If you're looking for a boost for your business, here's some good news: you may be eligible for a special selection of grants tailored to empower female entrepreneurs. These grants are highly competitive and require you to submit an application, but if you aspire to be the next leader among women in business, they offer a unique opportunity to jump-start your next venture.
Grants are funding opportunities you earn based on the merit of your business venture and the challenges you'll need to overcome to make your business successful. Almost every grant program seeks businesses that will significantly contribute to social or environmental causes. If you don't think your business will fit that criteria, you might be a better candidate for a private loan—this way, your business still gets the funding it needs.
Women are a minority among entrepreneurs, and these grants seek to level the playing field and inspire the next generation of leaders. Your business could change the world—why not let it flourish with federal, state, or private grant opportunities?
1. Federal Grant Programs
The federal government offers a host of grant opportunities for non-profits, and these grants usually come in the form of funding for state programs and initiatives. Grants.gov is a broad web portal that connects business leaders to seed funding opportunities, and there's a section dedicated specifically to small-business grants. The database is extensive, but searching for specific keywords can help you find an opportunity that suits your business venture perfectly, increasing your application's chances of success.
2. Women's Business Centers (WBCs)
The Small Business Administration (SBA) sponsors over 100 women's business centers across the US. These educational organizations are tailored specifically to the challenges women entrepreneurs face. Many of these grants prioritize women who are economically or socially disadvantaged, helping them overcome any obstacle to their businesses' success. Even when grant funding is unavailable, these centers are amazing resources for training and counseling to bring ideas to life.
3. Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)
Small Business Development Centers are much more common than WBCs; almost all states have several SBDC offices. These offices can be equally helpful in tracking down grant programs in your area and are a gold mine of useful information, expertise, and local knowledge. You can tap into this network to give your small business a big advantage, even if you don't receive funding directly.
4. Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR)
If your business plan is to innovate in your field, you could seek seed funding from the SBIR/STTR network. This program supports technological and scientific innovation that spurs the American economy.
And it explicitly seeks to sponsor female entrepreneurship—that ideal is right in the organization's mission statement. If your business venture is based in science, research, or technology, these grants are a perfect match.
5. InnovateHER Challenge 2017
The SBA-backed InnovateHER challenge is entering its third year and offers over $70,000 in funding for products and services that empower women and families everywhere. This grant is a true competition, and finalists for 2017 have already been chosen. You can put your business idea on the table for this challenge by applying to a host organization in your local area. Host organizations submit their nominees to the national board for review, and the competition is a great way to network with organizations that put women entrepreneurs first.
6. Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant
Many private businesses give back to their community in the form of grants and seed funding. As one of the premier privately funded business grants in America that specifically seeks to empower women, the Eileen Fisher grant program is highly competitive, but businesses with the right combination of female leadership and a focus on environmental and social change can receive an award of $100,000.
7. Amber Grants for Women
For smaller businesses and first-time ventures, Amber Grants for Women offers a monthly award designed to bring new ideas to life. Created to honor a young entrepreneur who passed away in 1998, this long-standing program has provided thousands of dollars in funding to women all over the United States. The program has backed everything from outdoor paddle board fitness classes to STEM curriculum for homeschooling. If your idea trends towards outside-the-box thinking, this is the grant for you.
What other opportunities have you found in your local network? Share in the comments below.
"Sh*t!" my daughter exclaimed as she dropped her iPad to the floor. A little bit of context; my daughter Victoria absolutely loves her iPad. And as I watched her bemoan the possible destruction of her favorite device, I thought to myself, "If I were in her position, I'd probably say the exact same thing."
In the Rastegar family, a word is only a bad word if used improperly. This is a concept that has almost become a family motto. Because in our household, we do things a little differently. To put it frankly, our practices are a little unconventional. Completely safe, one hundred percent responsible- but sure, a little unconventional.
And that's because my husband Ari and I have always felt akin in one major life philosophy; we want to live our lives our way. We have dedicated ourselves to a lifetime of questioning the world around us. And it's that philosophy that has led us to some unbelievable discoveries, especially when it comes to parenting.
Ari was an English major. And if there's one thing that can be said about English majors, it's that they can be big-time sticklers for the rules. But Ari also thinks outside of the box. And here's where these two characteristics meet. Ari was always allowed to curse as a child, but only if the word fit an appropriate and relevant context. This idea came from Ari's father (his mother would have never taken to this concept), and I think this strange practice really molded him into the person he is today.
But it wasn't long after we met that I discovered this fun piece of Ari Rastegar history, and I got to drop a pretty awesome truth bomb on Ari. My parents let me do the same exact thing…
Not only was I allowed to curse as a child, but I was also given a fair amount of freedom to do as I wanted. And the results of this may surprise you. You see, despite the lack of heavy regulating and disciplining from my parents, I was the model child. Straight A's, always came home for curfew, really never got into any significant trouble- that was me. Not trying to toot my own horn here, but it's important for the argument. And don't get the wrong impression, it's not like I walked around cursing like a sailor.
Perhaps I was allowed to curse whenever I wanted, but that didn't mean I did.
And this is where we get to the amazing power of this parenting philosophy. In my experience, by allowing my own children to curse, I have found that their ability to self-regulate has developed in an outstanding fashion. Over the past few years, Victoria and Kingston have built an unbelievable amount of discipline. And that's because our decision to allow them to curse does not come without significant ground rules. Cursing must occur under a precise and suitable context, it must be done around appropriate company, and the privilege cannot be overused. By following these guidelines, Victoria and Kingston are cultivating an understanding of moderation, and at a very early age are building a social awareness about when and where certain types of language are appropriate. And ultimately, Victoria and Kingston are displaying the same phenomenon present during my childhood. Their actual instances of cursing are extremely low.
And beneath this parenting strategy is a deeper philosophy. Ari and I first and foremost look at parenting as educators. It is not our job to dictate who our children will be, how they shall behave, and what their future should look like.
We are not dictators; we are not imposing our will on them. They are autonomous beings. Their future is in their hands, and theirs alone.
Rather, we view it as our mission to show our children what the many possibilities of the world are and prepare them for the litany of experiences and challenges they will face as they develop into adulthood. Now, when Victoria and Kingston come across any roadblocks, they have not only the tools but the confidence to handle these tensions with pride, independence, and knowledge.
And we have found that cursing is an amazing place to begin this relationship as educators. By allowing our children to curse, and gently guiding them towards the appropriate use of this privilege, we are setting a groundwork of communication that will eventually pay dividends as our children grow curious of less benign temptations; sex, drugs, alcohol. There is no fear, no need to slink behind our backs, but rather an open door where any and all communication is rewarded with gentle attention and helpful wisdom.
The home is a sacred place, and honesty and communication must be its foundation. Children often lack an ability to communicate their exact feelings. Whether out of discomfort, fear, or the emotional messiness of adolescence, children can often be less than transparent. Building a place of refuge where our children feel safe enough to disclose their innermost feelings and troubles is, therefore, an utmost priority in shepherding their future. Ari and I have come across instances where our children may have been less than truthful with a teacher, or authority figure simply because they did not feel comfortable disclosing what was really going on. But with us, they know that honesty is not only appreciated but rewarded and incentivized. This allows us to protect them at every turn, guard them against destructive situations, and help guide and problem solve, fully equipped with the facts of their situation.
And as crazy as it all sounds- I really believe in my heart that the catalogue of positive outcomes described above truly does stem from our decision to allow Victoria and Kingston to curse freely.
I know this won't sit well with every parent out there. And like so many things in life, I don't advocate this approach for all situations. In our context, this decision has more than paid itself off. In another, it may exacerbate pre-existing challenges and prove to be only a detriment to your own family's goals.
As the leader of your household, this is something that you and you alone must decide upon with intentionality and wisdom.
Ultimately, Ari and I want to be the kind of people our children genuinely want to be around. Were we not their parents, I would hope that Victoria and Kingston would organically find us interesting, warm, kind, funny, all the things we aspire to be for them each and every day.
We've let our children fly free, and fly they have. They are amazing people. One day, when they leave the confines of our home, they will become amazing adults. And hopefully, some of the little life lessons and eccentric parenting practices we imparted upon them will serve as a support for their future happiness and success.