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Free Money For Female Entrepreneurs

Updated: Jul 15, 2020

By Stephanie Raimbert


The Impact of COVID-19 for Women-owned Small Businesses

These are uncertain times for women-owned small businesses. They are looking for resources and guidance to help them navigate and persevere with COVID-19 impacting the landscape of our economy and altering the local business ecosystems. Based on a CNBC report, even though the federal government has stepped in to offer more than $600 billion in financial assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the demand for funding remains high, especially among women entrepreneurs.

According to some experts from CBS, it is predicted that up to 90% of women and minority small business owners will be denied a PPP loan because financial institutions are favoring pre-existing customers. Therefore, many women entrepreneurs, who may not have a bank loan already, will be ignored.

The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), which is a federal advisory committee comprised of small business owners and representatives of national women’s business organizations, expressed that women-owned businesses represent 42% of all businesses — nearly 13 million — employing 9.4 million workers and generating revenue of $1.9 trillion. Over the past five years, the annual growth rate in the number of women-owned firms has been more than double that of all businesses. These numbers show a great need to keep them alive. Female founders have fought too hard for a true place in the economy to lose all gains now.

Female entrepreneurs, who have been impacted by this pandemic and are now in need of financial capital funding for their small business, should apply first for women-oriented small business grants before applying for loans and other types of funding. Grants are, essentially, a gift. Unlike loans that require you to repay the money you borrow, grants are non-repayable. Below is a list of the top 10 small business grants for women at the moment.

If you’re a female entrepreneur looking for funding opportunities, is a good place to start. The website is a database of grants specifically for women. They also have lots of information about the different types of grants available, such as private, corporate, federal, and professional. Not all grants are specifically for business owners, but they offer funding options in a wide range of industries.

2. Amber Grants

Amber Grants are suitable for female entrepreneurs who are planning to launch small, local businesses. Each month, one female-owned business is selected for a $4,000 grant. At the end of the year, one of the monthly winners is selected for a $25,000 grant.

The application cutoff for the next $4,000 Amber Grant is June 30, 2020. To apply for an Amber Grant, you simply need to explain the purpose of your business.

3. COVID-19 Business For All Emergency Grants

Hello Alice, a machine learning company founded as a women’s virtual accelerator, is offering $10,000 emergency grants to small businesses, being distributed immediately to small business owners impacted by this pandemic.

For those women-owned businesses who have been severely impacted by COVID-19, this is a good grant to apply for.

4. Red Backpack Fund

The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation has been dedicated to elevating and supporting women through entrepreneurship. Knowing the ripple effect that empowering women can have to strengthen communities, the foundation donated $5 million to support female entrepreneurs in the wake of COVID-19 and teamed up with Global Giving to establish the Red Backpack Fund.

Global Giving is making at least 1,000 grants of $5,000 each to female entrepreneurs in the U.S. to help alleviate the impact of the crisis. All grantees will receive $5,000, a “lucky” red backpack and a free all-access pass to 80+ MasterClass.

Applications will be accepted during pre-set periods from April through August 2020. For more information of the how the Red Backpack Fund works and deadlines, see this website.

5. Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund

The James Beard Foundation is providing micro-grants to independent food and beverage small businesses in need through their Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund. Restaurants, bars, and other independent food and beverage operations are strong economic drivers. $1 trillion generated by the culinary industry reflects 4% of our gross domestic product. The food and beverage community employ nearly 16% American workforce. These businesses support local economies by bringing money back into their local business communities, including women-owned businesses.

For women-owned businesses inquiring about the eligibility criteria, please add your information here for more information on the upcoming application process and deadlines.

6. Bounce Bank Grants Program

The Poise personal care brand has launched Bounce Back Grants, a program that will award 30 cash grants at $15,000 each to qualifying women-owned small businesses experiencing financial hardships due to COVID-19. The criteria set forth for the program includes any for-profit woman-owned small business whose business leaders and/or business offerings challenge societal norms or stigmas and/or have a strong connection to moms and/or motherhood, employ less than five hundred (500) year-round full-time employees. See the website for a full list of eligibility criteria and information regarding the Poise COVID-19: Grant Application. Applications are open through June 30, 2020.

Poise also is funding a series of micro-grants totaling $50,000 for qualifying attendees of a series of virtual panel discussions the brand is sponsoring starting in July. It is designed to help female entrepreneurs adapt and grow their businesses during these unprecedented times.

7. Small Business Innovation Research

If you have a cutting-edge idea that you believe will satisfy the needs of a market, apply for a Small Business Innovation Research grant. Your company can earn a $150,000 grant to establish research and development goals. If these goals are proven to be feasible, you can receive up to $1 million in a two-year window. Check out open funding opportunities here.

8. Cartier Women’s Initiative Regional Award & Science & Technology Pioneer Award

Each year, Cartier awards 21 female entrepreneurs with the Cartier Women’s Initiative Regional Award. They will receive financial capital, human capital, and social capital support ranging from $30,000 to $100,000. The Cartier Women’s Initiative is looking for women-run and women-owned impact-driven businesses. Entrepreneurs across all sectors and from around the world are encouraged to apply. The application window is now open and is currently accepting applications up until the deadline on July 31, 2020.

In addition, Cartier will award 3 female entrepreneurs with the Science & Technology Pioneer Award, a new thematic category launched in collaboration with Hello Tomorrow for the 2021 edition of the Cartier Women’s Initiative. Open to women entrepreneurs from any country and sector, the Science & Technology Pioneer Award application is now open with the deadline of July 31, 2020. Winners will receive one-on-one expert coaching, business workshops, media coverage for the entrepreneur and their business, and prizes ranging from $30,000 to $100,000.

To learn more about the eligibility criteria and how you can apply for both of these awards, please visit the Cartier Women’s Initiative website.

9. The Doonie Fund

Kathryn Finney, CEO of the social startup digitalundivided, created The Doonie Fund, which is named after her grandmother, to help black women entrepreneurs impacted by COVID-19. Since the fund’s inception on April 5, 2020, Finney has helped more than 500 black female entrepreneurs by making an immediate micro investment of $100 into their business, which she says can be used in “whatever way they need to use it.” Click here to apply.

10. Moms as Entrepreneurs

Moms as Entrepreneurs, a nonprofit business incubator for women, has started a COVID-19 relief fund solely for businesses owned by mothers. The fund opened applications on May 18 and will grant $500-$1,000 to mother entrepreneurs in all industries who have been shut out of government loans or other funding during the pandemic. To qualify for grant money, businesses must: (1) be solely owned by a mother; (2) have not received any other funding relating to COVID-19 relief; (3) have had business sales decline by 40 percent or more due to the pandemic, that can also commit to supporting one other mom-owned business with 10% of their grant funding. This support can be in the form of purchasing supplies or services from one other mom-owned business or donating this portion back to the Fund.

Other Forms of Funding

Here is a list of other types of funding that women business owners can seek as well.

1. Belle Capital

Belle Capital is an investment firm focused on businesses led by women. Their mission is to help close the unfair gap in funding that women receive compared to men. Although women continue to prove themselves as successful entrepreneurs with their businesses -- even doing better than that of their male counterparts’ in some cases-- they still receive less funding. They seek to provide a premier source of human and financial capital to the underserved market of women-led businesses. Belle Capital’s investment criteria will be listed on their website.

2. SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting program

The federal government's goal is to award at least five percent of all federal contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses each year. Starting on July 15, 2020, new regulations have made it easier for qualified small businesses to participate in the WOSB Federal Contracting Program by improving the customer experience. At the same time, the SBA is strengthening oversight and maintaining the integrity of the certification process. WOSB Federal Contracting Program eligibility requirements and more information regarding the application will be fully detailed on their website.

Female Entrepreneurs trying to stay afloat during and after COVID-19

Fortunately, several organizations and leaders have stepped up to create their own COVID-19 financial relief funds to help women business owners stay afloat during and after the pandemic. A number of leaders, organizations and corporations have compiled lists of programs that are allocating grants and/or loans for small businesses, some of which include mentorship opportunities as well for women-owned businesses.

It might seem like there are not many small business grants available for women to start or grow a business, but the 10 grant programs and 2 funding options above should give them a good head start. In addition, if you add in state and local grant options for women business owners, they should have a good number of grants to apply for. Whichever grants owners may apply for, make sure you do careful research on the eligibility requirements and submit your application on time. If grants do not work out for you or if you need additional funding, make sure you explore your other funding options.

To get through this challenging and uncertain time, it’s important that we all come together as a community - from corporations to organizations and government entities - to support one another, and to help raise those hit hardest by the impact of this pandemic.


Are you interested in launching or sustaining a pandemic proof small business? Spot issues, take action, stay safe, and thrive in a post Covid-19 world with Legalucy. Learn more at

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