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Resources and funding options for women and minority entrepreneurs during COVID-19

September marks a little over six months since the COVID-19 outbreak was upgraded to a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Across the United States, small businesses have worked hard to keep their doors open and their offerings available to customers. Amid this unprecedented time, many companies have pivoted their business models. Some new initiatives include curbside pickup and delivery or converting spaces into assembly lines to create PPE for essential workers.

Businesses in need of financial assistance during COVID-19 have turned to funding relief resources. Programs like the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) offered loan assistance to qualifying small businesses. Additional loans provided by the SBA included disaster assistance loans and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). Major corporations, including GoFundMe and eBay, also created relief funds to help struggling small businesses.

In spite of the relief funds and financial programs, women entrepreneurs are struggling to keep business running as usual. On August 26, 2020, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a special report on women-owned small businesses during COVID-19. Data in the report revealed that women-owned small businesses felt disproportionately impacted by the pandemic than male-owned businesses. Prior to the pandemic, 60% of women-owned businesses ranked their business health as “good.” In July 2020, that percentage slipped to 47% for a decline of 13 points. This is in stark contrast to male-owned businesses. 67% of male owners surveyed before the pandemic ranked their business health as good. That percentage is now at 62%, at a five-point decline.

The report also notes that women-owned businesses do not expect a revenue increase quite like male-owned businesses. In Q1, 64% of women-owned small businesses anticipated revenue increase in 2020. In July 2020, it fell 14 points to 49%.

Where can women-owned, and minority-owned, small businesses find the necessary resources to help increase confidence that they will be able to get back to business and anticipate a stronger outlook on bouncing back? I’ve rounded up a list of funding relief resources where small businesses may be able to take advantage. Additionally, I have included resources designed to provide assistance in areas such as mentorship to women-owned and minority-owned small businesses.

  • The Red Backpack Fund
  • Do You Fund
  • Business for All Grant (Hello Alice)
  • Your Friends in New York Business Relief Fund
  • IFundWomen COVID-19 Relief Funds
  • Moms as Entrepreneurs COVID-19 Fund
  • Stronger Together Fund

The Red Backpack Fund

Backed by Spanx inventor Sara Blakely, The Red Backpack Fund was established by The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation and GlobalGiving. Their mission is to support female entrepreneurs impacted by COVID-19 with $5 million in donations.

How can you apply for this grant? Applicants that are majority women-owned and led businesses and non-profits throughout the U.S.  are encouraged to apply. Applications are then accepted during pre-set periods from April through September 2020. Each month, GlobalGiving helps vet the applications and select 200 Red Backpack Fund grantees. Each will receive $5,000 and a free all-access pass to Blakely’s MasterClass on entrepreneurship. They will also receive a “lucky” red backpack, a nod to the same backpack Blakely carried with her when she was starting Spanx and as a reminder that everything you need to succeed is already on your back.

Author’s note: The Red Backpack Fund application portal will be open from September 8-15. Grantees that have previously submitted an application may be considered eligible for this round. You may also sign up for notifications when applications are open via email.

Do You Fund

Do You Fund started providing financial relief to women entrepreneurs on April 5, 2020. Since that date, the fund has provided micro investments of $500 or less to more than 1,500 Black and Latinx women entrepreneurs.

Tech pioneer and CEO of digitalundivided Kathryn Finney is credited with creating Do You Fund (also referred to as The Doonie Fund). Finney believes that the micro investment made in Black and Latinx women entrepreneurs allows them “to stay in the arena” during the COVID-19 pandemic with their small businesses.

At the present time, Do You Fund is encouraging interested applicants to share their contact information with them. Contact information may be submitted through their website. This allows applicants to be among the first to know when Do You Fund will have new ways to support Black and Latinx women entrepreneurs.

Business for All Grant (Hello Alice)

Hello Alice is a machine-learning company committed to helping entrepreneurs and small businesses launch and grow their businesses. Women-owned businesses struggling to find funding relief may apply for a Business for All Grant. Support for this grant also comes from Verizon, Silicon Valley Bank, Ebay Foundation, UBS, Visible, and Stacy’s Rise Project.

Grants are available starting at $10,000 for emergency COVID-19 grants up to $50,000 for entrepreneurs impacted by the pandemic. While grant applications have closed for emergency grants at this time, the general Business for All applications are still open through September 25 — and ready to assist women-owned businesses.

Your Friends in New York Business Relief Fund

If your small business is in a creative field, you’re in luck. Fashion label Your Friends In New York is ready to provide temporary financial relief assistance to creative-based businesses that are owned and operated by women and minorities.

For consideration, fill out the form available through their website. The grant provides up to $5,000 to eligible recipients. Those that need more than $5,000 must provide further information as to where the funding will go towards with their business.

IFundWomen COVID-19 Relief Funds

Crowdfunding platform IFundWomen has several applications open for microgrants available to women-owned small businesses. Check in regularly to determine which grants are currently open for application submission:

Currently, the following grants have their application windows open:

·  IFundWomen COVID Relief Fund

·  IFundWomen Alumni Grants

·  IFundWomen Monthly Pay-It-Forward

·  Gingerbread Capital | IFundWomen COVID-19 Relief Grant

Moms as Entrepreneurs COVID-19 Fund

Mompreneurs that have been shut out of government loans or funding during COVID-19 have the fortunate opportunity to apply for grant support through the Moms as Entrepreneurs COVID-19 Fund. This fund, created by its namesake nonprofit business incubator, provides mom-owned businesses across all industries with grants of $500 to $1,000.

Eligible applicants, as a quick reminder, must be mom-owned small businesses. They must also have not received any other funding related to COVID-19 relief. Business sales must also have declined by 40% or more due to the pandemic.

Stronger Together Fund

I mentioned a mompreneur-friendly grant earlier, but there can never be enough funding dedicated to keeping moms engaged, and employed, in today’s workforce.

The Mom Project is a platform that emphasizes helping moms re-enter the workforce and helps connect them with employers. The Stronger Together Fund, totaling $500,000, provides microgrants to help fund the employment of moms during COVID-19. These funds are eligible to The Mom Project’s existing customers, so keep that in mind before getting started with the application process.

Additional Resources

Upon writing this post, I found myself repeatedly double-checking deadlines for grant application submissions. Many other incredible organizations and COVID-19 specific grants would have been included in this roundup. However, their application deadlines had passed.

Remember to always double-check the deadline for any grant before applying — even when reading this article — to ensure you are applying within the timeframe. Several small business grants are also available on a rolling basis. Although, it is not yet determined whether the aforementioned grants will provide a second year’s worth of funding relief.

In between applying for COVID-19 loans and grants, where else can entrepreneurs receive small business assistance? Let’s take a look at a few popular spaces that provide women-owned and minority-owned small businesses with extra help.

Association of Women’s Business Centers

More than 100 Women’s Business Centers (WBC) are sponsored by the SBA throughout the United States. These centers are developed to assist women entrepreneurs with business development. They also provide assistance in finding and obtaining capital that allows women entrepreneurs to fund their startups.

Take a moment to look up which WBC location is near you and your business. As a side note, you may also attend free virtual meetings and events from WBC in lieu of visiting a center amid COVID-19.

Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)

The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Its mission is to assist minority-owned businesses throughout the United States.

Business experts at MBDA Business Center locations are ready to assist minority-owned businesses with all of their growth and startup needs. Some of these may include helping secure capital in the form of grants and loans, identifying a strategic partner, prepping businesses for export, and competing for a contract. Much like the WBC, you may search for the nearest MBDA Business Center on their website — and see what kinds of virtual offerings they provide during COVID-19.

SCORE

In this unprecedented time, many women entrepreneurs are leaning on their mentors for support and guidance. Or, they are acting the role of a mentor to a fellow entrepreneur in their community.

Mentors lift one another up, in good times and challenging times alike. If you don’t already have a mentor, find out through the network at SCORE. You can find and connect with a mentor through their network with remote mentorship opportunities available.

SCORE is also home to a small business resilience hub that includes training and resources for businesses struggling during the pandemic and a Hispanic Business Owners Hub. This hub includes English and Spanish language options and provides workshops and resources for Hispanic entrepreneurs.

Grants.gov

What other grants are currently available to women-owned and minority-owned small businesses? Check in with grants.gov and conduct a search on a regular basis. See which federal grants may be opening deadlines for application that may be relevant to you and your small business — and provide a bit of extra funding relief in this difficult time.

Check out OpenWeStand‘s Resources page for more articles, advice, and strategies small businesses can use to get through these tough times.