Government grants for women-owned businesses are available throughout the country where the government has identified a need for new business, technology, industries or the jobs they create. The application process is complex and time consuming, but the funding is significant and can be a substantial revenue stream for your business. Women business owners or women that are majority owners are considered minorities and have a special advantage when applying for grant funds.
1. Application Assistance:
Consider hiring a grant writer who specializes in and has a success record in winning government grants. This can save you hours of time and headaches in preparing a proposal in the business language that the government understands. Consider applying for 8a certification, which is a set-aside amount of grant funding to businesses that have been discriminated against and can now qualify for special set-aside funds with this certification. This is another application process that will take time, but it greatly reduces the competition.
2. Before Submitting the Proposal:
Work with the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). These volunteers are typically housed in the local Small Business Administration office. These management professionals offer valuable advise to entrepreneurs and can save time and money in the development of your proposal. Their consulting advise is free and online workshops are available at their website (see References). Also consider reviewing your business proposal with a Business Development Specialist at the Small Business Development Centers or Minority Business Development Centers. They can usually be found at a community college or local chamber of commerce. These are low- or no-cost opportunities to work with professionals who can help shape your business proposal. They will also be aware of federal and state grant opportunities for which your business may apply based on urban or rural location, number of employees needed, your minority status as a woman business owner or majority owner.
3. Federal Grant Funds:
Unlike the private sector, the federal government has a centralized website for all grant opportunities (see “Federal Grants” in References). This site sorts grants by category, agency, industry, geographic region and subject matter. But don’t limit your search to your business category. Do a search by subject for the industry, people you will serve or hire, the location and the product or service you will deliver. The Frequently Asked Question (F.A.Q.) section is well populated with information and a customer service contact is available for further questions. Make sure the grant is unrestricted, meaning a for-profit business can apply.
4. State Grant Funds:
Contact your state economic development office for state and regional funding opportunities. At these sites you can inquire about enterprise or other special business zones which provide tax credits and some grants to start up or expanding businesses. You should also look into county or city grants for funding opportunities and meet with your state representatives about your grant funding goals. They may know of upcoming grant opportunities that have not posted on the website.
5. Manage Your Expectations:
Don’t look to federal or state grants to fund all of your business. These funds can be very slow to receive even after you are approved for the contract. And getting payments can be a cumbersome process as well. Make sure your business plan does not have deadlines that will endanger your business by waiting on grant funds. Find other businesses that have been awarded federal or state grants in your area and asked them about their process.