9 Ways to Win Free Money for Your Start-up

Photo from www.mscareergirl.com

Photo from www.mscareergirl.com

Now has never been a better time to be a thinker, dreamer, founder, or entrepreneur. We have compiled a list of just some of the many resources and amazing opportunities available to help get amazing ideas and new businesses off the ground. Take a look at the below opportunities to apply for business pitches, business competitions, and grants that are providing money to folks who are making great things happen. There are organizations itching to give out money to ventures of all shapes and sizes. All you need to do is commit to taking the chance to apply.

Amber Grant

This is a monthly grant competition that provides $500 every single month to female-led businesses. The application is very simple, and applicants each month are also automatically eligible for the annual competition which is a larger grant.

Timeline: Every month! Get writing!

For more information go here.

Forbes Under 30 $1 million Competition

Forbes hosts a competition for social entrepreneurs for those under 30 years old. The winner gets $500,000; semifinalists will win $100,000 to help progress their efforts. Open to both for-profit and non-profits.

Timeline: 2016 competition applications will begin around July 2016. (The good news: you have until then to gain more traction on your venture!)

For more information go here

Sign up to get alerted when the next competition starts.

Mass Challenge

What: An annual accelerator program and startup competition for early stage entrepreneurs.

Timeline: The 2015 program is now closed, but head over the Mass Challenge website to get on their newsletter for alerts on when 2016 applications open up again.  For the 2015 program, the applications opened early February and closed early April – so keep this in mind for your planning purposes.

Criteria: Anyone can enter from any stage of a start-up, and applications can come from anywhere in the world. Company must have not raised more than $500k and not have more than $1m in revenue. Not-for-profits are also eligible. Start-ups in ideation phase are also eligible to apply!

Tip: Apply to the early bird application when it comes out… for the 2015 program it was $49 and then jumped up to $99 for the standard application. Check out their website for more information and criteria on the program.

For more information go here

Awesome Foundation’s Grant

The Awesome Foundation is a global community that grants $1,000 every month to individuals, projects, or organizations helping to make the world a more awesome place. Sounds pretty broad? It is, on purpose!  The foundation seeks amazing and unique ideas (or even small projects you are working on) that add value to the world. You can apply through various city chapters, or through Worldwide Awesome Without Borders.

Timeline: Every month.

Tip: Don’t sit on this. Make a commitment to submitting yours for the next month! You never know unless you apply.

For more information go here. 

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses

This opportunity is for small businesses who are currently selling over $150k and have at least 4 employees. This is a great opportunity to take your business to the next level.

Criteria: Need to sell over $150k in past fiscal year; minimum 4 employees

For more information go here

Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards

This awards competition is an international business plan competition hosted by Cartier in conjunction with The Women’s Forum, McKinsey & Company, and INSEAD Business School.

Criteria: For-profit company led by a woman in the initial phase (1-3 years)

Timeline: Round 1 selected in June; Round 2 selected in October. If you move into Round 2, the finalists are invited to France to present in front of the Jury. Winners receive $20,000 in funding, a year of coaching, mentor opportunities, and media exposure.

For more information go here

Tory Burch Foundation

The Tory Burch Foundation provides businesswomen with financial resources, access to entrepreneurial education, and networking opportunities. They also provide access to affordable capital through the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program. Your business must be at least two years old, generating revenue, and have a passion for growth. The Tory Burch Foundation is also a partner of 10,000 Small Businesses program noted above.

For more information go here

Women Who Tech Women Startup Challenge

This competition recently ended, but mark your calendars for next year! It is a great opportunity for women who are in the technology space and are building ventures that incorporate scaleable technology.

Criteria: A female founded company that is using technology in order to scale.

Timeline: Competition just completed in November. Mark your calendars around this time in 2016 to apply again, or visit their website to get notified about when applications open up again.

For more information go here

#GIRLBOSS Foundation

The #GIRLBOSS Foundation comes out of Sophia Amoruso’s Nasty Gal fashion empire. The foundation awards financial grants to women in fashion, music, arts, and design. Grants awarded are for $15,000 in capital, plus many non-financial benefits such as exposure through #GIRLBOSS and Nasty Gal websites.

Timeline: Awards are granted twice per year. The next submission due date is for Fall/Winter and due on December 31, 2015.

For more information go here

Do you know of other cool opportunities for pitch or business competitions? Please let us know in the comments! Sharing is caring 🙂


Sarah8I am currently a full time MBA student studying at Babson College. My background is in consulting, and my passions are in healthcare and wellness. I am currently building EthosWell which is an online platform that provides business services to complementary and alternative healthcare providers and connects them with new clients. I currently live in Boston and am also a certified yoga teacher.

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