October is National Women's Small Business month. This celebration commemorates the signing of the Women’s Business Ownership Act. Believe it or not, before this Act was passed, a woman needed a man to co-sign her business loan. Concerningly, this Act became law only 33 years ago in 1988.
But still today, if you're a woman business owner, you know that finding funding sources for your new business venture or side-hustle can be a challenge. Whether you are a startup or a long-time business owner, you know that access to adequate funding is critical to your success. To that end, we've compiled lists of funding sources available to women-owned businesses across the United States and some specific to Wisconsin.
Funding Sources Across the United States
Amber Grants for Women are available to business women across the country. Business women from across the U.S. are eligible to apply for this business grant. WomensNet judges award a $10,000 grant each month, making any day the perfect time to apply. And if you’re one of the monthly winners, you’re an automatic finalist for their year-end $25,000 Amber Grant. So just a few minutes right now can turn into $35,000 in grant money.
IFundWomen.com is funding marketplace for women-owned businesses and the people who want to support them with access to capital, coaching, and connections. They offer access to capital ($10,000 to over $100,000) through a premium online fundraising experience, access to small business grants from corporate partners, expert business coaching on all the topics entrepreneurs need to know about, and a network of women business owners that sparks confidence, accelerates knowledge and ignites action.
IndiGoGo is a popular option for entrepreneurs to raise startup capital for businesses that are highly innovative and offer cutting-edge products, internet businesses or services. Furthermore, IndiGoGo offers minority, veteran or female business owners a marketplace to sell their products that have already been funded on the platform. That means you will have a place to sell your products online after they have been funded. Furthermore, unlike most other crowdfunding platforms, should you fail to reach your investment goal, you can still keep the money that you were able to raise. Also, IndiGoGo can help you raise money for a nonprofit organization.
Kiva Microloans are offered throughout the United States. 0% interest rate loans are offered to small businesses, and the amount that can be borrowed is up to $15,000. The loans can help business owners with little or no credit as well. Much of the funding goes to disadvantaged businesses such as LGBTQ, veterans, minority, women and others.
Additionally, Bank of America and Seneca Women have created the Access to Capital Directory. This directory puts at your fingertips hundreds of organizations providing funding for women-owned businesses across the U.S.
Funding Sources for Wisconsin Businesses
Kiva Microloans are offered throughout the state, including in Madison, Milwaukee and other cities. 0% interest rate loans are offered to small businesses, and the amount that can be borrowed is up to $15,000. The loans can help business owners with little or no credit as well. Much of the funding goes to disadvantaged businesses such as LGBTQ, veterans, minority, women and others.
Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County has launched the PROSPERA Revolving Loan Fund, which will support Latino-owned enterprises who have seen obstacles in accessing funding through traditional pipelines. In addition to the Revolving Loan Fund, direct loans will be provided to support small businesses in Wisconsin alongside $50,000 in seed funding matched by CUNA Mutual Group, and $50,000 from the Wisconsin Economic Development Foundation. They also help with economic development, which includes information on free government grants, loan programs, start-up help, employment issues and much more.
The Business Council assists ethnically diverse businesses, including Black, Latino, Women, Asian, and immigrant among others, located in Milwaukee. They are a non-profit agency that is part of Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC). They offer counseling, advice, information on how to get capital for a business, networking and more. The goal is to help disadvantaged businesses, including those in low income areas, get the help they need.
Greater Milwaukee Foundation offers Milwaukee business owners and nonprofits located in economically disadvantaged parts of the city and surrounding area a variety of grants and funding options. Grants and loans vary based on the specific program but can be anywhere from $250 to more than $50,000.
Latino Chamber of Commerce of Southeastern Wisconsin helps Latino and other minority or disadvantaged businesses including immigrants. They work with regional banks to offer resolving loans. There are educational resources, job creation and training programs, entrepreneurial classes, and small business help. Whether it is details on financing or free mentoring/coaching, resources are offered. The majority of their services in Wisconsin are free to clients.
Red Letter Grants helps fund women-owned businesses in Wisconsin. They award up to four $2,000 grants each spring and fall. Community leaders, business owners, and volunteers (among others) help run the non-profit. Small dollar grants are only one service – there is also mentoring, peer support groups, workshops and more.
Urban League of Greater Madison is assisting businesses in the city and Dane County. Among the programs available is a resolving loan fund – this means once the cash has been paid back by one borrower the funds can be issued to another minority owned small business. The focus of the financial aid is on the south side of Madison, and the funds are offered in partnership with the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact. Up to $20,000 can be loaned, and the Urban League also gives other support to minority companies. Learn more.
Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation or WWBIC provides a few types of small business help, entrepreneurship assistance, and other resources. Regardless of gender, ethnicity, or age, WWBIC can help men, women, minorities and others get financial help in the form of loans, credit, or grants. Counselors help businesses apply for funding. There is also one on one free business coaching, financial literacy and education, workshops to help females, rural, and Black business owners get the advice they need, business plan help and other programs.
How can each of us help?
We all play a part in helping to encourage more women to start businesses. When we shop, we can support businesses owned and operated by women. And when we are looking for business partners, we can seek out businesses created by female entrepreneurs. And when we are looking to invest, we can seek out women-led startups. After all, the best way to show our support and to encourage investors to back more women, is to back them ourselves.