Grants for Women Owned Businesses

Although federal grants for businesswomen are available only for the purpose of innovative research, private grants for women owned businesses may help women entrepreneurs achieve their dream of operating a successful business.
Grants, unlike loans, do not have to be repaid. Although the US Small Business Administration (SBA) provides loans to women entrepreneurs, it does not provide grants to start or expand a business. Federal grants are available to non-profit organizations and for non-commercial purposes. In addition to providing grants to non-profit organizations and educational institutions, grants are available to local and state governments for the purpose of aiding economic development. Some federal grants are available for the purpose of aiding community development and for conducting research in the field of health and medicine, science, technology and environment and for promoting arts, humanities and education. Some federal grants may expect the recipient to match contribution from the federal government. Private grants are available for women to help them start or expand their business. Hunting for private grants, that are provided by philanthropists, is a tough job. The following grant is only a federal grant that is available to women entrepreneurs:

Small Business Innovative Research Grants (SBIR): The Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982 resulted in the institution of Small Business Innovative Research Grants. Firms conducting research, for the greater good of society, have been encouraged to compete for this federal grant. The grant is awarded for the purpose of research and development in the following areas: environment, defense, health care and information management. In the year 1998, the first SBA Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). The grant was for a sum of $100,000. Every year SBIR requires ten federal agencies to reserve a portion of their R&D funds for the purpose of awarding Small Business Innovative Research Grants to deserving entities.

How to Find Grants for Businesses Owned by Women

Approaching Women's Business Centers (WBCs): The Office of Women's Business Ownership (OWBO) has established Women's Business Centers (WBCs) that provide management and technical assistance to women entrepreneurs who hail from economically or socially disadvantaged sections of the society. The WBCs provide comprehensive training and counseling in many languages to women in order to help them establish and expand their business. Women's Business Centers may be able to provide information on private grants.

Searching Online: The Internet has opened up a world of possibilities. Searching online may be the easiest and the cheapest way of locating available private grants. However, the authenticity of the available information should be verified.

Approaching a Non-Profit Organization: Federal government provides grants to non-profit organizations. Some of these non-profit organizations may provide grants to women entrepreneurs so that they can start or manage their business. In case they do not provide financial assistance, they can still indoctrinate women into the ways of accessing capital by providing them the necessary training and counseling. The purpose of training is to ensure that businesswomen have a level playing field. Non-profit organizations will definitely be able to help women access private grants that are available for the purpose of starting a business or expanding an existing business.

Locating private grants for women owned businesses is only a part of the job. Women need to prepare a detailed business plan and should have the ability to convince the philanthropic society to award them the grant.
By Aparna Iyer
Bouquets and Brickbats