Filling out grant applications is an art form. And while there are professionals who specialize in crafting grant requests, odds are good you probably aren’t one of them. Few entrepreneurs and business owners are, and that’s okay. No one at WomensNet expects you to have grant writing experience or expertise.
The reason that the application for the Amber Grant is so simple is that we want to make it easier for you to tell us what you think is important about your business; we haven’t tried to pose questions you will find hard to answer. However, some applicants have told us that our broad questions are also challenging. They aren’t sure how far back to go when describing their company’s history, or how specific they should be when talking about their current situation or future plans, for example.
We get it.
So, to help you decide what is most relevant and important for us to understand, we wanted to offer some tips for how to fill out your Amber Grant application.
Keep in mind your audience
Since our goal at WomensNet is to help woman-owned businesses get started and grow, we want to hear more about your growth plans than anything else. There are plenty of other grants out there that are for startups or retailers or companies hard hit by the pandemic, but that is not the focus of the Amber Grant.
Before you submit your own application it’s always a good idea to study past Amber Grant winners. Watch the video interviews we recorded to get a sense of who applicants have been, what their challenges were, and how they used their grant funds. That information will help you determine what you should share about your own business.
Members of our advisory board, who determine the monthly grant winners, want to understand what your business is, first and foremost. What do you sell? Who are your customers? Why did you start it? How have things gone? If business is growing like crazy, why?
If you’re comfortable sharing top-level financials, that can help make your case. Statistics are also useful, such as by explaining that costs have increased 45% in the last year but that you still managed to grow by 20% by raising prices. Or that 89% of your customers are repeat buyers.
By giving the advisory board context, or background, it helps them evaluate what you tell them next.
What is stifling your growth?
Since the Amber Grant was established to help companies grow, our advisory board is especially interested in understanding what’s restricting your company’s growth. What is your current bottleneck or obstacle?
For example, if you’ve been offered a contract for embroidered sweatshirts, but you can’t accept the contract because you know you can’t meet the terms, that’s a growth challenge that grant money can fix. Or maybe you sell out of your cupcakes at 11:00 am every day and would like to be able to keep your display case stocked longer. That’s also a capacity problem, which better equipment or more help can fix.
The key to your growth, you can explain to the board, is securing the resources that will provide more capacity. That capacity may come through being able to order more inventory, to stock up on raw materials, to invest in more equipment, or to hire more employees, just to name a few solutions.
How will the grant money help you be successful?
The advisory board also wants to understand how you’ll use the Amber Grant if you’re awarded the funds. How will you invest the $10,000 grant to have the greatest positive impact on your business?
Will you move into a larger space, renovate the space you’re in, outsource more of the production, build or update your website, upgrade equipment, or something else to address the bottleneck you’ve identified? Tell us.
And what are your long-term plans? Where do you want the business to be in three or five years? Do you envision multiple locations? A different clientèle? A broader product line?
Stay focused on your business
Although some business grant programs want to hear how you’ll benefit the community, since the Amber Grant’s primary purpose is to fuel a company’s growth, community service is not something we look for or expect you to do. In fact, if your community service could be perceived as interfering with the management of your business, or if you tell us you’ll give any part of the grant away to another organization, your odds of winning decline.
Although there is no limit to how long your Amber Grant application can be, don’t type five pages of information if you can cover all the relevant facts and figures in two.
While any stage business can apply for an Amber Grant, startups do face the challenge of not being able to report a financial history. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply, only that it may be difficult to demonstrate unmet demand if you haven’t been in business very long.
Competition for the Amber Grant is fierce, so make sure your application reflects your very best work.