Female entrepreneurship is increasing but available resources are still lacking. We outline the best options we’ve found for women business owners.
Women are increasingly becoming small business owners and entrepreneurs. According to the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), there were 9.9 million women-owned businesses in 2014, up from 7.8 million in 2007 — a 28% increase. Together they generated combined receipts of $1.4 trillion. Female business leadership is at an all-time high and continues to grow at a rapid pace.
Despite these encouraging statistics, the financing available to women-owned businesses still lags far behind men-owned ventures. Women receive 16% of conventional small business loans yet their businesses comprise 36% of all nonfarm and privately-held companies. Not only do women get fewer loans, they are given less money when funded. Despite receiving 16% of all business loans, the total dollar financing women receive is only 4.4% of all dollars lent through conventional lenders.
Recognizing this unequal access to financial resources, many companies, nonprofits, and government agencies have programs supporting women entrepreneurs. We’ve outlined 22 of the best resources below:
LOANS AND ALTERNATIVE FINANCING
These alternative lenders provide flexible financing solutions for startups and small businesses:
1. StreetShares: For newer businesses, offers $2,000 to $100,000 with APR from 9% to 40% and funding time within 1 to 5 days. Run by U.S. military veterans and is also a proud supporter of veteran-run businesses.
2. Harper Partners: For fast growing tech companies or brands, Harper offers a venture debt product that is much faster and less dilutive than raising equity.
3. Bond Street: Offers $50,000 to $500,000 with interest rates from 6% to 22% and funds within 1 week. Bond Street generally funds more established businesses, requiring companies to have over $200k of trailing revenue and to be cash flow positive.
4. Harper Alternative Financing: Harper also provides fast funding solutions for female business owners that may not have the best credit.
Grant programs do not require business owners to return the money and as such these programs often have strict rules to apply. Interested applicants should research which programs are applicable to you and your business. Not all will be a fit. If you are awarded the grant, many programs require you to report on how the money is used. Here’s are a few of the best private grants for women business owners.
5. The Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant: Awards $120,000 in grants to up to 10 recipients (minimum grant of $12,000) every year. In addition to the grant money, recipients are invited to New York City in the spring following their award for two days of learning and celebration with the EILEEN FISHER community.
6. InnovateHER: 2015 Innovating for Women Business Challenge: Sponsored by the SBA Office of Women’s Business Ownership, this grant is for $70,000 in prize money for the most innovative products and services that help impact and empower women’s lives
7. Zions Bank – Smart Women Smart Money: Utah-based bank’s grant annually awarding $3,000 across six different categories for women, which includes business. Zions Bank hopes that “Smart Women Grants help bolster the efforts of entrepreneurs who strengthen our communities through their diverse talents and endeavors.
8. Amber Grant: The foundation awards $500 to a female entrepreneur each month. One of 12 grant winners is awarded an additional $1,000 each year. Amber Grant requires a very simple application with a $7 application fee. The advisory board looks for female entrepreneurs with passion and a good backstory
ANGEL AND SEED INVESTORS
There are several investor groups that target female entrepreneurs. Certain angel investing groups that connect women-led startups with interested investors. Your business will be screened for eligibility and you’ll get a chance to pitch directly to a network of angel investors. Crowdfunding and accelerators are also popular options that provide advisory and exposure to potential investors. Consider the following early stage investors.
9. Golden Seeds: A women-led angel investing syndicate that invests in female entrepreneurs. Has invested over $70 million in over 65 women-led startups.
10. 37 Angels: A community of women investors, funding female-led startups and small businesses. Investments are usually up to $250,000 per year for each investor.
11. Broadway Angels: An angel investing group of female business investors and executives, open to women-founded companies. Founded by Sonja Perkins, all members are or have been general partners in VC firms or senior executives in top technology companies. The largest investment made is $400,000.
12. Astia: A group dedicated to the success of women-led, high-growth ventures. Astia invests in high potential women-led startups, using a review system based on personal referrals.
13. 500 Women: An Angel investing group that focuses on startups with at least one woman founder. Launched a syndicate on Angellist that allows outside investors to contribute funds. This group has invested in over 100 women-founded companies over the past 4 years. Notable female entrepreneurs (and companies) they’ve backed include Victoria Ransom (Wildfire), Rashmi Sinha (SlideShare), Leah Busque (TaskRabbit), and Jennifer Goldfarb (ipsy).
CROWDFUNDING AND ACCELERATORS
14. Plum Alley: Offers members the opportunity to invest in innovative private companies. Their goal is to provide capital to the most promising female entrepreneurs, offer a guiding influence, and strong return for the investors. Recently, Plum Alley members raised $430,000 investing in a company entering Series A round.
15. Women Startup Lab: An accelerator that encourages growth of female-led startups by emphasizing coaching and leadership development. The program cost is estimated at $10,000, but offers scholarship and matching programs to mitigate the cost.
16. Mergelane Accelerator Program: A startup accelerator for companies with at least one woman in leadership position. The program runs from February to April and culminates final event showcases participant ventures to investors and the community. Applications are open in the fall.
ADVOCACY, EDUCATION, AND NETWORKING
With increasing female entrepreneurship, mentorship and networking become even more important. Many national and local organizations help women business owners find mentors, guidance, and expand their networks. Here are 6 of the best we’ve found.
17. Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network: “Empowering women in technology and business”, organized within the LinkedIn Group in Women Powering Business Network, a community of over 5,000 members.
18. Ellevate: A national, membership-based network for women in business. The group offers educational and career-building opportunities to members in the form of content, social network and member directory. Membership fees run between $10 and $100 per month.
19. The Vinetta Project: Supports high-growth tech companies founded by women via the Vinetta Collective, the first talent agency dedicated to the rise of tech’s top female founders. Vinetta offers 7 centers across the US and Canada.
20. SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership: Offers resources like a National Women’s Business Centers Directory and government procurement opportunities and training.
21. National Women’s Business Council: A non-partisan federal advisory council that advocates for policy, holds events in its DC headquarters and online for female entrepreneurs and business owners.
22. We Connect International: A global, membership-based nonprofit that connects women-owned businesses, from suppliers to retailers, across the world. Annual membership fees range from $5,000 to $35,000, depending on the number of seats in the National Advisory Councils as well as access to Global Database.
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