Women are now more present in the business world than ever. In 2015, there were 9.1 million women-owned businesses (36% of all businesses in the country) generating $1.5 trillion in sales. And according to the 2015 Kauffman Index: Startup Activity, female entrepreneurs are more adept at identifying gaps in the marketing and building opportunities around them. Kudos, women. This group has a powerful impact on the small business landscape and will continue to shape the future of the economy.
With women gaining more of stronghold and going the entrepreneur route, there’s ample resources available to assist them. And so far, these resources have proved fruitful to women. Here are just five of the game-changing resources available to women:
Grants help women-owned businesses get the assistance they need from nonprofit organizations and government agencies during early stages. Grants for women is an attractive option because grants don’t need to be repaid. Though competition is fierce, depending on the product or service you offer, there are even niche grants could be applicable to you.
For example, the U.S. Small Business Administration hosts an annual competition called InnovateHER for female business owners who have a marketable service or product that positively affects the lives of women. The Amber Grant Foundation gives smaller awards on a monthly basis, and the Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant awards $100,000 to up to 10 women annually.
To increase your chances of winning, refer to previous winning applications and books that focus on the grant writing process. This will help you understand exactly what the organization is looking for and how you can stand out from the crowd. Most importantly, take your time crafting your application, allowing a gap to give yourself some separation from it, and returning later to proofread it with a fresh perspective. Always have others read your work, too.
Small Business Loans
Small business loans can be a game changer for women — especially if there’s no luck on the grant and scholarship front, or if entrepreneurs find their regulations too stifling. Small business loans make it easier for business owners to obtain the funding they need, rather than going the grant, venture capitalist or angel investor route.
Fortunately, there are many banks that offer small business loans for women to help get their business off the ground or keep it running. Loans typically offer more flexibility than credit card and other major loans, and allow you to keep your equity and creative control. Often, this is the most important part for entrepreneurs who don’t want funding to turn into a partnership with too many opposing opinions.
Woman Accelerators & Incubators
Startup accelerators and incubators offer high-growth opportunities for female entrepreneurs. These programs offer special resources to female entrepreneurs and fast-track the entrepreneur lifecycle by providing startup teams with access to mentors, co-working spaces, and investors. Typically, accepted startups are given a cash sum in exchange for equity and program benefits. Programs include:
- Dreamit Athena
- Women’s Startup Lab
- EY Entrepreneurial Winning
- Million Dollar Women Workshop
- Prosper Women Entrepreneurs
According to the National Women’s Business Council, on average, women start their businesses with 50% less capital than their male counterparts. The goal of these programs is to help bridge the gap between male and female founders and their ability to secure funding. These programs address the challenges women face running a business and tackle gender-specific issues head on.
This is a network of over 3.5 million women and offers networking assistance and online business information. WomanOwned maintains its own database, where members can get information on funding sources, scholarships, grants, and loans. The premise to help women launch, run, and grow their businesses. The organization has been featured on Oprah, The Today Show, the Wall Street Journal, and many others.
National Association of Women Business Owners
This Washington, D.C.-based national organization of female entrepreneurs has over 5,000 members and 60 chapters across the country. They offer training and information on various business-related topics, including government contracting, business publications, access to capital, and business certification. They host events designed to address some of the biggest concerns for female entrepreneurs, and have online community boards and resources to assist them throughout different business stages. The more involved you are with the organization, the better connected you’ll be; the NAWB offers a huge opportunity for networking.