is an annual global entrepreneurship program that aims to drive change by empowering women entrepreneurs. Founded in 2006, the program is open to women-run and women-owned businesses from any country and sector that have a strong and sustainable social and/or environmental impact.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative provides funding for female entrepreneurs in three different categories
First, second, and third-place winners in each category receive financial support (a generous $100K is awarded to first-placers!), intensive training and coaching, and community peer-to-peer learning.
This year, the Cartier Women’s Initiative is going even bigger, with 13 awards categories on offer and support for 39 impact entrepreneurs globally. Applications for 2023 are closed, but you can prepare ahead for next year’s funding opportunity.
Perfect for small business owners, the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest was started in 2012, in support of small US businesses needing funding.
This 2023, FedEx will be awarding 10 winners with $30,000 each (along with other prizes), and one of the winners (veteran-owned) will receive an additional $20,000 courtesy of USAA Small Business Insurance.
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest winner of 2022
But it’s not only the winners who go home happy. The top 100 finalists will receive two helpful resources for their businesses: 1) Financial consultation with Accion Opportunity Fund and 2) free access to the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (I.C.I.C.) Annual Conference, Digital Learning Platform, and up to three free webinars.
The applications for the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest are currently closed for the year, but stay tuned to their website for details on next year’s grant competition.
One non-traditional way to raise funds for female entrepreneurs is through crowdfunding, which is the popular finance strategy that draws funds from multiple sources instead of through only one lender. With an effective crowdfunding campaign, you can harness the power of social media; raise any amount of money; and investors, friends, families, and strangers can all contribute towards the fund.
Women-centric crowdfunding on iFundWomen
Jen Earle, CEO of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and council member of the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), a nonpartisan federal group that advises the President, Congress and the US Small Business Administration, corroborates this. ”Over recent years, women have become very active in crowdfunding platforms,” she said, adding that “recent data on Kickstarter shows that on average, they [women] are 9% more successful than men.”
Certain types of businesses are also more suited to crowdfunding campaigns than others, such as small, local businesses selling food products, fashion, and gadgets.
While there are many crowdfunding platforms out there, women business owners might want to check out those specifically tailored toward finding funding for women entrepreneurs, such as iFundWomen, as well as these tips on how you can use crowdfunding successfully.
A fantastic option for securing funding for female entrepreneurs in the deep tech space is the exciting SLINGSHOT 2023 pitch competition hosted by Startup SG.
One of the top 50 global startups in SLINGSHOT 2022
The competition isn’t only for women-led businesses, it’s for the top 50 global innovative startups in the following domains: transformative digital technologies; health and biomedical; manufacturing, trade, and connectivity; environment, energy, and green technologies; and consumer media, goods, and services.
Top 10 grand finalists of SLINGSHOT 2022
Pitch your business idea in front of global investors and leaders at the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SWITCH) 2023. Get the chance to anchor your business in Singapore and stand to win up to $150,000 USD in grant money from Startup SG, plus rent-free tenancy (for certain periods of time) in one of the top startup hubs in Asia, Launchpad in Singapore.
The call for applications remains open until July 17, and the finals will be held in November 2023 in Singapore.
To invest in businesses, co-innovate with other startups, and apply for grants for female entrepreneurs, take a look at what SLINGSHOT 2023 has to offer. You can find eligibility rules, the schedule, and other important details on the pitch competition here.
Here are a few more special mentions on grants and funding opportunities for female entrepreneurs:
[At Duckfund, our easy financing solutions take the headaches out of running a business. With our small business loans, you just need one minute to sign up—you don’t even need a good credit score!—and you should get your small business loan in one day. Sign up for a small business loan with Duckfund today!]
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