In 2014, there were close to 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States. That’s about 30% of all businesses in the entire country, or a 68% increase over the past 15 years. While these numbers are indeed encouraging, a real underlying issue still keeps women from finding funding. Loan approval rates are approximately 20% lower for women compared to men. That accounts for only 7% of venture capital investment funds. The California Reinvestment Coalition found that small business loans given to female-owned businesses in California have dropped by 70% since 2007. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), in spite of this unfair tipping of the scales, women-owned new businesses are experiencing the fastest growth of any sector in the nation. With time and research, you can leverage some of these organizations and their resources to help you get started.
#1: Women’s Financial Fund
Women’s Financial Fund offers grants to independent female entrepreneurs and business owners. These grants include:
- New Business Grants: With this grant, all types of women-owned businesses are eligible including marketing businesses, Internet-based businesses and service-based businesses. Depending on the funding budget and the entrepreneur’s needs, a single grant can run between $100 and $5,000.
- Existing Business Grants: This grant offers funds to help improve on the net worth of women running an existing business. These funds may be used for purchasing new equipment, expanding, or developing a new product. As of 2017, the available funding for this type of grant is between $1,000 and $5,000 per applicant.
#2: Eileen Fisher Woman Owned Business Grant Program
In 2004, fashion designer Eileen Fisher launched this program to offer small business grants to women. The program targets businesses that have a positive social and environmental impact.
The eligibility requirements for this grant are:
- At least 51% woman-owned and woman-led
- In operation for a minimum of three years at time of application
- Able to provide accompanying financials
- Revenues not exceeding $1 million in year prior to application
- Business founded on creating environmental and social change
- Fluency in English
#3: Open Meadows Foundation
The Open Meadows Foundation is a volunteer-based organization that serves women entrepreneurs whose endeavors benefit racial, gender-based, and economic social justice causes.
If you are an organization that has less than $75,000 in resources, you could be awarded as much as $2,000 for an eligible business. Priority is given to small and startup organizations, as well as first time applicants. No geographic restrictions are imposed.
The grants are awarded twice a year, one in the spring and one in the fall. Open Meadows does not fund scholarships, endowments, religious institutions, research, individuals, or any government agency.
#4: Women’s Economic Ventures Loan Program
The Women’s Economic Ventures Loan Program was started in 1995. These loans, typically targeted at low and moderate income women, assist women-owned businesses that do not qualify for more traditional bank loans, preventing them from growing.
For startups, loans in the range of $1,000 to $2,500 are available. Loans for expansions of current businesses are between $5,000 and $50,000.
In order to apply for a loan from the loan program, the applicant must:
- Have received business training or education, OR have completed the Self-Employment Training program through the foundation, OR have demonstrated business experience.
- Have a written business plan for loans over $5,000.
- Own and control at least 51% of the business.
- Be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, or have an ITIN and filed taxes for the most recent year.
- Be able to accept the loan terms
#5: Business Line of Credit
Companies such as Mulligan Funding offer lines of credit specifically for women-owned businesses that are both useful and cost-effective. A business line of credit provides flexibility where a traditional business loan does not. You are able to borrow up to a set limit and then pay interest only on the money that you borrowed.
All of the above listed organizations are an active and viable part of today’s finance community. Another good place to start is by talking to your Small Business Development Center. Once you have come up with your business idea and nailed down your business plan, funding is the next essential step. Don’t let what you don’t know hold you back from owning your own business.