The government commissioned Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship opens in new window, shows women do not lack the ability or ambition to start a business, but only one in three UK entrepreneurs is female.
It also shows that female-led businesses are 44% of the size of male-led businesses on average in terms of their contribution to the economy, and male-run small and medium-sized enterprises are five times more likely to scale up to £1 million turnover than female-run small and medium-sized enterprises.
One of the key challenges for female entrepreneurs is access to finance opens in new window.
British Business Bank research in 2019 opens in new window found that for every £1 of venture capital investment in the UK, all-female founder teams get less than 1p compared to 89p for all-male founder teams.
Efforts are being made to overcome these challenges with grants being one potential solution to closing the funding gap between female and male entrepreneurs.
Starting a business doesn’t come with a set of instructions.
We know that understanding the many different types of financial product in the marketplace can be difficult.
Our Making business finance work for you guide is designed to help you make an informed choice about accessing the right type of finance for you and your business.
What is a grant?
A grant opens in new window is business funding you don’t need to pay back, which can make it an attractive form of finance for entrepreneurs.
National and local government organisations, charities, and other non-profit groups usually provide grants.
They are given to help businesses start or grow, and for specific actions such as buying equipment opens in new window, accessing training opens in new window, and exporting overseas opens in new window.
There are also grant schemes explicitly aimed at female entrepreneurs.
Some grant schemes provide 100% of the funding, while others are match-funded, meaning you have to make up a proportion of the money from your own funds.
Hundreds of grants are available, but they can be challenging to obtain.
Applying is often a complex process, and each grant has its own requirements and criteria.
Read our guide on how to get a business start-up government grant opens in new window.
Where to find grants
Government websites are an excellent place to start when searching for business grants in the UK.
There is a regularly updated list of funding schemes on the gov.uk website opens in new window, with similar guides for Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish businesses on Business Wales opens in new window, the Scottish Government opens in new window and Invest Northern Ireland opens in new window.
Another potential source for grants is your local council website opens in new window.
Charities and other non-profit organisations that offer grants include:
- Arts Council England opens in new window
- Arts Council of Wales opens in new window
- Arts Council of Northern Ireland opens in new window
- Creative Scotland opens in new window
- UnLtd opens in new window (for social entrepreneurs)
- Prince’s Trust opens in new window (for young people)
- National Lottery Community Fund. opens in new window
Read our guide on support and funding for young entrepreneurs opens in new window.
There are specific grants currently open for applications or opening soon which may be worth considering. We’ve included a non-exhaustive list below:
This fund provides grants to initiatives and organisations worldwide that support women’s human rights and gender justice.
Applications are open all year.
The Women in Innovation programme is an annual funding and business support programme for women in business.
It includes a £50,000 grant plus coaching and mentoring.
The competition usually opens for entries every summer.
The Abie Awards celebrate the success of women and non-binary technologists and those who support women in technology.
US-based AnitaB.org opens in new window organises the scheme, but entries are encouraged worldwide.
Each Abie Award winner receives a cash prize.
The amount varies by award and year.
Small and medium-sized enterprises can apply for a share of up to £25m for “game-changing and commercially viable R&D innovations that can significantly impact the UK economy”.
Entries for the current round of funding close at 11am on 26 April 2023.
Grants of £2,500 to cover 50% of project costs are available to businesses in Mansfield as part of four schemes.
This programme provides research and development grants of up to £100,000 to cover up to 70% of eligible costs for a small enterprise and up to 60% for a medium enterprise.
Start-up grants in Wales
Match-funded grants are available for start-ups and small businesses in several areas in Wales:
A grant to cover 50% of eligible project costs up to a maximum of £500.
Grants for businesses under 24 months to cover up to 100% of eligible costs with a maximum of £500.
Grants of £200 – £1,500 to cover up to 50% of eligible project costs.
Grants up to £1,000 to cover 50% of eligible costs for businesses aged between six months and three years.
Grant funding of £500 to £10,000 to cover up to 50% of eligible project costs.
Want to learn how to manage your start-up’s finances? Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on being an entrepreneur.
Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses opens in new window include:
- Introduction to bookkeeping and accounting opens in new window
- Financial accounting and reporting opens in new window
- Financial methods in environmental decisions opens in new window
Plus free courses on finance and accounting, project management, and leadership.
Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.