The economy is challenging for small-business owners. Companies owned by minorities and women have been among the hardest hit as they have been underserved and overlooked.

Various studies have shown that women and minority entrepreneurs are less likely to receive conventional bank business loans than their counterparts. Similar headwinds are cited for government-supported loans, such as those through the Small Business Administration. On average, women and minorities who can secure a loan are offered smaller amounts. Unsurprisingly, women and minority business owners are more likely to express fears about permanently closing.

Some organizations acknowledge these disadvantages and provide grants. Securing grants, particularly minority-focused gifts, is one solution to help close that equity gap. Below is a partial list of offerings accessible specifically to women and minority entrepreneurs.

Grants available to all small-business owners

The website can help you find gifts for various for-profit small businesses. You may wonder if your business is small enough to be awarded a grant. Federal programs define “small” as millions of dollars in revenue and hundreds of employees, depending on the industry.

The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest assists for-profit businesses with fewer than 100 employees. You can see past winners on the FedEx website. Its grant guidelines are not well defined, but FedEx is looking for an inspirational story. Ten winners are selected annually, with prizes ranging from $20,000 to $50,000. A bonus is that submitting your entry forces you to tell your story, which you can share with your customers and community.

The National Association of the Self-Employed’s Growth Grants Program allows members to receive a $4,000 development grant. Recipients are determined by a review of business needs, intended spending, and the potential of the gift to be helpful to the business. Grants can be used for marketing, advertising, hiring and expanding facilities.

Grants for women-owned businesses is a database of grants for women. Not all grants require a woman to be a business owner.

Click the “Get Funding” link on the iFundWomen Grant Application Database to peruse several grant opportunities with varying eligibility requirements. I learned of iFundWomen through Visa’s She’s Next grants, which are offered to Black women-owned businesses. The company must have been operating for two years with a minimum revenue of $24,000. There is also an opportunity to promote crowdsourcing efforts.

The Ladies Who Launch’s Launch Program offers a $10,000 cash grant. The Launch Program was founded in response to COVID-19 to support women and nonbinary entrepreneurs. In addition to the gift, the program provides six months of educational resources and mentorship. It will also help women attain the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council Certification. Certificants are connected to their network and may receive targeted business opportunities.

Cartier Women’s initiative Award is open to women-run and women-owned businesses. Applicants can be from any industry so long as the company aims to have a social or environmental impact. Grants range from $30,000 to $100,000. Recipients also receive mentorship and resources coincident with meeting their goals.

The Tory Burch Fellows Program supports women founders with a $5,000 grant and a one-year educational fellowship designed for recipients’ business needs.

Amber Grants are for female entrepreneurs planning to start a small business. Each month, one female-owned firm is selected for a $10,000 grant. Of those monthly recipients, one per year is awarded a $25,000 grant. Recipients are chosen by assessing the entrepreneurs’ passionate story, vision and intention of use.

The Ms. Foundation for Women assists women-owned businesses that further the advancement of women and girls. The foundation organizes fundraising and helps with overall financial health.

Grants for BIPOC entrepreneurs

The Coalition to Back Black Businesses supports Black-owned businesses. It distributes $5,000 grants to applicants, with a select few receiving $25,000 enhancement gifts. Recipients are provided mentorship and training.

Comcast RISE is a multiyear commitment to providing marketing, creative, media and technology services to small businesses. You are eligible to apply if the organization is 51 percent owned and operated by someone who identifies as a person of color, including Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, and Asian American owners or a woman.

The Minority Business Development Agency is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Minority-owned companies can access business experts and help to raise capital. The agency will host its annual National Minority Enterprise Development Week Conference from Sept. 18-24, 2022. It will be a hybrid conference, so you can conveniently access informational sessions online.

The National Minority Supplier Development Council operates the Business Consortium Fund. The fund offers consulting services to minority business enterprises, including U.S. citizens who are Asian-Indian, Asian-Pacific, Black, Hispanic and Native American. If a business owner qualifies, they will receive assistance in receiving loans from the Small Business Administration 8(A) Business Development Program.

Asian American and Pacific Islander business owners can subscribe to alerts from the National Ace Grants. The AAPI Strong Annual Conference will happen Sept. 19-21, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

Grants for Berkshire-based businesses

The Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire’s Small Business Assistance Program is open to all small businesses. There is a particular focus on underserved companies, including, but not limited to, businesses owned by low-income individuals, women and members of minority groups. Among other benefits, the CDCSB helps entrepreneurs attain funding.

Mindy, the owner of the Berkshire County, Massachusetts-based touring company Berkshire Camino, worked with the CDCSB. Mindy shared, “My consultant’s keen insights helped me pinpoint financial resources available to small-business owners to help me grow and expand. She also helped me finalize a business plan, which will allow Berkshire Camino to get the funding for a marketing budget. Working with the CDCSB and the small-business program very much feels like a giant step in my entrepreneurial growth. With the help of CDCSB, I’m creating something that didn’t exist outside of my mind, and I’m determined to make it a success.”

Many of the grants are paired with consulting opportunities. Having money is one thing; spending it in a manner that allows you the best possible return on investment is another. The CDCSB assists small businesses with creating business plans, developing expansion initiatives, refining marketing, advertising, bookkeeping and technology support. At no cost to the company, the CDCSB can be a proactive, objective partner from which some women and minority owners can benefit.

This article first appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on August 29, 2022.