Maybe the saying should be, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough start new small businesses.’ That’s certainly been true for women of color in the past ten years—since the Great Recession of 2007-2009, African-American women have been jumping into entrepreneurship at a much faster rate than other groups. Since 2007, the number of women-owned businesses has grown by an impressive 58%, but the number of businesses owned by African-American women has grown almost three times as fast, by 164%.
Starting a new business is never easy, but taking control can be a huge power move. Whether the traditional workforce has treated you well or not, you can forge your own path to define success for yourself. Luckily, whatever your motivation for starting a business, there are plenty of resources out there to help you take it to the next level. Whether you’re starting a side gig or going for the full Madame C. J. Walker, there’s assistance out there to help you realize your dreams.
The National Association for the Self-Employed awards small grants of up to $4,000 to help small businesses finance specific needs. You have to be a dues-paying NASE member to apply— membership costs $11.95 a month or $120 a year. Applications need to show exactly how the money will be used, and how it will contribute to the overall growth of the business.
The Girlboss Foundation awards biannual grants of $15,000 to women working in design, fashion, music, or the arts. Judges are looking for creativity and innovation as well as business savvy and a clear, achievable plan for how the money will be used in the next year.
Rural Business Development Grants are awarded to businesses with fewer than 50 employees in, you guessed it, rural areas. Grants range from $10,000 to $50,000, and applications should show that the grant will help create jobs. Deadlines vary from state to state.
The Small Business Innovation Research program awards grants of up to $150,000 to businesses doing cutting-edge research with the potential for commercialization. A number of government agencies participate, including the Departments of Agriculture, Education, and Health and Human Services.
The Halstead Grant is an annual award given to an emerging jewelry designer working in silver. Very specific, yes, but if that’s you, the award is a $7,500 grant plus $1,000 in merchandise. The application deadline is August 1 every year.
Since 2013, FedEx has run a small business grant contest every year, with a grand prize of $25,000. In 2018, the contest was open to any for-profit business that had been operating for at least six months and had fewer than 99 employees. The public votes in this contest, so a great story, a video, and aggressive social media promotion will improve your chances.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards make grants to women-owned businesses that are less than three years old. The judges are looking for creativity, financial sustainability, and social impact. Fourteen finalists get $30,000, and seven winners get $100,000. The next round of applications will begin in June 2019.
The Amber Grant program awards a new $1,000 grant to a woman-owned business every month. Monthly winners are then eligible for an annual $10,000 grant. The judges for the monthly grants are looking for passion and a great story. The annual award includes a public voting component.
The Small Business Administration runs several programs that help connect businesses with loans, including the 7(a) loan program, a microloan program, and the Community Advantage program for businesses in underserved communities. See what you qualify for and get started with their online LenderMatch tool.
Accion is a nonprofit organization that makes loans to small businesses. Loans can range up to $1 million, and they have specific programs targeting women-owned and minority-owned businesses. They don’t look only at credit scores, and they make an effort to loan to businesses who’ve had trouble getting traditional bank loans.
Union Bank has loan programs for both minority-owned and women-owned businesses. Borrowers must have been in business for at least two years and have annual sales of less than $20 million.
The Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program helps women entrepreneurs who’ve been in business for at least two years access small business loans. The Foundation screens potential borrowers and then connects them to Community Lenders to formally apply for loans.
The Business Center for New Americans makes loans of up to $50,000 to businesses located in New York City. They don’t have a minimum credit score requirement, but they do require business owners to have a plan for how they will pay off a loan.
Angel and Venture Capital Investors
If you’re looking for investors, there are a number of venture capital firms and angel investing networks that focus on women- or minority-owned businesses. 37 Angels, for example, invests $50,000 to $150,000 in selected companies. Golden Seeds invests in technology, health care, and consumer products and services. Chloe Capital invests in high-tech companies led by women. Belle Capital invests mainly in technology companies in underserved markets.
Intel Capital’s Diversity Initiative targets high-tech companies run by minorities. Kapor Capital invests in early-stage tech-driven companies aimed at closing a gap of access, opportunity, or outcome for communities of color and low-income communities. PowerMoves offers entrepreneurs of color boot camps, an accelerator, and opportunities to pitch investors. Keep in mind that investors will be looking for companies with the potential to scale up big—and they’ll own a piece of your business, of course!
Starting a new business is challenging, but you don’t have to go it alone. There are a lot of resources out there that are specifically designed to help entrepreneurs like you build sustainable businesses.
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