Question: I met you at the California Governor's Conference for Women, where you mentioned grants and loans available to women starting businesses. My business will probably be a nonprofit owned by women. Do I qualify for this capital?
Sierra Madre, CA
Answer: We both think women do a much better job of organizing, networking and serving one another than any good old boy networks, certainly in the past 30 years. So we're not surprised to see a number of foundations and Web sites cropping up to serve women. These include:
Count Me In for Women's Economic Independence offers small-business loans and training scholarships to women. It was co-founded by Nell Merlino, who helped create Take Our Daughters to Work Day. Loans it bestows range from $500 to $10,000, and its scholarships help pay for business training and technical assistance. Count Me In gets its funds from contributions from women. Go to www.count-me-in.org for more information.
In cooperation with Hewlett-Packard, The Forum for Women Entrepreneurs offers a scholarship program valued at more than $150,000 in hardware, software and services for high-tech businesses.
The Amber Foundation, funded and operated by WomensNet.Net, sponsors grant competitions. The grants are available to any business or nonprofit organization that's primarily woman-owned (business) or woman-oriented (nonprofit). The current competition has a top award of $3,000 (second place is $1,500; third place is $500). The Web site is www.womensnet.net/amber_fs.html.
Women and other specific groups are targeted by agencies receiving microloan money from the SBA. To find the agency in your area, go to www.sbaonline.sba.gov/financing/microparticipants.html or call (800) 827-5722.
Finally, because you plan to make your business nonprofit, check to see whether your activity qualifies for other sources of federal money available for your cause. The Federal Catalog of Domestic Assistance is now available on the Web at www.cfda.gov.
Small-business experts Paul and Sarah Edwards' latest book is The Practical Dreamer's Handbook(Putnam Publishing Group). If you have a question regarding a start-up business issue, contact them at www.workingfromhome.com or send it in care of Entrepreneur.