According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, there has never been a better time for female entrepreneurs: over 11 million companies are headed by women, a 103% increase compared to two decades. Despite this substantial growth, these businesses make up the minority of all successful up and coming businesses, likely due to the substantial challenges that women business owners face.

Challenges for Female Entrepreneurs

Although the ethos is slowly changing, women face a mix of social and cultural challenges that can hinder success. The most encumbering of these is persistent gender-bias.Women entrepreneurs are still not taken as seriously as their male counterparts. Actual studies have been performed as recently as 2013 that there continues to exist an epistemological bias portraying females as inferior business owners and resulting in women being denied loans and other venture capital at a much higher rate than men.

For small business owners, raising capital is one of the most important parts of the job. Small business grants are an ideal resource for business owners because they don’t have to be paid back, as do other financing options like loans and credit cards. Because of pervasiveness of the female gender bias, small business loans for women can help female business owners growth their businesses and achieve success.

Major Small Business Grants for Women Entrepreneurs

The InnovateHER Challenge

The InnovateHER challenge is a competition put on by the Small Business Administration annually. The competition is open to U.S.-based female entrepreneurs, providing an opportunity to showcase products and services that have a measurable impact on the lives of women and families. The product must have the potential for commercialization and fill a need in the marketplace. The competition happens in stages: applicants must first enter and a win a local InnovateHer Challenge before advancing to the national semifinal round. The top three national finalists will then compete for prizes of $40,000, $20,000, and $10,000 to put toward their businesses.

The Girlboss Foundation

The Girlboss Foundation was established in 2014, by NastyGal creator Sophia Amoruso. Grants are awarded on a biannual basis to female and female-identifying entrepreneurs, empowering them topursue their entrepreneurial endeavorsand turn their innovative ideas into the companies that will shape the future. Each grant beneficiary receives project funding for $15,000, plus exposure through the Girlboss platform and community, as well as local and regional press. The Girlboss biannual grant is exclusively open to women business owners in the fashion, music, and art industries.Applications are judged on factors like creativity and innovation in the field, business acumen and forward planning, financial need, and proposed work place.

The Cartier Women’s Initiative Award

The Cartier Women’s Initiative Award is awarded once a year to 21 female entrepreneurs around the world. It is a unique opportunity for early-stage women small business owners running for-profit entities and looking to take their companies to the next level. All award finalists receive a scholarship to attend the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship 6-Day Executive Program (ISEP), as well as the opportunity to participate in entrepreneurship workshops, business coaching seminars, and networking opportunities. Of the 21 finalists, seven will receive a first prize of $100,000 and the remaining 14 will receive a second prize of $30,000 in prize money.

To be eligible to apply, businesses should be generating revenue, even if they are not yet profitable. Additionally, the primary leader of the company (Director or CEO) should be female, and she should own a significant stake within the company. Early stage businesses should be between 1-3 years old.