Recent research suggests that women-owned businesses have increased dramatically over the past 15 years. According to a recent American Express OPEN research report from 1997 to 2013, the number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. increased by 59 percent, while overall business growth lagged behind at 47 percent.
In 2013, women owned 8.6 million businesses across the country, employed over 7.8 million people and generated $1.3 trillion in sales, according to Billie Dragoo, the National Board Chair and Interim CEO of National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).
According to the NAWBO, while women-owned firms account for 30 percent of all privately held firms, they only contribute 14 percent of employment and 11 percent of revenues.
As a women entrepreneur, how can you scale your business?
One way to do it is look for grant money. But grants are limited - and all grants are not created equal. While grant money is free, these funds are often difficult to find and have specific requirements to qualify for the grants.
Here are four areas to begin your research:
Federal Government Grants - The federal government offers grants to address specific objectives. For instance, the U.S. Small Business Administration supports some private, nonprofit women-owned businesses with grants. Additionally, there are a number of business grants available to support federal priorities such as health research, food and nutrition, education, green technology and more.
State and Local Government Grants - Many states and cities offer grants and other incentives to encourage business economic development. Similar to the federal government, state and city grants and incentives often reflect specific goals and offer more opportunities for grants. The Small Business Administration offers a list of economic development offices in your state. Additionally, you can reach out to your state branch of the SBA's Women's Business Center - a national network of nearly 100 U.S. educational centers designed to assist women in starting and growing small businesses and level the playing field for women entrepreneurs.
Corporate Grants - Some corporations encourage the growth and development of women-owned businesses. For instance: Eileen Fischer - As a women-owned business, this company seeks grant applications for 100 percent women-owned businesses that focus on social responsibility, sustainability and innovation to help scale their businesses. Grant dollars are about $12,500 for recipient organizations in 2014. Google Inc. - This company is focused on growing women in business. Google is providing $1 million in grant funds with a goal to increase the number of women entrepreneurs by 25 percent. In Denver, Galvanize is one of seven co-working and startup tech hubs in the country that Google is funding. Google's goal is to increase the number of women entrepreneurs by 25 percent. In total, Google is funding 40 programs worldwide to reach their goal.
Nonprofit grants - There are nonprofit grants available specifically for women. Check out:Women's Funding Network - This nonprofit provides grants to kick start and sustain women-owned businesses - focusing on funding women issues including poverty, education and healthcare. Amber Grants - In partnership with Womensnet.net — a women's entrepreneurial online community - The Amber Foundation Grant supports women entrepreneurs with small grants to meet initial expenses to get these businesses started. Count-Me-In Grants - This organization focuses on helping to build microbusinesses into multi-million dollar enterprises - grants from $500- $10,000 are available.