International Women’s Day 2021

Monday, March 8 was International Women's Day 2021. The theme this year encourages all people to notice and speak up where there are gender-based biases.

A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.

From the official website: Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.

The SmartBiz Loans team knows that from challenge comes change, so we are dedicated to helping women-owned businesses succeed. We work with small businesses owned by women every day and their business are thriving in America.

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Equal rights are important to the SmartBiz team and we strive to hire a diverse workforce with women in key roles in addition to providing low-cost funding to help female entrepreneurs their business dreams.

Here’s information to help support your woman owned enterprise.

WBE Certification

Because of their minority status, special opportunities and assistance exist for women-owned businesses. A woman-owned business is defined as a business with at least 51 percent ownership by a woman or women, including contracts, procurement set-asides and financial and/or business assistance.

Not all women-owned businesses pursue these benefits, but certifying your business as a woman’s business enterprise (WBE) can help your enterprise. Here’s information you need to know about WBE advantages and opportunities for your women-owned business.

Two women’s business organizations certify WBEs: the WBENC (Women’s Business Enterprise National Council) and the NWBOC (National Women Business Owners Corporation).

WBE certification is necessary if you wish to participate in programs that require tracking the amount of business done with women-owned enterprises. Most local, state and federal government purchasing agencies have programs for woman-owned businesses. To become WBE certified, you must show:

  • Woman Ownership: You must prove that the business is 51 percent owned, controlled, operated, and managed by a woman or women.
  • Time in business: Your company must have been in business for at least six months.
  • US citizens: The owner or owners must be US citizens or legal resident aliens.
  • Contribution of capital: The woman business owner or owners must show that the contribution of capital is real and in proportion to the ownership interest in the business.

Grants for Women Business Owners

In 2021, many grants have been put in place for the female entrepreneur population. They include:

1. Amber Grant

Submission dates: The submission deadline is on the last day of every month; the winner is announced in the first week of the following month.

Entry requirements: Open to all female entrepreneurs age 18 and up living in the United States or Canada and who pay a $15 application fee.


Named after a young woman named Amber died before being able to fulfill her entrepreneurial dreams, the Amber Grant awards $10,000 to a woman-owned business every month. At the end of the year, one of the 12 monthly qualification winners wins another grant for $25,000.

2. Cartier Women’s Initiative

Submission dates:  The next call for applications has been postponed to Spring 2022.

Entry requirements: Open to women-run, for-profit, early-stage, revenue-generating, sustainable businesses from any country; Science & Technology Pioneer Award applicants must also be in the field of technology or scientific innovation.


Cartier offers two different grants for women-owned businesses: The Cartier Women’s Initiative Regional Awards provides seven laureates (one from each of seven global regions) $100,000 each, and 14 finalists (2nd and 3rd runner-up businesses from each region) $30,000 each. Cartier’s Science & Technology Pioneer Award provides one $100,000 grant to the winner and two $30,000 grants to the runners up.

3. Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program

Submission dates: The 2021 submission deadline was November 12, 2020; you can apply again in Fall 2021.
Entry requirements: Open to women-run, for-profit, early-stage, revenue-generating ($75,000 minimum strongly preferred) businesses operating in the US.


Each spring, up to 50 finalists of this women-owned business grant competition are selected for a $5,000 grant to be used for business education. The finalists also receive a one-year Tory Burch Fellowship and a free 5-day trip to Tory Burch Offices in NYC over the summer.
Note that the $5,000 grant cannot be used for purposes other than business education.

4. Girlboss Foundation

November 2020 update: The Girlboss Foundation Grant Program is currently paused.

Submission dates: You can apply in June for the first cycle of the year, and in December for the second cycle.
Entry requirements: Open to US-based, female-identifying creative business owners (in design, fashion, music, and the arts) who are 18 or older.


These semi-annual grants are for women in the fields of art, fashion, design, and music. Every six months, one grant beneficiary receives $15,000 to be used for a creative project within the following 12 months, in addition to online media exposure. Girlboss also hosts the annual Girlboss Rally — which grant recipients receive two free tickets to –and runs the Girlboss Professional Network job marketplace for women.

5. Women Founders Network Fast Pitch Competition

Submission dates: Applications for the next WFN grant open in Spring 2021.

Entry requirements: Open to early-stage, women-owned businesses with high growth potential. Must be US based and have received no more than $1m in outside funding.


The Women Founders Network is an organization that provides both capital and mentorship to women business owners. The organization’s Fast Pitch competition selects five finalists to receive free grant money and free professional services each year. Through two rounds of voting, judges select the five top female founders, to compete for more than $30,000 in cash prizes and over $50,000 in professional services.

6. 37 Angels

Submission dates: 8 finalists are selected every 2 months to pitch their company; the next application cutoff will be in 2022.

Entry requirements: Open to early-stage, high-growth companies in attractive markets like technology and B2B/B2C.


Angel investment isn’t a grant, per se, as the investors that fund you will have an interest in your company. But angel investing can be a good option for women-owned startups who could benefit from some direction and industry expertise in growing their company, as well as the funds to do so. NYC-based 37 Angels is an angel investment group designed to close the gender gap in angel investing. The grant is open to both women and men-led companies (but the group’s portfolio favors woman founders).

There’s a simple online application to apply for funding, and if you’re selected as a finalist, you’ll pitch your company to a group of investors in New York. You should receive a decision within 4-weeks of pitching, and most angels receive $50,000 to $100,000 in seed funding, along with professional help growing their company.

7. Halstead Grant

Submission dates: The deadline is August 1 each year. Postmark your 2021 grant application by August 1, 2021.

Entry requirements: Open to US jewelry designers who work primarily in silver, have been in business 3-5 years, and are pursuing jewelry design as a full-time career (not a hobby or part-time job).


Halstead Grants are annual grants given to emerging metal jewelry designers. While this grant is not strictly for women, I’m including it on our list, as the jewelry industry is mostly female-dominated, and most (but not all) of the past winners of this grant have been women. The grant consists of $7,500 in startup capital and $1,000 in Halstead merchandise. Note that as part of the application, you must submit a jewelry collection.

Federal Contractor Status and State/Local Certification

To help provide a level playing field for women business owners, the government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses that participate in the women’s contracting program. According to the Small Business Administration, the federal government's goal is to award at least five percent of all federal contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses each year.

To be eligible for the women’s contracting program, your business must:

  • Be a small business. The SBA’s size standards determine whether or not your business qualifies as small.
  • Be at least 51% owned and controlled by women who are U.S. citizens.
  • Have women manage day-to-day operations and also make long-term decisions.

Loan options for woman-owned businesses

Although these loans are not specifically earmarked for women, they can provide the funds you need for your business.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Forgivable Loans

The new round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans provides financial assistance to small business owners and the self-employed with forgivable funds to help weather the coronavirus pandemic. This round of the PPP launched in January 2021 and applications are now open. Although the program is scheduled through March, 2021, it’s suggested that business owners apply ASAP before funding runs out.

The application process has been simplified this time around. However, be sure to check with your lender as the process may vary.

SmartBiz Loans has been processing thousands of PPP applications to help all types of small business owners. Through a streamlined portal, and support from our instructional video and helpful blog posts, SmartBiz customers are receiving the funds they so desperately need.

Learn more about this program here.

If you’re ready to start, (be sure not to miss the March 31st, 2021 deadline), visit SmartBiz Loans and fill out an application today.

SBA Loans

If you qualify, the Small Business Administration’s low-cost loan programs can be your best option. SBA loans have low rates, long terms and very low payments to fuel stability, growth, and savings.

There are three types of SBA loan programs available for business owners, the 7(a) Loan Program, the CDC/504 Loan Program and the Microloan Program

The 7(a) Loan Program

An SBA 7(a) loan can be used for a variety of purposes.
Working Capital: Purchase equipment, increase inventory, add marketing programs, for operating expenses to hire additional staff.

  • Debt Consolidation Loans: Refinance merchant cash advances, short-term business loans, high interest business loans, daily or weekly payment loans or business credit cards.
  • Commercial Real Estate: Refinance an existing commercial real estate mortgage, buy an office building or other owner-occupied commercial space.

For in-depth information about the popular SBA 7(a) loan program, visit the SmartBiz Small Business blog and review our comprehensive article: What is an SBA Loan?

The 504 Loan Program

This program was created to give small businesses low cost funds for expansion or modernization. Typically, up to 50% of project costs are funded by a lender backed by the SBA. CDCs (Community Development Corporations) usually fund up to 40% of the project cost. The final 10% is a cash down payment expected to come from the small business owner. A 504 SBA loan might be a good fit for small business owners interested in purchasing a commercial real estate property and if their unique business circumstances fit with the public policy goals of your local CDC. Find a CDC here.

The Microloan Program

The Microloan Program is for very small businesses, including start-ups and provides loans of up to $50,000. Requirements to qualify for a microloan can vary depending on the lender. Proceeds from an SBA Microloan can be used for most business expenses but not for paying down debt or real estate purchases.

Non-SBA Loans

There are plenty of non-SBA loan options available although they may have higher rates, shorter terms and larger payments.

Business Lines of Credit

A business line of credit allows you to borrow funds up to a limit based on your credit, typically smaller than a term loan. You only pay interest on the amount you use, and you can continue borrowing as necessary until you reach the set maximum. These loans are usually unsecured, meaning that you won’t have to provide collateral to qualify. For in-depth information, read this post from the SmartBiz Blog: Small Business Lines of Credit Pros and Cons.

Business credit cards are revolving lines of credit. The main distinction is that they don’t terminate once the predetermined limit is reached. They work like personal credit cards, with varying spending rewards and offers depending on the lender. Learn more here: 5 Business Credit Card Myths.

Merchant Cash Advances

A merchant cash advance (MCA) is most often used by small businesses that accept credit and debit card sales. You receive a specific sum in advance that is repaid either by a percent deduction from daily transactions or through daily or weekly payments.

Keep in mind that MCAs often lead to extremely high annual percentage rates. Even the minimum within the range can be several times larger than term loan annual percentage rates and can reach up to well over 300%. For more info, read What You Need to Know About an MCA.

Bank Term Loans

If you need funds quickly, consider applying for a bank term loan. SmartBiz currently offers term loans through its network of banks for working capital, debt refinance, and new equipment purchase:

  • $30,000 to $350,000 loan amounts
  • 2 – 5 year repayment terms
  • Fixed interest rate*
  • Monthly repayments
  • No pre-payment penalties

*Interest rate depends on loan term and the applicant's credit and financial profile.

Women owned-business assistance

If you need help launching, running, or expanding your business, free or low-cost assistance is available.

A Women's Business Development Center or a Small Business Development Company offers all kinds of programs and assistance for small business owners. Locate assistance centers here: Find local assistance. SCORE is also a fantastic resource, pairing entrepreneurs with seasoned business professionals. Locate your local SCORE office here.

Female entrepreneur success stories

Despite the success and growth of businesses owned by women, a troubling blanket of unfairness still exists. A 2016 study showed that female-owned businesses receive loan approvals 33% less often than male-owned businesses.

As a result, we’ve experienced 30% of SBA 7(a) funded loans going to women-owned businesses compared to the national average of only a 14%. From 2017 to 2019, SmartBiz increased the dollar amount facilitated to African American Women owned businesses by 45%.

We love to speak with our female customers to learn about their entrepreneurial journey to successful business ownership. Read about them on the SmartBiz Small Business Blog:


School for the Dogs - New Yorkers love their dogs. And if you’re in Manhattan’s East Village and come across a well-trained pooch, they might just be a student of Annie Grossman.


Los Gatos Ballet & Pilates - Marcie Ryken is a former professional ballerina who opened a studio to share her passion with children and adults. Learn about her growth strategies.


Rosemarie Collections - This Ohio based small business had humble beginnings but has blossomed into a successful venture co-owned by Jubal Douglass and Rosemarie Bauer.


Wonder Years - Christy Miranda started working for the business she now owns when she was just 15. She is expanding to a new commercial real estate property to expand her successful child care business.