Grants for Women & Single Mothers: A Comprehensive Guide

In the US today, there are no fewer than 13 million women-owned businesses, employing over 10 million workers and generating an enormous $1.8 trillion in revenue.

They’re thriving year on year, with data showing that, in 2022, women-owned companies had higher earnings growth (27% increase) than male-owned (22%). 

Women around the world are acing it, and their companies are supporting economic growth in myriad ways.

Yet, many women still face discrimination in the workplace. from hiring and firing disputes to the still-rife gender pay gap, to sexual harassment, women face plenty of obstacles that their male counterparts do not have to deal with.

One such obstacle is funding. In 2020, a study found that the average loan size for female founders was 33% lower than for male founders.

women vs men loan size for small business

That’s not all—female entrepreneurs generally receive 8% less in equity raised from investors, with Black women receiving less than 0.5% of VC funding.

With these two financial drawbacks in mind, it’s necessary to level the playing field by other means. 

That’s where grants come in. There’s an array of funding opportunities available, some specifically for women-owned businesses, others for all entrepreneurs.

In this article, we’re going to give you the lowdown on grants for small businesses, then focus in on grants for women—and which ones you should go for.

The 8 top business grants available for women & single mothers?

Let’s take a look at these business grants for female entrepreneurs.

1. a vast choice of federal grants

This is the sensible place to start your search, with over 2,000 US government grants on offer.

If you’re applying for a grant here, you’ll need your DUNS number, EIN or SSN, and to set up an account on the System for Award Management (SAM).

2. Small Business Administration (SBA): ideal for different types of funding

If you’ve already set up a small business, you’re likely to have come across the SBA.

It’s designed to support small business owners, by opening up access to financing options like grants and loans.

If you’re looking for a female-specific grant, have a look at their Local Women’s Business Center, which focuses on boosting access to funding.

3. Girlboss Foundation: great for media exposure

The Girlboss Foundation Grant is a new scheme supporting creative female entrepreneurs, granting $15,000 to two women-led businesses each year.

Along with the prize money, the winners will enjoy features on the #Girlboss social media platforms.

4. The Amber Grant: known for its easy application process

The Amber Grant Foundation is an attractive option for many women in business, because of its straightforward application process, and tempting prize money.

In addition to monthly grants of $4000, the foundation awards an end-of-year grant of $25,000 to one of the 12 monthly grant winners.

Dr Marcia Layton Turner

“One of the biggest barriers to growth for women business owners is access to capital. Without a solid track record, many banks won’t lend to them, especially since women are more likely to start service-based businesses with lower startup costs than product-based businesses with significant collateral.

Grants are one way to bridge that gap.

WomensNet asks for updates from past winners to be able to chronicle the impact the grant they received had on the business and those that respond typically indicate that the money made growth easier or possible, through the investment in new equipment, new space, or new workers.

For many female entrepreneurs, grants are one of the few ways they can get the funding they need to meet demand for their products or services. Without a grant, their company’s growth can be stifled and their revenue limited.”

Dr. Marcia Layton Turner, advisory board member for WomensNet

5. an up-to-date online platform with plenty of choice

This is a great platform to explore all the grants, scholarships, and funding available for women-led businesses.

By constantly updating their list of small business grants, you can assess your options and choose which ones you want to apply for.

6. Cartier Women’s Initiative: ideal for younger companies

Each year, 21 business women receive a grant from the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards.

They’re aimed at smaller businesses, between one to three years old. The prizes are attractive, with seven finalists getting $100,000 and expert mentoring sessions.

The remaining winners each receive $30,000.

7. The FedEx Small Business Grant: prize money—and more!

The FedEx Small Business Grant awards up to $50,000 to 10 small businesses each year, with a total prize pool of over $300,000.

The prize money is certainly attractive, but it’s not the only incentive: winners also receive generous funding to use the FedEx Office print and business services—which goes a long way if you’re just starting out!

8. The Red Backpack Fund: a great community of businesswomen

One of the most successful female entrepreneurs today, Sara Blakely’s foundation is dedicated to elevating and supporting women-led businesses.

Having recently teamed up with GlobalGiving, the Red Backpack Fund is offering over 1,000 grants of $5,000 to female entrepreneurs in the US.

What are small business grants?

Small business grants are a type of funding you don’t need to pay back.

They’re provided by a range of organizations including charities, non-profits, and government agencies.

Some grant schemes offer 100% of the funding, while others are match-funded, which means that you must make up a proportion of the money from your own funds or other sources. 

Grants are usually targeted towards specific goals, and aimed at particular populations, for example, single mothers—which we’ll explore in this article.

First up, let’s unpick some of the most common questions around funding for small businesses.

What is considered a small business?

There’s no straightforward answer, and each grant will have its own criteria.

Most small businesses are independently owned and operated, employing under ten employees, and with a low sales volume. 

However, some grants deem a small business to have under 100 employees, while others state under 500 (Gartner).

There’s the same ambiguity around sales volume: some grants deem a turnover of under $1 million as qualifying to be a small business, while others go as high as $50 million.

Related reading: 14+ Small Business Statistics

Are small business grants taxable?

Yes. Apart from a handful of exceptions, business grants are taxable, because they’re a form of income.

Loans, however, are not taxed. This is important to know because, especially if you’re receiving a large grant, all of that cash can’t go directly back into the business.

You’ll need to save a portion of it for the end of the tax year.

How can small and medium businesses apply for these grants?

The application process will depend on the grant. It’s important to make sure your business meets the eligibility requirements before you start applying.

Some conditions can be very specific, and it’s worth doing your research. Bear in mind that most grants are competitive, so it might take a few applications to see success.

But, keep at it, your efforts will be worth it once you win the grant.

Here are a few tips from the SMB Guide team: 

  • All your business taxes must be in current and good standing
  • In some cases, businesses must be legally operating, and registered with the Secretary of State
  • Get your documents in order
  • Spend time on your business plan: a well-developed and well-written plan can tip the scales
  • Decide how exactly you plan to use your grant 
  • Check any funding match requirements, as for some grants you might have to match the sponsor’s funds with your own 
  • Create a cashflow forecast: this is useful for managing your business finances, and is occasionally necessary when applying for grants. 
  • Apply early! 

Now we’ve run through FAQs about small business grants, we’ve compiled a list of the best grants available for female business owners.

There are plenty more out there, but these are the ones you might want to consider applying for. But, first:

Why do grants for women-led businesses exist?

Grants for women-led businesses are aimed at closing the gap between the resources available to men and women, as one of the key challenges for female entrepreneurs is access to finance

Many business-owning single mothers have even further limited time and resources.

Access to a grant can help kickstart a business and overcome the initial hurdles.

Geri Stengel

“Grants play a pivotal role in empowering underestimated entrepreneurs to reach their full potential, as they stimulate business growth, create jobs, promote innovation, and support community development.”

Geri Stengel, President at Ventureneer

For instance, according to the 2024 Wells Fargo Impact of Women-Owned Businesses, Black/African Americans generate significantly lower average revenues compared to all women-owned and men-owned businesses: $47,300 versus $753,500.

If the gap with men was closed, it would add a significant amount of $361.2 billion.

Women-owned businesses leverage grant dollars to address diverse needs, from business expansion and operational improvements to innovation, employee development, financial stability, sustainability, and social impact.”

Grants for women-led businesses: the bottom line

Diana Zheng

“We’ve seen a significant increase in women-owned eCommerce businesses that have benefitted from grants at Stallion Express. These businesses have built strong foundations and are well on their way to success in the long run.

These grants not only help close the gap between men and women in business, but they also help ensure these businesses’ long-term sustainability and success.

Diverse businesses bring different perspectives and ideas, increasing innovation and problem-solving. As these businesses grow, they create jobs, strengthen local economies, and improve the overall economic well-being of communities.

These grants are more than just financial support; they are life-changing events shaping a more diverse and inclusive future for business.”

Diana Zheng, Head of Marketing at Stallion Express

Despite the obstacles they face, women in business are hitting success after success.

There’s also plenty of evidence to suggest that female business leaders prioritize social responsibility, community involvement, and diversity in their businesses, which can lead to a more equitable and sustainable future for all. 

Women-led businesses deserve a bright future, and often a grant is the kickstart they need. 

Picking a grant is a safer option than a loan – it’s essentially free money without the hassle of paying it back or dealing with interest charges.

While winning a grant can be a challenge, it’ll be worth it for your business.

To boost your chances, spend some quality time digging into different grant options, make sure your application fits what the sponsor is looking for, and get in there as early as you can!

Good luck!

Olivia Millard is a writer and assistant editor at DSLX, with two years’ experience in B2B SaaS, having previously worked as an SEO writer for SaaS company Opportunity Network. When Olivia is not writing or editing for SEO, she’s doing it for newspapers and magazines.