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Securing funding poses a significant challenge for small businesses. Small business grants stand out among the various funding options available as they don't need to be repaid.

However, applying for and receiving these grants can be complex – there are multiple factors to consider, various eligibility criteria, and strict deadlines. This guide will outline how to get a small business grant to help you start or grow your business.

Federal grants

Small business grants provided by the U.S. federal government offer valuable funding opportunities. However, these grants are often industry or purpose-specific, resulting in intense competition. Here's a list of federal grants:

  • Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs: These programs encourage small businesses to engage in research and development with commercialization potential. Funding is provided in three structured phases.
  • Rural Business Development Grants: Managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these grants support small businesses in rural areas to improve economic conditions.
  • Economic Development Administration (EDA) grants: The EDA, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, offers grants to businesses in economically distressed areas, focusing on job creation and growth.
  • Serving as a centralized location for all federal grants, covers various agencies and industries, facilitating grant discovery and applications. Users can search for funding opportunities using a variety of criteria.

To qualify for federal grants, small businesses typically need to meet eligibility requirements, such as being for-profit, meeting the government's definition of a small business, and demonstrating innovation and commercial potential.

State and regional grants

State and regional grants for small businesses can be an excellent alternative or supplement to federal grants, each with distinct focus areas and eligibility criteria. Here's a general overview:

  • Economic Development Agencies (EDAs): Most states and many larger cities have EDAs that administer grant programs targeting specific industries or businesses that stimulate the local economy and/or create jobs.
  • Industry-specific grants: Some states offer grants to businesses in sectors vital to their economies, such as agriculture, technology, manufacturing, or healthcare. These grants are often tied to specific projects, like research and development, training, or capital improvements.
  • Regional grants: Apart from state-level grants, funding may be available from county or city governments, regional economic development organizations, or private foundations. These grants focus on stimulating growth in specific areas or among particular populations.
  • Grants for specific groups: Grants are often available for businesses owned by women, minorities, veterans, or other underrepresented groups, with the goal of promoting diversity and inclusion.

To explore available grants in your area, visit your state's or city's EDA website. Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) also provide resources for finding and applying for grants.

Corporate grants

Large corporations fund corporate grants as part of their social responsibility initiatives, targeting specific businesses or projects based on their strategic interests, community impact goals, or industry alignment. Here are a few examples:

  • FedEx Small Business Grant Contest: Every year, FedEx holds a competition offering grants to innovative small businesses, providing cash prizes and FedEx print and business services to winners.
  • Coca-Cola Foundation: Grants are awarded by The Coca-Cola Foundation in areas like women's economic empowerment and entrepreneurial programs.
  • Wells Fargo: Through its philanthropic arm, Wells Fargo provides grants focusing on financial education, affordable housing, and small business growth.
  • Visa Everywhere Initiative: This global innovation program invites startups to provide visionary solutions for payment and commerce challenges, enhancing their own product propositions.

To find corporate grants, visit the social responsibility or community giving page on large corporations' websites in your industry. Subscribing to press releases or newsletters can help you stay informed about corporate grant opportunities.

Grants for starting a small business

Starting a small business is often financially challenging, but grants can provide much-needed funds. While grants specifically for starting a small business are limited and highly competitive, consider the following sources:

  • Special interest grants: Grants support startups owned by underrepresented groups, such as minorities, women, or veterans. The Minority Business Development Agency and the National Association for the Self-Employed offer such grants.
  • Business plan competitions and incubator programs: Universities, industry groups, and corporations host business plan competitions, providing cash prizes to start businesses. Startup incubator and accelerator programs also offer seed funding.
  • Crowdfunding: Although they do not provide grants, platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow you to crowdfund your startup, leveraging the support of a particular audience.

Small business grants for women

Various organizations offer grants specifically for women-owned businesses. These grants can be instrumental in starting or growing a venture. Here are some opportunities:

  • The Amber Grant Foundation: Monthly grants of $10,000 are awarded to women entrepreneurs, with an additional $25,000 grant presented at the end of the year.
  • Eileen Fisher Foundation women-owned business grant program: Eileen Fisher grants are awarded annually to women-owned businesses committed to environmental and social change.
  • Cartier Women's Initiative: This international program provides funding, mentoring, and networking opportunities for early-stage women entrepreneurs.

Small business grants for minority groups

Promoting a diverse and inclusive business landscape, numerous grants support businesses owned by minority groups. These grants offer financial assistance to start, manage, and grow these businesses. Consider the following opportunities:

  • Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA): The MBDA operates various programs and grants supporting minority business owners.
  • National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants: NASE offers grants for diverse business needs, including marketing, advertising, and hiring staff.
  • First Nations Development Institute grants: Grants support Native American communities and economies, including businesses owned by Native Americans.

The takeaway

While applying for small business grants can be time-consuming, the potential financial boost and support make it worthwhile. Regardless of what grant you’re applying for, here are some tips to increase your chances of success:

  • Study the requirements: Each grant comes with specific eligibility criteria. Familiarize yourself with these to ensure your business qualifies before applying.
  • Align your business goals: Tailor your business objectives and project proposals to align with the grant's purpose. Show how your business can contribute to the grant's overall objectives.
  • Prepare a detailed business plan: A well-prepared business plan can demonstrate your professionalism and commitment. This plan should include your business model, market analysis, marketing and sales strategies, and financial projections.
  • Provide clear and concise information: Grant applications often require you to answer specific questions or provide particular information. Always answer clearly and concisely, focusing on the question at hand.
  • Highlight your unique selling proposition (USP): Show what makes your business unique and why it stands out from the competition. This could be your innovative product, exceptional service, or unique approach to problem-solving.
  • Submit your application early: Don't wait until the last minute to submit your application. This will give you ample time to review your application and make sure everything is in order.
  • Follow instructions: Follow all application instructions to the letter. Ignoring or misunderstanding instructions can lead to your application being rejected.
  • Seek professional assistance if needed: If you find the grant application process overwhelming, consider seeking help from a business advisor, accountant, or professional grant writer.
  • Stay patient and persistent: Applying for grants can be a lengthy process, and you may face rejection. Don't let this discourage you. Keep applying, learning from feedback, and improving your applications.

Grant opportunities exist for women, minority groups, and individuals with innovative business ideas. Numerous options are available, from federal and state grants to corporate initiatives and specialized programs. Securing a grant involves understanding eligibility requirements, presenting a compelling case for your business, and aligning your proposal with the grant's objectives. While the process may be competitive and time-consuming, the rewards can significantly contribute to your business's success and growth.

Novo Platform Inc. strives to provide accurate information but cannot guarantee that this content is correct, complete, or up-to-date. This page is for informational purposes only and is not financial or legal advice nor an endorsement of any third-party products or services. All products and services are presented without warranty. Novo Platform Inc. does not provide any financial or legal advice, and you should consult your own financial, legal, or tax advisors.

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