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ennessee is full of opportunities for entrepreneurs and business owners looking to take their business growth to the next level. Securing adequate capital is crucial to sustaining and scaling your business, but finding funding sources can take time and effort. This guide will cover loans and grants available to businesses in Tennessee to help you get the capital you need.

Small business loan opportunities in Tennessee

Whether you're looking to start a new venture or expand an existing one, small business loans in Tennessee are diverse, catering to your specific needs. They range from conventional bank loans to Small Business Administration (SBA) loans to microloans. Here are a few of our top picks.

Pathway Lending

Pathway Lending is a nonprofit lender based in Tennessee dedicated to helping business owners create jobs in communities across the state. Established in 1999, Pathway Lending provides capital to businesses, supplementing it with education and mentoring to help them grow. Its focus is on aligning capital with support services. It provides resources and advice to businesses through its website.

Pathway Lending offers businesses loans ranging from $5,000 to $5,000,000, with longer terms and payback periods than traditional loans. Pathway Lending's mission encompasses providing underserved businesses with lending solutions and educational services that contribute to job creation and economic development. Its loans support community revitalization efforts and finance business expansions, equipment purchases, working capital needs, energy efficiency improvements, and affordable multi-family housing projects. It focuses on serving low- and moderate-income communities, specifically Black-owned businesses.

Fund Tennessee

The State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) 2.0 in Tennessee is part of a national initiative to provide funding and technical assistance to businesses and entrepreneurs. The U.S. Department of Treasury administers this initiative. Tennessee named its SSBCI 2.0 program "Fund Tennessee."

Fund Tennessee has three main components:

  • InvestTN: Equity program
  • LendTN: Debt program
  • AssistTN: Technical assistance to help businesses become capital-ready

The program supports and expands access to capital for businesses and entrepreneurs throughout Tennessee. Originally part of the American Jobs Plan, the Department of the Treasury allocated $10 billion through it for small business financing and technical assistance.

Here are the funding categories for Tennessee's allocation under SSBCI 2.0:

  • State allocation: $60,573,813 based on 2020 unemployment figures
  • Technical assistance: $3,848,992 allocated as a separate grant of general aid before or after a loan or equity infusion
  • Microenterprises: $4,816,620 for businesses with fewer than ten employees
  • SEDI Business Allocation: $33,612,467 for socially and economically disadvantaged businesses​

Tennessee Rural Opportunity Fund

The Tennessee Rural Opportunity Fund provides capital for early-stage, small, and disadvantaged businesses. You must be in one of Tennessee's 92 rural districts to qualify. It's primarily aimed at low and moderate-income business owners and women and minority-owned businesses. It provides loans ranging from $5,000 to $5,000,000 in addition to learning and coaching programs. The fund is open to businesses in any industry at any stage of development.

Small business grant opportunities in Tennessee

With its bustling business ecosystem and pro-business climate, Tennessee offers a wealth of grant opportunities. These grants range from federal and state programs to more localized initiatives, all designed to encourage entrepreneurship and small business development. They often focus on specific industries, business types, or demographics, such as women-owned businesses, technology startups, or rural enterprises.

Amber Grant for Women

WomensNet founded the Amber Grant for Women in 1998 to honor the memory of Amber Wigdahl, who passed away at 19 before realizing her business dreams. The primary goal is to support women in achieving their business aspirations. Recognizing the diversity of businesses owned by women, it has expanded its grant-giving to include "Marketing Grants," "Business Category Grants," as well as two "$25,000 Year-End Grants."

The Amber Grant Foundation awards $10,000 to a different women-owned business each month. Moreover, one of the 12 monthly grant winners is selected to receive an additional $25,000 at the end of each year.

The Small Business Innovation Research Program

The SBIR program is a U.S. government initiative to fund small businesses developing and commercializing innovative technologies. The SBIR aims to stimulate technological innovation, support research and development (R&D), and promote small businesses' commercialization of the resulting technologies.

Small businesses can leverage university partnerships in Tennessee to strengthen their SBIR application. By collaborating with universities, companies can access academic expertise, research facilities, and additional resources. Such partnerships can enhance the technical merit of the project. In some cases, universities can assist with the application process and even be a subcontractor on the SBIR grant, sharing the funding to perform part of the R&D.

The principal researcher much be employed by the business, and businesses must be:

  • American-owned
  • For-profit
  • Smaller than 500 employees

Consider loan alternatives

If you'd rather not go with loans or grants, there are alternative funding sources you can consider as well.

Merchant cash advances (MCA)

MCAs provide you with an upfront sum of cash in exchange for a portion of future credit card sales. With an MCA, you don't make fixed monthly payments. Instead, the lender takes a percentage of the daily credit card sales until the advance, plus a fee, is paid back. This is an option for businesses with a high volume of credit card transactions and those needing quick funding.

Invoice factoring

Invoice factoring allows you to sell your unpaid invoices to a third party at a discount. The factoring company advances the majority of the invoice amount, often around 80%, and then takes over collecting customer payment. Once the factoring company collects the full amount, it pays the remaining balance to the business, minus a fee. Invoice factoring benefits businesses with cash flow issues due to slow-paying customers.

Business lines of credit

With a line of credit, you can tap into a more flexible financing option than a loan. You'll have access to a fixed amount of capital you can draw from as needed. Business lines of credit can be a good option if you have fluctuating cash flow needs or unexpected expenses.

The takeaway

Obtaining business loans and grants in Tennessee is possible through various state, local, and federal programs. These resources, in addition to other loan and grant alternatives, can serve as crucial lifelines, providing the necessary capital to start or expand operations, cover operational costs, and finance other business-related endeavors. Novo's Business Banking can provide easy access to all your financial information, making applying for loans and grants simple.

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.

Novo is a fintech, not a bank. Banking services provided by Middlesex Federal Savings, F.A.: Member FDIC.

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