Women- and minority-owned businesses are more likely than white-male-owned firms to depend on personal finances and credit cards to finance startup and expansion. These businesses are significantly less likely to seek financing from an outside source such as bank loans.
But there are plenty of resources out there to help women and minorities who own their own businesses succeed. There is a panoply of programs — from loan offerings to special grant funding — that can help you thrive in business.
Determine Your Eligibility
First determine if you as the business owner officially qualify as minority. The Small Business Administration (SBA) identifies socially and economically disadvantaged minorities as African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans and Subcontinent Asian Americans. These groups are eligible to participate in the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program that offers counseling, training, guidance, and access to contracting opportunities. Women are also eligible for special consideration from the SBA, including various programs designed to help them succeed. A minority- or woman-owned business is one in which the minority owner possesses at least 51 percent of company stock, assets, or equity.
The first place to look for resources is the federal BusinessUSA site and its grant and loan directory. You will be prompted to choose whether you are a minority or female business owner and what kind of business you are looking to start or expand. The resulting search results cover loan programs and other resources. Loan guarantee programs from federal, state, and local government agencies can help small businesses get startup and expansion capital from commercial lenders.
The SBA offers information on funding a small business, resources for women-owned businesses, and business development programs for small, disadvantaged businesses. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency has an entire section on access to capital, providing a good introduction to what the options are.
Many small business owners are interested in grant funding, but such resources are rare. The federal government does not provide grants for starting or expanding a business, but there are some private programs geared toward particular subgroups.
For example, women can get small grants from the Amber Foundation to help start or grow a business. Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence offers “Make Mine a Million $ Business” grants for female entrepreneurs interested in taking their companies to the next level.
Native American business people might find grant resources from tribal administration and state governments. One example is the Montana Indian Equity Fund, which provides grants to Montana tribal members who want to start or grow a business.
Search carefully for opportunities that seem to be a fit for your particular circumstances. The grants for which you might be eligible will depend on the specifics of your demographic, business type, and goals.
Getting your business certified in certain ways by the federal government will give you opportunities to bid for specified projects with federal agencies. The SBA provides details about contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses as well as small, disadvantaged businesses.
Other agency-specific programs — such as the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program at the Environmental Protection Agency — give women- and minority-owned businesses opportunities to bid on particular work.
Start Here, Then Widen Your Search
There are many more resources for women and minority entrepreneurs than there is space to list here. Try the resources above as well as the following links:
- Local women’s business centers
- The SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership
- National Association of Women Business Owners
- National Minority Supplier Development Council
- National Minority Enterprise Development Week Conference sponsored by the Minority Business Development Agency
Help Your Business Thrive
Get our Newsletter