Whether you’re looking to start a business for the first time or need additional funding for your current work, there are several places to turn to make sure your business is on the financial track to success.
Here are some of the best funding opportunities you should utilize today:
Become a Women-Owned Certified Business
Becoming an official certified woman-owned business is one of the greatest things you can do for your business. Not only will you have access to special scholarships and funding programs, but a certification could open the door to potential partnerships and contracts with big-name companies that can increase your revenue. Certifications also provide opportunities for networking, training, mentoring, counseling and many other resources that can help grow your business. You may even qualify for other business certifications (minority-owned, disability-owned, veteran-owned, LGBTQ+-owned, etc.) that would grant you even more opportunities for growth and success. Look into organizations such as WBENC, NMSDC, NGLCC and Disability:IN to see if you qualify.
The 8(a) Business Development Program
The 8(a) program can be a valuable tool for experienced socially and economically disadvantaged small business owners, who have already been in business for at least two years or more, and are interested in expanding their footprint in the federal marketplace.
Certified firms in the 8(a) program can:
- Efficiently compete and receive set-aside and sole-source contracts.
- Receive one-on-one business development assistance for their nine-year term from dedicated business opportunity specialists focused on helping firms grow and accomplish their business objectives.
- Pursue opportunities for mentorship from experienced and technically capable firms through the Small Business Administration (SBA) Mentor-Protégé program.
- Connect with procurement and compliance experts who understand regulations in the context of business growth, finance and government contracting.
- Pursue joint ventures with established businesses to increase capacity.
- Qualify to receive federal surplus property on a priority basis.
- Receive free training from SBA’s 7(j) Management and Technical Assistance program.
The 8(a) certification qualifies your business as eligible to compete for the program’s sole-source and competitive set-aside contracts. The government authorizes sole-source contracts to 8(a) participants for up to $7 million for acquisitions assigned manufacturing North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes and $4.5 million for all other acquisitions.
The Women’s Business Center
Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) are a part of a national network of entrepreneurship centers throughout the United States and its territories that are designed to assist women in starting and growing small businesses. WBCs seek to “level the playing field” for women entrepreneurs, who still face unique obstacles in the business world. Run by the SBA, the WBC provides resources in business training, counseling, federal contracts and access to credit and capital. There are multiple offices in just about every state across the country. Visit sba.gov to find your local WBC.
Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB) Federal Contracting program
To help provide a level playing field for women business owners, the government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses that participate in the WOSB Federal Contracting program. This program is specifically designed to fund WOSBs that are surveyed as underrepresented.
There are a total of 759 businesses that fall under this category, and include industries such as:
- Material specific production
- Food specific production
- Food specific farming
- Energy specific production
- Clothing specific production
- Certain construction industries
If you are accepted into the WOSB Federal Contracting program, your business will be eligible to compete for the 5% of federal contracts that are set aside for these businesses. To learn more and to become certified, visit wosb.certify.sba.gov.
One of the most important resources you can utilize for your business funding needs is Grants.gov. The website showcases hundreds of grants that are available for entrepreneurs and how you can apply for them. Each grant lists detailed instructions on their specific eligibility requirements, application process and funding amounts. You can also filter your search to look for grants specifically for women-owned businesses.
To search through this database, you must register for a Grants.gov Workspace account that will allow for you or other members of your team to begin filling out applications.
Federal resources aren’t the only way to receive grants. There are many corporations, programs and organizations that give out business grants of differing sizes every year specifically to support women-owned businesses.
Some of the grants you may want to consider include:
- Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant
- Amber Grant
- Cartier Women’s Initiative Award
- The Women of Color Grant Program
- The Halstead Grant
For a more comprehensive list of non-federal grants, visit GrantsforWomen.org.
Sources: Small Business Administration, Forbes, Grants.gov