By Robert Stitt
If you want to start a business, you may find it hard to get the initial funding you need. If you are a Black woman, plan on things being even harder. According to Madame Noire, women entrepreneurs are increasingly being turned away by banks for small business loans.
Vernetta R. Freeney, owner of Women Are Gamechangers, says that even if times are tough, you should not drain your savings. She says, “There is so much money out there you just have to spend time to look for it. Statistics show that women usually do not receive venture funding or outside funding when they start their business. Grants are a great way to compensate for that financial roadblock.”
The benefits of grants are obvious. You get money, and you do not have to pay it back. On the downside, success coach Ari Squires, notes, “Grants are usually funded by government or private agencies as direct money which is allocated to a specific purpose or program and come with strict guidelines for qualification.”
Many grants are targeted to minority and women business owners, but that doesn’t mean money is just being thrown away. Businesses need to be meaningful, provide social benefits to women or minorities, and require a lot of work applying and maintaining the grant.
Not only do you have to justify why you need the money, but you have to write reports and provide proof showing how, where and why money was spent the way it was.
While the application process is very important and time-consuming, it should not scare you away, and once you get one grant the rest are easier to get. Squires says, “Once you have one grant, it becomes much easier to get another one. You have contacts at a funding organization and you’re familiar with the process. Your relationship with the provider means they’ll be more likely to recommend other available grants or money to you when you ask.”
Madame Noire gives these following grants as a good place to start:
The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) assists minorities and women in new and already established businesses. On its site, you locate grants and access links to state agencies that work with women-owned businesses for funding opportunities.
InnovateHER: 2016 Innovating for Women Business Challenge is sponsored by the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Women’s Business Ownership. It awards three winners $30,000 in prize money for businesses that have an impact on the lives of women. The InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge and Summit will kick off in the fall of 2015 with local competitions hosted by universities, accelerators, clusters, scale-up communities, SBA’s resource partners, and other organizations.
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) enables small businesses to reach their technological potential.
Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR) has funding opportunities in research and development.
The Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program gives five grants annually to 100 percent women-owned businesses.
FedEx Think Bigger — Small Business Grant Program: $75,000 in grants each year to 10 recipients.
Idea Café Small Business Grant hosts different grants on its site.
Chase Google — Mission Main Street Project. Last year, recipients were awarded $150,000 as well as a tour of Google headquarters, a Google Chromebook laptop and a $2,000 coupon toward a market research study with Google Consumer Surveys.
Women Veteran Entrepreneur Corp (WVEC) Small Business Competition is sponsored by Capitol One and Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence. Applicants must give two-minute pitches in order to take part in a nine-month business accelerator program.
Walmart Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative (WEE) is aimed at empowering women across its supply chain.
Remember, it may take a little work and the competition may be fierce, but if you don’t apply you won’t get one of these grants, and the money has to go to somebody. Why not you?