11 Business Grants for Black Women Entrepreneurs & 5 Places to Find More - Accion Opportunity Fund

11 Business Grants for Black Women Entrepreneurs & 5 Places to Find More

Black women are the fastest-growing group of small business owners in the US, but they’re still underfunded. Looking for grants for Black women entrepreneurs? Find 11 here, plus 5 places to continue your search.

Black woman entrepreneur reviewing her business grants applications.
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Black women are the fastest-growing group of small business owners in the U.S., showing 67% growth from 2007 to 2012. These days, they’re more likely to start a business than almost any other group — including White men. And yet, according to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, only 1% of Black business owners are able to obtain loans in their founding year, compared with 7% of White business owners.

Fortunately, several organizations are stepping up to bridge that gap. Below, you’ll find a list of grants that provide Black female entrepreneurs with the resources that have traditionally been denied to them. If you’re a Black female and own your own business, consider taking advantage of these funding opportunities to help you reach your goals.

11 Grant programs for Black women entrepreneurs

For small businesses that are still working on building their credit or upping their cash flow, grants can provide a valuable influx of free money. Grants can either supplement business loans or provide a standalone source of funds. Unlike loans, grants never have to be repaid. For that reason, they can prove especially critical for up-and-coming Black women entrepreneurs who don’t yet qualify for traditional small business loans or attract venture capital funding.

Here are some of the best grant opportunities that cater to Black women entrepreneurs. Many are available to businesses at all stages of growth, and most don’t require application fees or a finished business plan to apply.

1. The Amber Grant

The Amber Grant was founded by WomensNet in 1998 to honor the memory of 19-year-old Amber Wigdahl, who died before realizing her business dreams. Each month, WomensNet hands out at least $30,000 in grant money to awardees who best meet the criteria for funding. In addition to the monthly $10,000 Amber Grant and two annual $25,000 Amber Grants, the following grants are available on a rolling basis:

  • The Marketing Grant: WomensNet provides free, hands-on marketing help to two winners per year.
  • The Non-Profit Grant: One nonprofit business or organization is awarded $10,000 each quarter.
  • Business category grants: Each month, WomensNet hands out $10,000 to businesses that fall under specific business categories, including skilled trades, health and fitness, food and beverage, sustainability, mental and emotional support, and animal services.
  • Mini Grants: These are small grants of up to $2,000 that are given out throughout the year.

To keep the application process simple and painless, WomensNet requires only one application, which instantly makes you eligible for all grants related to your business. To be eligible, businesses must be at least 50% women-owned and based in either the U.S. or Canada. Grant winners are announced by the 23rd of each month.

2. The Power Forward Small Business Grant

The Power Forward Small Business Grant program aims to empower Black-owned small businesses across New England. The program represents a joint total commitment of $1 million from Vistaprint and the Boston Celtics, which have teamed up with the NAACP to award $25,000 grants on a rolling basis. Through this initiative, grant recipients have the opportunity to be featured on national co-branded platforms and receive marketing and design resources customized to help their businesses grow and thrive.

To qualify, applicants must be Black-owned small businesses with no more than 25 employees. They must also be based in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, or select areas of Connecticut (you can find the list of eligible zip codes here). Applicants must demonstrate their small business’s impact on the greater community and explain how they intend to use the $25,000 small business grant.

3. Coalition to Back Black Businesses

The Coalition to Back Black Businesses is a multi-year initiative co-founded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in partnership with nine businesses and organizations. Over four years, it will provide a total of more than $14 million in grants, training, and resources to empower Black-owned small businesses. The annual program accepts applications for its $5,000 grants each fall. A select few applicants will also receive $25,000 enhancement grants the following summer.

To qualify, businesses must:

  • Meet the criteria for being a Black-owned enterprise in a qualifying industry.
  • Employ between three and 20 people (including the owner and any full-time employees, part-time employees, or individuals working under 1099 or similar contracts).
  • Be located in an economically vulnerable community, according to the Distressed Communities Index.
  • Have suffered financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

4. Capital One Business Grant Program

In partnership with the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO), Capital One launched a program to support Black entrepreneurs in 2022 by awarding $10,000 grants to businesses that suffered during the pandemic. Grant recipients are funded on a rolling basis. In addition to the cash award, grantees receive free resources through Capital One’s Business Hub, including networking opportunities and actionable advice from other successful business owners. Sign up for AEO’s mailing list for updates on this grant and other grant opportunities.

5. Sage Invest in Progress Grant

Sage — a leading provider of integrated accounting, payroll, and payment systems — and the BOSS Network, an online community of professional and entrepreneurial women, have partnered to launch the Invest in Progress Grant. Through this program, Black women entrepreneurs receive annual grants of $10,000 each. Winners also get a year of membership to BOSS University, an online program that helps Black women successfully start and grow businesses. The three-year grant program will give out a total of $1.5 million.

To qualify for this grant, you must:

  • Be an entrepreneur who identifies as a Black woman.
  • Be the founder of a for-profit business established in the last five years.
  • Have a demonstrated need for funds.
  • Be willing to participate in a virtual business mentoring program.

6. The SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant

The SoGal Foundation, in partnership with several other sponsors, created its Startup Grant program to provide $5,000 and $10,000 cash grants to Black women and nonbinary entrepreneurs. Recipients also receive lifetime “ask-me-anything” access to the SoGal Foundation and SoGal Ventures team. Additionally, winners get tactical support to help them find further funding opportunities to scale their businesses. Grants are awarded on a rolling basis.

To qualify, an entrepreneur must:

  • Self-identify as a Black woman or Black nonbinary entrepreneur (this includes multiracial Black women and multiracial Black nonbinary folks).
  • Have a legally registered business.
  • Plan to seek investor financing to scale up, either now or in the future.
  • Have a scalable, high-impact solution or idea and an ambition to be the next billion-dollar business.

7. The New Voices Fund

In 2018, Richelieu Dennis, founder of beauty brand SheaMoisture, announced the launch of the $100 million New Voices Fund. Her goal: to provide monetary resources to both existing and aspiring entrepreneurs who identify as women of color. The cosmetics company has since launched a number of initiatives and grants, including:

  • Women of Color E-Lab: A $100,000 fund that helps 10 women of color get access to entrepreneurial training and education.
  • The Black Business Relief Fund: A $100,000 fund designed to support 20 Black-owned businesses at risk of closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Brown Girl Jane: A program that awards two $25,000 grants and ten $10,000 grants to Black women leaders in the beauty and wellness industry.
  • Social Justice Coalition: A $100,000 investment and advocacy fund that awarded five $20,000 grants to Black-led community activism and social entrepreneurship organizations in 2020.
  • The Next Black Millionaire Fund: A total of $100,000 in funding and retail opportunities given to three Black-owned businesses.

To reach its goal to provide $1 million in direct funding annually, SheaMoisture continues to launch new funds specifically for Black women-owned businesses. Check the website for updates on new funds and grant opportunities.

8. FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest is a grant program that FedEx founded in 2012 to help small businesses grow. The contest has so far awarded more than $1.5 million in cash and prizes to more than 100 small businesses. Applications open each year, with nearly 18,000 in 2022 alone. To enter, a business must be for-profit and have been in continuous operation for at least six months. It must also have fewer than 99 employees and have a FedEx account number. Priority will be given to applicants who already ship regularly with FedEx.

While FedEx’s awards are not exclusively for women of color, the competition does focus on small business owners, making it a good opportunity for Black women who are a few years into their business journey. Sign up via email to be notified on deadlines for this grant, and other grant opportunities.

9. The Annuity Freedom BIPOC Small Business Grant

The Annuity Freedom BIPOC Small Business Grant was created after the founder and CEO witnessed the tremendous impact COVID-19 had on Black, Indigenous, and POC (people of color) entrepreneurs. While the grant doesn’t come with cash, it does offer free marketing support and can help drive organic search traffic to help you grow your business online. The program also provides free SEO evaluations, advice, and planning. Grantees are selected on a rolling basis.

10. The National Black MBA Association’s Scale-Up Pitch Challenge

The National Black MBA Association launched its Scale-up Pitch Challenge in 2017 to help startups connect with early-stage investors and venture capitalists. Applicants first pitch their business ideas to the judges, then three finalists compete live in Atlanta for the chance to win the $50,000 grand prize. Additional prizes include a $10,000 second-place prize, a $7,500 third-place prize, and a $1,000 People’s Choice Award.

Applications for the Scale-Up Pitch Challenge are currently open. To be eligible, teams must:

  1. Be composed of U.S residents over the age of 18.
  2. Have a founder who is Black (of African descent) and maintains at least an equal stake in the startup. (So, if the startup has three owners, at least 33% of its ownership must be Black).
  3. Have at least one team member who is an active member of the National Black MBA Association.

11. Accion Opportunity Fund grants

In addition to providing loans to small businesses—especially those run by women, immigrants, and entrepreneurs of color—Accion Opportunity Fund (AOF) provides a number of grants and mentorship programs through its various partners. Some of these include:

  • Brewing the American Dream: For more than a decade, AOF has been the national nonprofit partner of Samuel Adams’s signature philanthropic program, which has so far provided tens of millions of dollars to entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industries. One of the more popular elements of this multifaceted program is the Pitch Room Competition, where you can present your product, receive expert advice, and get a chance to win both a $10,000 business grant and long-term mentorship.
  • DoorDash Accelerator for Local Restaurants: Accion Opportunity Fund has teamed up with DoorDash to help empower local restaurants to adapt, grow, and thrive through the DoorDash Accelerator for Local Restaurants. Accepted applicants get to participate in an eight-week curriculum and get customized business advice, free merchandising and marketing benefits from DoorDash, and a $20,000 grant.
  • Fast Break for Small Business: AOF and LegalZoom have partnered up to commit $6 million in grants to entrepreneurs nationwide. There will be a total of six grant cycles, each of which will provide 50 grants worth $10,000 each. On top of that, 1,000 winners will also receive free LegalZoom products to help grow their businesses.

5 More places for Black women to find small business grants

In addition to the grant providers mentioned above, there are a number of companies and nonprofit organizations that offer support and funding to Black female-led businesses. Many of them maintain robust lists of high-dollar grants and other resources. Some of these include:

1. Grants.gov

Grants.gov is the go-to place for federal grants. Here, you’ll find a comprehensive list of agencies offering government grant programs, including grants designed for minority-owned businesses and general grants that are open to a wider entrepreneurial base. You’ll need to look through each individual grant for funding amounts, eligibility requirements, and grant application deadlines. The website also has resources that include grant-writing tips and a grants learning center.

2. Black Girl Ventures

Black Girl Ventures (BGV) is on a mission to help Black and Brown women access funding opportunities to grow their businesses. The organization was founded in 2016 by serial entrepreneur and computer scientist Shelly Bell and hosts the world’s largest pitch competition for Black and Brown women founders. To date, BGV has funded 264 women of color and held over 30 BGV pitch programs across 12 cities. The organization also offers fellowships and virtual communities to support female and female-identifying founders of color.

3. Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)

The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) falls under the U.S Department of Commerce. It’s the only federal agency solely dedicated to the growth and global competitiveness of minority business enterprises. The MBDA runs dozens of business centers, including specialty women’s business centers, and maintains a national network of grantees that offer one another personalized business development support.

The MBDA does not provide grants directly, but it does fund programs that award grants to eligible businesses. You can view the current list on this page.

4. IFundWomen

IFundWomen (IFW) is an organization on a mission to close the funding gap for women-owned businesses. To do that, it operates a platform that helps women-led businesses fundraise online, get access to small business grants, and connect with the wider entrepreneur community. The organization’s grants page is a treasure trove of available opportunities for female and female-identifying entrepreneurs. The page is updated regularly with grants from both IFW and its partners, including American Express, Diageo, Unilever, and Visa.

5. NASE Growth Grants

The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) offers small business grants of up to $4,000 each month. To be eligible, you’ll have to become a NASE member, but that’s more of a side benefit than a hurdle: NASE membership gives you access to business publications, experts, and a business resource center geared toward entrepreneurs. This grant funding isn’t necessarily exclusive to Black-owned businesses, but many Black women entrepreneurs will qualify.

Other resources and small business grants for women

In addition to the many grants we’ve listed above, we encourage you to check out these resources:

  • GrantsforWomen.org: This online resource includes a comprehensive list of scholarships, awards, and small business grants for women.
  • The SBA (U.S. Small Business Administration): A branch of the federal government dedicated to small business growth, the SBA operates a number of SBDCs (Small Business Development Centers) throughout the U.S. It also offers SBA loans that can help fund small business innovation research and other needs.
  • The Cartier Women’s Initiative Award: This is an annual international entrepreneurship award that’s open to all women.
  • The Tory Burch Foundation: The Tory Burch Foundation provides capital to women entrepreneurs across a variety of backgrounds.
  • The Halstead Grant: This award recognizes emerging female artists of all ethnic backgrounds who are working toward a career in the jewelry industry.

More funding for Black women: Small business loans from AOF

While it’s historically been difficult for Black businesses — especially businesses led by Black women — to get funding from traditional lenders, many organizations and nonprofits are working to close that gap.

Accion Opportunity Fund (AOF) is one such organization. We offer small business loans to provide affordable capital to minority and women business owners. We also understand that your business is unique and has its own distinct opportunities and challenges. That’s why we structure our loans in a way that’s customized specifically for your business — not someone else’s. To learn more about small business loans, AOF’s opportunities, and how to apply, head to AOFund.org.

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