Surprising fact: women in business are more likely to succeed in getting small grants than men are. Yes, that’s right. Why? Well for once social conditioning might just be paying off. Lots of us have been brought up to be more careful about preparation. Just think about school kids and homework: girls tend to make a greater effort. The good girl grounding is paying off in more small grants for women in business.
But that changes when it comes to more sizeable grants and investments, when subjective rather than purely objective criteria kick in. And on top of that, it is tougher than ever to get a business grant of any type.
But the good news is that there are still plenty of opportunities out there to get funding and investment to start or grow your business if you are prepared to do your homework and persevere.
Here are our top tips for increasing your odds of winning any grant funding opportunities that come your way – plus the latest information about grants targeted at female-run startups and businesses in the UK in 2023.
1. Targeted grant opportunities for UK women in business
Here are details of programmes that regularly offer grant and support programmes to women in business. Check their websites for the latest updates.
- The UK Government’s Women in Innovation program: It offers grants and support for women entrepreneurs involved in innovation across various industries.
- The Prince’s Trust: This organization supports young entrepreneurs, including women, through funding, mentoring, and business support programs.
- The National Enterprise Network has members around the country who can provide business advice and connect you with local funding opportunities.
- Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs): LEPs often have funding schemes and grants specifically targeted at supporting women in business at the regional level.
- Women-focused business support organizations: Organizations such as Forward Ladies, and Women in Business NI often provide information and access to funding opportunities for women entrepreneurs. See our listing of women’s business networks for more details of regional and national networks.
Remember to visit the websites of these organizations or contact them directly for the most up-to-date information on available grants and eligibility criteria.
2. Do a thorough search of these grant databases
Grant-finding databases are an even better place to check as they are pretty comprehensive and continuously updated. You are unlikely to find much if you just search for grants for women in business. Be as creative as you can. You can search by what you want to achieve – for example, training, innovation, environmental improvements. You can also search by personal or businesses characteristics, such as location, sector, your age, gender etc. The following sites are extensive and free:
Those databases pick-up most schemes, including small local ones. But have a good search on the internet too, especially if your business is very niche, or you are part of a particular target group (there are funds for ex-service people for example). Also, keep an eye on the local press and talk to the local enterprise agency or your Council Economic Development Unit. Trade associations can be another good source for grants for businesses in your sector.
[Note – Grantfinder is a subscription-based service, however it is often offered as a free service by third parties such as local libraries, councils, voluntary sector support bodies etc. You may be able to find a free provider in your area by searching ‘grantfinder’ + your area.]
3. Be really sure that a grant is right for your business
Chasing grants can distort a solid business or idea and take up more time and energy than they’re worth. Start by being really sure that this grant will take your business in the direction you want to go. Funding should follow mission, not the other way around! If it doesn’t, don’t do it. If you find that it is in fact better for your business to apply for a loan, then start by checking out the government-backed Start-up loans scheme.
4. Think laterally about Awards
When is a grant not a grant? Quite often when it’s called an Award. There are lots of those alternative grants for women in business – see our listings of women’s business awards. Some give cash or equivalent prizes and others give you lots of free PR and credibility. Some high profile women’s business award programmes get a lot fewer entries than you’d think, especially those that are in narrow sectors.
5. Meet the criteria
Almost every fund publishes a list of criteria that they judge applications against. Make sure that you respond clearly to every point. Give evidence and examples of how you match what they are looking for. Make sure your evidence is as up-to-date as possible and based on reliable sources.
6. Follow the guidelines
Tick off and double-check that you’ve followed every single guideline in the grant information. If they give word counts, stick to them. If they ask you to address your application in a certain way, follow that exactly. Append all the documents you’re asked for. Meet the deadline, not a second late or your application is unlikely to be accepted. Small exceptions may seem trivial, but they are an easy way for your application to be knocked off the massive pile of applications most funders receive.
7. Keep it real with testimonials
Quotes from customers or clients are really powerful: provide testimonials, client feedback and affirmations. If you are allowed to, include photographs or even video to show the impact of what you’re doing or plan to do.
8. Do it yourself
While getting expert help and input can help, make sure that you complete the application yourself. You need to understand every line, so that if you are interviewed or have to deliver a pitch, you can answer every question.
9. Presentation is key
Make sure your grant application is professionally presented and proofread. You’re asking for lots of cash, so don’t undermine your case with lazy typos! If you have to deliver a pitch, draft bullet points on a card and rehearse it over and over. Make sure you know your financials inside out.
10. Network and get known
If at all possible try to get to know your funder and find ways of letting them know about you. Take any opportunity you can to meet them face to face, for example at networking events. Also if they are happy to be contacted with questions about the funding application, then take advantage of that, but make sure you only do it once and have a sensible list of questions prepared. If you’re applying for a significant grant then it can help to build your PR profile, get some press coverage and talk to anyone who may have some influence.
After you’ve completed your grant application and sent it off, make sure you check that it was received on time and that everything was in order. If it’s a winning application, then you will have to complete follow-up reports accounting for how the money has been spent and what impact it has made. If you don’t succeed this time, always ask for feedback. As they say – ‘There’s no such thing as failure, only feedback.’ If you learn from it, you’ll be one step closer to succeeding the next time. Good luck!