21 Can’t Miss Opportunities for Women Small Business Owners

Last year, 1,821 new women-owned businesses opened every day in the US. 40% of new businesses are headed by women. But only 2.2% of all VC dollars went to women in 2018. And in general – female entrepreneurs are less likely to seek out funding than their male counterparts.

Grants, loans, programs, and organizations that female entrepreneurs should take advantage of.

No matter how often #GirlBoss trends – there’s still a female founding gap to close.

Luckily, there are more and more organizations and resources looking to close the getting-started, and getting-funded gaps for women small business owners.

Here’s a primer on the opportunities you should know about: from grants, to loans, to accelerators, to networking organizations.

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Go here first: overarching resources for female entrepreneurs

Your local Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO)

Everywhere you can find a Small Business Administration (SBA) office, you can find an Office of Women’s Business Ownership. And you can find an SBA office just about everywhere.

The OWBO offers access to special credit lines and loan programs for female entrepreneurs – and provides basic training in business, finance, and marketing. According to the center – startup owners who work with them have a higher survival rate than other small businesses.

The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC)

Aside from conducting research and advising based on their findings – their directory of “Grow Her Business” resources are vast, comprehensive, and frequently updated.  Listing everything from incubators, to alternative lending sources, to competitions, to conferences, to training and mentor groups – no matter what sort of assistance you need, the NWBC will be able to point you in the right direction.

National Association of Women Business Owners

NAWBO has chapters throughout the country – and offers wide reach of services. Their institute is mostly educational – offering training and development for entrepreneurs. They also forge strategic partnerships, host networking events, offer grants, and open up an entire virtual online learning platform.

People: expanding your network, and soliciting a mentor.

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Finding the right mentor, and expanding your network, is crucial for the success of your small business. Here’s proof:

A quick thing to note while looking for a mentor: it might feel advantageous to get advice from a woman who’s been there. But actually, female entrepreneurs generally report they find their male and female mentors equally helpful.

Generally speaking, though. There are a lot of benefits to joining women’s networking groups – and they can be a easy start point for securing funding, or getting access to strategic partnerships. Here are a few places to start:

Finding a Mentor:

Astia: Originally the Women’s Technology Cluster, Astia provides funding and advising for female entrepreneurs – and bolsters it’s investment with a 5,000+ member community.Opportunities with Astia are meant for high growth startups at any stage, and all applying teams must have at least one woman in a position of influence and equity.

Female Founder School (FFS): FFS is a San Francisco program divided into “sprints” – each tackling a different part of the pre-launch process. You’re assigned a mentor along the way, and connected with a community of like-minded peers who can support your growth.

Score: Score is a free, nationwide network of 10,000 volunteers. They’re a nonprofit partner that works alongside the SBA, and mentorship through their program is always free: whether you meet once, or one hundred times – in person, or over the phone.

Clubs, Networks, and Co-working Spaces:

WEN Global (Women Entrepreneurs Network): WEN is geared specifically towards internationally minded entrepreneurs. Members share knowledge, best practices, and work to form strategic partnerships, and the organization hosts geust speakers, speednetworking, and practical workshops throughout the year.

Women Who Startup: The Women Who Startup Community is a global learning platform that hosts a summit, free monthly events, a slack channel, and regular live chats amongst members.

Lean In Network: The Lean In Network sets up “circles” where women can share ideas, skills, and advice. Circles meet once a month – virtually or in person – and 86% of circle members say their group has made a positive impact.

The Wing: The wing is a network of community/co-working spaces, piggybacking off of the original “women’s clubs” funded in the 19th and 20th centuries. They offer everything from work spaces and networking events – to childcare and lending libraries.

Women Entrepreneurs NYC: WE NYC offers female New Yorkers mentorship, events, legal clinics, and access to the WE FUND – which provides credit and crowdfunding opportunities.

Funding: grants, loans, and accelerators.  

Whether you’re looking for a bank loan, petitioning for a credit line, or pursuing an altogether non-traditional funding strategy – how you finance your startup can make or break its trajectory.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the best resources for female entrepreneurs – set aside specifically to close the funding gap.

Grants / Loans

Tory Burch Foundation: The Tory Burch Foundation offers both $5,000 grants through its fellows program, and access to community-lended loans through its capital program. Their ongoing education program offers opportunities for New York based entrepreneurs to attend classes and receive one-on-one advising.

Amber Grant: Amber Grants are awarded to businesses big and small. They offer a handful of monthly $2000 micro-grants, and a larger, $25,000 grant.

#GIRLBOSS Foundation Grant: The #GirlBoss foundation offers ongoing, $15,000 grants to projects that demonstrate creativity, forward planning, financial need, and achievable 12 month goals.

Cartier Women’s Initiative Award: A selective grant, the Cartier awards offer $100,000 for 7 laureates, and $30,000 for 14 finalists. All seven finalists receive one-on-one mentoring.

The Women’s Venture Fund: The Women’s Venture Fund small loans (over $10,000), offers workshops and advisory services, and helps educate and position female entrepreneurs to win more VC investments.

Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship (FITE): FITE, sponsored by Kiva, offers small business loans and an online, purpose-driven accelerator.

Accion: Accion considers itself a “lending partner” more than a lender. They offer loan experts and access to networking and mentoring opportunities to those who receive funding.

For more grants and loans specifically geared towards female entrepreneurs, try this directory.

Incubators / Accelerators

Prosper Women Entrepreneurs: Based in St Louis, the PWE startup accelerator works to increase female entrepreneur’s growth capital in early stage markets.

Women’s Startup Lab: Women’s Startup lab has graduated over 100+ alumnae, who have raised over $50 million. The next accelerator starts in September 2019.

VC Investors:

37 Angels: 37 Angels invests between $50,000 and $150,000 into each company – and gives you back an investment decision within 4 weeks of pitching.

Cleo Capital: Founded late 2018, Cleo Capital has set a total $10 million target to put towards funding for female entrepreneurs.

Bumble Fund: Yes, you read that right. Social/dating app Bumble has launched a flexible VC fund – paying out between $25,000-$50,000 depending on your business needs. Priorities go to companies solving a problem that disproportionately affects women. v

Summing it up: a basic roadmap for helping your business put its best foot forward.

The path to business ownership for women looks a little different – but it’s getting smoother all the time. Based on current research, and the entrepreneurial landscape, there are a few simple steps to move your business in the right direction:

  1. Head to your Office of Women Owned Business. Ask about the funding resources available to you, solicit advice on potential roadblocks, look to be paired with a mentor, and get guidance on the local business community.
  2. Find a mentor, and build a network. The right mentor or advisor can be a difference maker for your business’ growth, or can be the push you need to launch your business in the first place.
  3. Block off a day or two to look at funding opportunities. Isolate your deadlines and requirements, set alerts for submissions, and schedule a time to re-explore your options.

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