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Best Small Business Grants for Women: Supporting Women in Leadership

Small Business Grants for Women 2020

Small business grants for women are vital to reduce the gender gap in business ownership. Discover best grants for women in the UK today.

When getting your business off the ground, financing is vital to keeping your ship afloat. However, for a lot of young businesses, bank loans have historically been seen as the only option. This is not the case anymore – these days targeted small business grants are on the increase and many of these are dedicated grants for female entrepreneurs.

UK Government research has shown that female-led small businesses continue to hover around just 19%. And around 23% of women have been actively discouraged from taking a loan to start their own business. Although this number has dropped from 2015’s 41%, it can still feel quite disheartening and really shows the need for these specialised sources of support.

Grants can lessen your financial risk and burden, and the government has already invested millions in grants in order to help women in leadership establish their businesses. After all, research by the Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship shows that boosting female entrepreneurship could deliver approximately £326 billion extra to the UK economy.

In addition to grants, the importance of fostering connections and industry-based networks is now a focus too. To support this, many organisations offer mentorship and strategic support rather than just financial aid.

How grants and programmes support women in leadership

Start-up grants can help you push your business to the next level. Although most small business grants are non-repayable, there are a few options that function more like loans. Therefore, it is vital that you pay close attention to the terms. When it comes to your business, it pays to double check you understand what you’re signing up for.

These loan-style grants can actually be a great help to your business. While the idea of taking on a loan might not be as appealing at first, you can often take advantage of lower interest rates or additional benefits like coaching. This might be reason enough to go for these types of grants, rather than a traditional bank loan.

Below, we have compiled some of the best programmes and grants for women who have embarked on the adventure of founding a start-up or small business based in the UK. Of course, each programme has specific application prerequisites, so please make sure you tick all the boxes before registering.

Women Entrepreneurs UK also outlined a few points to remember, including:

  • Some grants are geographically restricted to parts of the UK, for example, Scotland-based grants.
  • Although grants are geared towards start-ups and small businesses, it can help to have a solid turnover already. This shows your business works and is worth investing in.
  • The more detailed you are when outlining your need for the grant, the better. Explaining exactly what you would use the money for lets people know you have a game plan for the future.

Look into the following grants and ensure you give yourself enough time to prepare your application.

UK start-up grants and programmes for women

Aside from government programmes, some independent organisations and investors are eager to help a female-led business in tech, a start-up with social impact and arts-related undertakings. As mentioned previously, the gender gap in business ownership is an ongoing issue, so women-owned businesses are often individually targeted for start-up and small business grants and support groups.

Women in Leadership in STEM Start-ups

1. Women Who Tech’s Women Startup Challenge Europe

Running challenges across the globe, “Women Who Tech” work to showcase the very best of female-led progress in various tech fields. This culminates with the annual Startup Challenge Europe, which sees winners awarded up to £45,600 in financial support. Additionally, investors from leading companies like Mozilla also take part, making this a platform for growing business like no other.

The entry criteria essentially require that the business is a tech-based company that uses tech to scale and has an original concept – and of course, has a female entrepreneur or co-founder.

2. WISE Campaign

Focusing on women in STEM, this organisation is supported by Princess Anne and features a number of different support programs aside from financial sponsorship. Women in tech-oriented businesses can also apply to join networking and coaching programs, as well as participate in women-focused business events.

3. Outbox Incubator

While not technically a loan, the Outbox Incubator is an initiative run by Stemettes that provides coaching and guidance for women entering the STEM fields. To be eligible, interested applicants need to be female and under the age of 22.

4. Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology

Women business owners stand to gain a lot by winning the Institute’s Abie Award or joining the Pass It On programme. These both offer cash prizes and are also a great platform for any fledgling business. You are eligible to apply if you work in the tech industry or facilitate the work of others in this field.

Social impact

5. Women in Innovation Awards

This UK government-run initiative offers funds to eight women-run businesses each year, all of which must be at least one year old and focused on either AI, social impact or the environment.

As a resource in tackling ‘Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges’, this grant also aims to further the cooperation of artificial intelligence and data, aid the ageing UK population, and promote innovation in clean growth and mobility. This is one of the more effort-intensive applications, but it’s worth it, with dedicated coaching and up to £50,000 of financial support.

6. SMART Grants from Scottish Enterprise

As mentioned, some grants are geographically limited. To apply for a SMART grant, you’ll need to demonstrate that your business benefits Scotland in social or economic terms. The number of grants women-led businesses are eligible for increases each year, with new additions like the Brexit Support Grant designed to help businesses manage any impact from impending political changes.

Support is also offered in other ways. Julie Grieve, CEO of tech success story Criton, highlights the importance of Scottish Enterprise in helping her secure £5 million in financing.

7. The Global Fund for Women

This programme supports all individuals who identify as female and work to improve gender equality and human rights within their own communities. By empowering local people in long-marginalised groups, the fund supports locally informed and effected change. This support comes in the form of cash grants and support with travel and event planning. To be eligible, you need to be based outside of the US, over 18 and working towards the fund’s outlined goals.

General Fields

8. Cartier Women’s Initiative

Cartier – yes, Cartier – offers an annual awards programme that offers financial grants to 21 female entrepreneurs globally and across industries. In addition to supporting women in the early stages of founding a business, this programme also aims to build a platform or network of support between young businesswomen.

At the moment, 7 winners receive £76,000 each and the remaining receive £23,000. Additionally, all award recipients are granted access to coaching and support programmes.

9. AllBright Collective

This organisation runs pitching events at which shortlisted female applicants can outline their business plans to panels of investors from a wide variety of industries. Along with potential funding, the events also offer the chance for young female business owners to receive valuable feedback and networking opportunities. Any female entrepreneur or co-founder with a well-thought-out application is welcome to try out for the collective.

Find the perfect small business grants for women

There are more resources than ever at your fingertips and the community around female-led businesses is growing every day. Just take Blooming Founders events like “Girls Just Want to Have Funds”. This conference and their other planned upcoming events offer networking and support and are the perfect place to start off on the right foot. Salesforce is not only a proud supporter of these events but is also working with women in leadership to share knowledge and encourage a new generation of entrepreneurs.

With the significant earning potential women have for the UK economy, finding financing for female-led businesses is more of a priority than ever. Why not take advantage of this and get your own small business started?

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