March is Women’s History Month! Grant Engine wants to see women-owned small businesses succeed in securing funding, so we put this list of resources together in support of female entrepreneurs. The NIH, especially the SBIR/STTR programs, shares this mission. The SBIR and STTR program encourage participation in innovation and entrepreneurship from female entrepreneurs, promoting diversity.

Women-owned small businesses can self-certify during the application process, which is used for federal tracking purposes so NIH can better reach out to female entrepreneurs. To certify, an organization must:

     –  be considered a small business in its primary industry

     –  be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more woman

     –  be primarily managed by one or more women

Still, female entrepreneurs are underrepresented in SBIR and STTR awards. In 2017 the figures sat at 11 percent, a slight increase from 2005, but still a low figure. Grant funding is a way of getting money for your business without losing any autonomy. How can female entrepreneurs break into grant funding, and what resources are available to increase representation? Here are a few initiatives designed to close the gap.


Ad Astra Ventures

Ad Astra offers in-person, intensive accelerator training to prepare female entrepreneurs for the business world, including mentorship and advising. Companies who take this training have to have at least one female founder, with a solid proof of concept, defensible IP, revenue, a minimum viable product, and customer LOI. If you aren’t quite ready for that level of training, there are also workshops available. These range from 90 minutes to a full day. They cover topics like networking and overcoming bias.

Ad Astra does not focus on grant writing or awarding specifically. However, for female-led teams planning to make a push for funding, this resource can provide the skills, confidence, and contacts needed.



EnrichHer has a business funding program for U.S. based companies, but also collects and shares opportunities for female entrepreneurs based on funding or registration due dates. Many are business accelerators, but others focus on training, grants, networking, and workshops. There are many, many excellent opportunities outlined on the EnrichHer site, which is updated regularly. EnrichHer also runs a society connecting women in business online and in-person. Every female entrepreneur should have this page bookmarked!


Launch Tennessee

Launch Tennessee put together several equity initiatives that work to overcome overt and covert biases related to gender and other conditions that impact access to capital. It’s a way for under-resourced female entrepreneurs, in the early stages of their companies, to find investment.

Companies accessing this funding have to be based in Tennessee and stay there for 24 months. They must report annually to Launch about jobs, revenue, and economic development data. If you are a female entrepreneur outside of Tennessee, look for a similar local or regional opportunity in your area.


The Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program

The FAST program provides one-year funding to organizations like Launch Tennessee, at the state or regional level to increase the number of SBIR/STTR proposals and awards. FAST, like SBIR and STTR, has a focus on increasing the participation of women and other underrepresented populations. FAST awards go to organizations like economic development agencies, small business development centers, accelerators and incubators, women’s business centers, educational institutes, and more. One proposal is allowed per state, and varying levels of fund matching are required from the state or territory.

Looking at previous FAST winners and applicants can help female entrepreneurs know who is aiming to increase diversity in their state or region, and make connections with women-oriented organizations, even if they did not secure FAST funding.


Applicant Assistance Program

Programs like the National Cancer Institute’s Applicant Assistance Program aim to help small businesses get into Phase I of funding with needs assessment and mentoring, application preparation support, and application review. This program, again, works to increase participation in SBIR from underrepresented individuals, like women. AAP will not create your application or proposal. It will, however, offer support and guidance through the process.

The program application is closed for this cohort, but female entrepreneurs with an interest in this area should check back for future information. In 2019, NCI is the only participating institute, so ideas must relate to innovative cancer technology.


Working with Grant Engine

Grant Engine is, of course, pleased to offer our own expertise and advice to female entrepreneurs. Our work with grant applications has shown us how to navigate the process and overcome any roadblocks. Even those that exist thanks to conscious or unconscious bias.

We are here as your partners in the process, working to meet the goal of bringing more representation to the NIH and to SBIR/STTR funding. Even if you are not trying for an NIH grant, we can help you access different funding and grow your business as a female entrepreneur. 

Call us at 650-937-9164, email, or contact us online.