All About Government Grants for Women

By Jill Mead , last updated July 26, 2011

Even though women make up about half of the population, they account for far fewer than half of all business owners. To address this discrepancy, the government and numerous independent agencies have earmarked grant money to give a helping hand to women who are interested in starting their own small businesses. Besides offering money, these agencies also offer help in the form of advice, support, information, and other resources.

The United States Small Business Administration, or SBA, is a government agency that works with small businesses and their local banks in order to guarantee startup loans and lend support to small businesses. Within the SBA, there is an Office of Women's Business Ownership whose mission is to establish Women's Business Centers throughout the country. Currently, they oversee nearly 100 educational centers which provide technical help, management assistance, training, and counseling to women interested in starting and expanding small businesses. Help is available in various languages and is especially targeted toward women in economically or socially disadvantaged situations. Furthermore, this year marked the beginning of the SBA-administered Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract Program. This new program enables contracting officers to reserve designated contracts for competition among small businesses that are over 51% directly owned and controlled by one or more women, with the goal of awarding at least 5% of contracts to women-owned businesses.
A second type of government-funded program is the state-specific Economic Development Agency. These EDAs make small loans to small businesses in order to promote their creation and growth, and, depending on your state, some make specific provisions for women-owned businesses.
A word of caution and a word of advice: There are many websites out there promising government grants for women, but very few are real or in a position to deliver. Be very careful in dealing with these types of organizations. Also, government grants are only one source of seed money. There are many private organizations that also offer grant money specifically for women business owners, so don't limit your search just to the federal and state government level.
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