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What Small Business Grants Are Available For Women?

Grants for women

The top small business grants available for women include the £50,000 Women in Innovation Awards for tech founders, HATCH’s £10,000 accelerator grants and training programs, the Female Founders Fund providing pre-seed investment up to £650k, the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards with prizes over $100k, the Global Fund for Women issuing operational grants from £5-30k, and the Visa Everywhere Initiative offering £25k grants and coaching.

Launching a new business venture can be an exciting yet daunting endeavour so knowing the initiatives available to provide the capital, mentoring and resources to overcome systemic barriers can make a huge difference to women in the business success.

Read on for ten funding opportunities tailored for women founders across a diverse range of industries.

Female Business Funding

It’s important to understand why targeted funding is so vital for women in business and the 2022 Global Startup Ecosystem Report revealed some sobering statistics:

  • Only 11% of UK startup teams have a female CEO
  • Just 1% of all funding raised goes to sole female founders
  • Women make up just 19% of founders pursuing equity financing routes

Additionally, women are significantly less likely to secure loans from high street banks, with two-thirds reporting difficulty attaining traditional financing. They also tend to start ventures in under-invested industries like education or consumer markets.

Experts point to systemic biases that perpetuate capital gaps for women entrepreneurs – from perceived riskiness to undervalued sectors. Despite this, research shows that with fair access to financing, women-led ventures generate higher revenues per invested dollar than all-male founders.

This landscape shows exactly why specially-designed grants can provide that critical early boost for women pushing through systemic barriers and the following 10 UK grants help to level the playing field.

What Small Business Grants Are Available For Women?

In the UK, there is an array of grants and support programs cropping up focused wholly on empowering female founders across diverse industries.

Here’s an overview of 10 impactful grants available in 2023:

  1. Women in Innovation Awards – Innovate UK’s flagship initiative provides £50k grants to leading women tech & innovation entrepreneurs along with bespoke coaching.
  2. HATCH Enterprise Support Programmes – Growth/launch-focused initiatives for female founders offering co-working, training and £10k accelerator grants.
  3. Female Founders Fund – Pre-seed grants up to £650k for women-led startups provided by Enterprise Nation and the UK government.
  4. Astia Fund – Global fund deploying £100k to £2M+ growth capital to high-potential, women-run startups.
  5. Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards – Worldwide awards spotlighting female entrepreneurs across categories, with prizes up to $100k.
  6. Abie Awards by AnitaB.org – Grants from $10k up to $50k are awarded to women leaders advancing equity in technology.
  7. Diamond Education Grant – Biannual grants up to £1500 helping mothers return to startup ventures through accredited training programs.
  8. Global Fund For Women – Operational grants from £5k-30k for women-led groups driving social change and justice globally.
  9. Visa Everywhere Initiative – £25k grants and coaching for female FinTech/PayTech founders from underrepresented backgrounds.
  10. BAWE Funding Support – Consolidates diverse funding streams like loans, crowdfunding and grants tailored for women business owners.

Top 10 Grants For Women Starting Businesses in 2023

Women in Innovation Awards

Run by Innovate UK, the Women in Innovation Awards spotlight the country’s top female founders in technology and innovation. There are at least 20 awards given annually, each providing a £50,000 grant as well as bespoke coaching and mentoring.

Previous winners built breakthrough innovations in areas ranging from renewable energy to medical devices. If you’re a female founder with a promising concept in the tech/innovation sector, these substantial awards accelerate your ambitions.

HATCH Enterprise Support Programmes

HATCH Enterprise Support Programmes HATCH exists to fuel “ideas that will change the future” but they also recognise great ideas sometimes need nurturing support.

That’s why HATCH developed specialised programmes just for women, including:

  • Hatch Accelerator Programme – Growth-oriented support and £10,000 grant for established startups
  • The Launchpad Programme – For founders still developing a minimum viable product (MVP)

Successful applicants gain access to HATCH’s co-working spaces, business training and a community of advisors. To date, they’ve already helped over 250 female-led enterprises.

Female Founders Fund

Female Founders Fund The Female Founders Fund is managed by Enterprise Nation to address the stark funding gap for women. Grants up to £650k help cover key costs like inventory, equipment, marketing and salaries.

There is an emphasis on supporting innovators, but they accept applications from female-led businesses across all sectors. You’ll need to highlight how your capital request ties to major growth plans for the business.

Astia Fund

Astia Fund Astia is a global organisation that believes women-led companies yield higher returns. Their fund deploys capital to high-growth, women-run ventures across North America and Europe.

While Astia doesn’t disclose fund sizes, past deals ranged from $100k up to $2 million. Your startup should already have some traction and revenues. Astia also opens access to its extensive network of advisors and partners like Silicon Valley Bank.

Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards

Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards Each year, Cartier presents the Women’s Initiative Awards to recognise bold visionaries worldwide. Categories span from science to inclusive solutions, with prizes up to $100k. But it’s more than just funding.

Winners gain invaluable branding opportunities along with tailored mentorship to strengthen their business and finalists become part of the Initiative’s global network of over 260 female change-makers and rising stars.

Abie Awards

The AnitaB.org Institute aims to foster more diversity and inclusion across technology. Their Abie Awards celebrate women leaders working to drive systemic change.

Honorees receive grants between $10k to $50k to advance their projects or research. Award categories range from “Emerging Technologist” to “Technical Leadership”. If you’re a woman blazing new trails in tech – especially focusing on equity – the Abie Awards offer both funding and important visibility.

Diamond Education Grant

Juggling childcare, family demands and starting a business simultaneously is no easy feat. That’s why the Diamond Education Grant exists – to support mothers managing an entrepreneurial venture alongside parenting duties.

Their grant helps women whose careers were put on hold raise their skill sets. Funding covers various accredited training programs, professional courses, books or equipment. Simply submit a 500-1000 word essay on your story and ambitions. Awards are given biannually up to £1500.

Global Fund For Women

While not exclusively aimed at founders, the Global Fund for Women deploys grants to groups advancing justice globally. Supported programs promote equal access to resources, governance participation, and gender equity.

Past grantees include enterprises focused on sexual health, legal rights, gender-based violence and more. Grants span £5k-30k, covering operational expenses from staffing to travel. If your women-led startup drives social change, apply for funding here.

Visa Everywhere Initiative

Branded as an “inclusive global startup competition”, Visa actually designs many of its programs specifically for women founders. Their Everywhere Initiative provides not only coaching but up to £25k in grants.

Female entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply from across the globe. But UK-based startups can also qualify. If you’re a FinTech or PayTech innovator, the Everywhere Initiative delivers the cash and mentorship needed to scale.

BAWE Funding Support

Finally, the British Association of Women Entrepreneurs (BAWE) consolidates various funding streams for women business owners to tap into. From grants to loans and beyond, BAWE guides female founders to capital that matches their stage and needs.

Options include the Female Start-Up Loan Scheme, Women in Innovation Awards, Extend Venture Debt Finance and more. BAWE also offers its own small business bursary. Connect with their network to uncover the perfect funding mix.

Tips For Securing Grants as a Female Founder

The grants highlighted in this article represent only a small sample of the options now available for women chasing entrepreneurial dreams in the UK. Despite there now being more options available, competition is very stiff for many of these programs so it pays to know how you can best position your startup to capture that critical early funding.

When evaluating small business grants, weigh up the key factors to determine if it’s the right fit for you and your business because not every funding opportunity will make sense for every founder.

Here are 5 tips for securing grants and some considerations for weighing up which grants are right for you.

  1. Start planning and networking early
  2. Align your application to the grantor’s key priorities
  3. Emphasise community impact and the challenges overcome
  4. Present professional forecasts backed by realistic milestones
  5. Consider pairing grants with other financing sources

Stage of Business

Some grants specifically suit early-stage startups still developing an MVP. Others are designed for enterprises who already gained initial customers and require growth funding. Analyse what support best aligns with your startup’s point in the journey.

Industry & Geographic Focus

Certain grants concentrate on specific sectors like tech, social innovation or microenterprise. Others limit applicants to particular UK regions. Take stock of any explicit industry or location criteria before applying.

Grant Size Range

Grant amounts vary wildly from a few thousand pounds to upwards of £100k for top prizes. Have a clear sense of your ideal funding target – pitch for enough to make a meaningful impact but realistic given the grantor’s parameters.

Mentorship & Perks

Money aside, many grants also incorporate executive coaching, new customer introductions and co-marketing perks. If you need broader business guidance, keep an eye out for these bonus support mechanisms.

Mission & Values Alignment

Funders screen applicants based on more than just sound business plans. They look for alignment around societal issues like sustainability, diversity, economic mobility for women and more. Understanding core priorities like this can strengthen your applications.

Leveraging Grants Strategically

Securing external funding remains challenging even for women who put themselves out there. On average, less than 1% of female founders end up winning specific grants they pursue.

When Should Business Grants For Women Be Considered?

There are a few key times when women entrepreneurs should strongly consider applying for business grants:

  1. When launching a new business venture – Grants can provide critical seed funding to get ideas off the ground and develop a minimum viable product. They can be used for everything from product R&D to building a website.
  2. When significant growth opportunities arise – Once a women-owned business gains some traction, grants make it possible to scale more aggressively. Funds support things like new hires, expanded facilities, and additional inventory/equipment.
  3. After economic shocks or crises – Unpredictable events often hit small businesses hard, especially for underrepresented founders. Grants help stabilise operations, retain jobs and position ventures to rebuild.
  4. To gain skills or credentials – Some grants help women pursue developmental programs like executive courses, vocational certifications or university degrees. This strengthens a woman’s ability to lead sustainable, impactful companies over the long term.
  5. When gaps surface in raising outside financing – Since traditional funding avenues like loans and equity can still prove difficult for many women to access fully, grants fill periodic shortfalls as part of an ongoing, diverse capital strategy.

The key is for women business owners to continually research and evaluate what grant opportunities make sense at each new phase of growth and challenge. Setting Google alerts, enrolling in grantor newsletters and connecting with advocacy groups keep options top of mind.

While grants likely won’t completely fund an entire entrepreneurial venture start-to-finish, they can accelerate progress at the moments that matter most. Savvy founders don’t let grassroots funding opportunities pass them by.

What Other General Business Funding Options Are Available?

Bootstrapping

Bootstrapping essentially means self-funding your business by drawing on your financial resources. This includes dipping into savings accounts, utilising credit cards, or liquidating assets that can free up cash to invest in the venture. Bootstrapping maintains full control and ownership but requires strong financial discipline and often personal sacrifices.

Crowdfunding Platforms

Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Crowdfunder allow startups to raise small amounts of capital from a large pool of backers. Entrepreneurs create campaign pages outlining their product or business concept, funding goals, and potential rewards for backers.

Beyond financing, crowdfunding provides market validation if strangers are willing to put money behind an idea. However, it requires significant marketing efforts to stand out in a crowded ecosystem.

Angel Investment

Angel investors are typically high-net-worth individuals willing to provide startups with tens of thousands up to a few million pounds in seed capital. They also tend to take on mentorship roles and add credibility to young ventures.

Angels fill a key niche by meeting earlier funding needs in a less intrusive way than formal venture capital firms. However they still require giving up equity positions in exchange for capital investments.

Bank Loans

Traditional high street bank loans remain a common funding avenue, though approving small business lending applications depends heavily on personal credit scores and available collateral. Interest rates greatly impact overall costs as well.

Newer online lenders help expand availability, but mainstream business loans work best for companies with strong financial track records.

Invoice Finance Solutions

Invoice factoring or financing allows businesses to borrow against unpaid customer invoices to generate working capital. In some cases, companies can sell invoices outright to an investor at a small discount to secure immediate funds rather than waiting 30-90 days for customers to pay. This smoothes cash flow gaps for operations and expansion. However, higher costs diminish margins.

Asset Lending

Leveraging hard assets like machinery, vehicles, equipment and real estate is another approach businesses tap by taking out secured loans against those holdings. By tapping intrinsic value sitting idle on balance sheets, companies can fuel growth initiatives. Downsides relate to loan terms diminishing control over the assets.

Venture Capital Investment

Venture capital firms raise large funds from institutional Limited Partners to invest millions into the highest potential startups in exchange for sizable equity stakes averaging 10-40%. The significant growth capital comes with extensive due diligence, scaled ambitions and eventual exit timelines. Venture funding suits only startups with massive, scalable market opportunities.

Summary

If you’re a female business owner, either starting up or expanding your business, you may have wondered what small business grants are available for women at some point.

The landscape of support for women entrepreneurs continues to expand in exciting ways across the UK. Government agencies, non-profits, corporations and advocacy groups recognise the vast potential of female-led ventures and we hope this article has given you an overview of some of the possibilities that exist.

Grants, loans, training programs and networks aim to empower more women to start and scale businesses successfully. Yet founders must carefully research the options to find the right fit at each phase. Whether launching or growing, rebuilding or pivoting, funding opportunities exist to accelerate female founders onward in their journeys.

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