Navigating the world of small business financing can seem like a daunting task, especially when you’re just getting started. But don’t fret—there are resources available to help you on your journey. One of those resources is small business grants, essentially free money that you don’t have to pay back. These grants can give your fledgling business the financial boost it needs to grow and flourish.
In this guide, we’ll break down what small business grants are, how they work, and how you can apply for them. Let’s demystify the process together.
When it comes to getting small business grants, the key tactic is knowing where to look—and the first place any business grant seeker should go is Grants.gov. This site is the sorting house for the hundreds of federal grant programs provided by various administrations and agencies.
Set aside ample time to search through these small business grants by industry and other factors to see if you’re eligible. If you’re in the technology industry, you’ll quickly notice that there are more potential opportunities for your business than those in other industries—but that doesn’t mean that other industries don’t have options.
America’s Seed Fund
The Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs offer America’s Seed Fund to provide grants to small businesses with innovative ideas in science and technology. The grant is spread across multiple agencies such as the National Institute of Health, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Each agency has its own area of focus and qualification criteria. The grants are intended for the development of new technologies, rather than support for existing businesses.
USDA Rural Business Development Grant
The USDA Rural Business Development Grant is a funding program designed to support and promote business development in rural areas. It provides financial assistance to businesses operating in rural communities, helping them grow, expand, and create job opportunities.
U.S. Economic Development Administration
The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) provides a variety of grants to foster economic development and create jobs in distressed areas. These grants are geared towards supporting regional economic development efforts to create a positive, sustainable impact. They offer funding opportunities to both rural and urban communities, focusing on economically distressed regions.
State Trade Expansion Program
The State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) is an initiative by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) aimed at helping small businesses break into the export market or expand their existing export operations. By providing financial awards to state and territory governments, STEP assists in executing export promotion programs, thereby supporting small businesses as they navigate international trade. Small businesses interested in the program should contact their state representative.
Program for Investors in Microentrepreneurs (PRIME)
The Program for Investors in Microentrepreneurs (PRIME) is another initiative by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) that’s designed to support budding entrepreneurs, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. PRIME provides assistance to organizations that deliver necessary services such as training and technical support to low-income and disadvantaged entrepreneurs striving to establish and grow their small businesses.
National Association for the Self-Employed Grant
The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) awards up to $4,000 to small businesses that are looking to finance a particular business need. It’s great not just because it is free money, but also because NASE has its own library of resources on how to run a successful business. They claim that since their grant program started in 2006, they have awarded nearly $1 million to business owners in the U.S.
The Tony Burch Foundation’s Fellows Program Grant
This program supports female entrepreneurs by awarding 100 grants each year. The grants are worth $5,000 apiece and are intended to empower businesses to take their operations to the next level. In addition to financial support, recipients also get access to a workshop at the Tory Burch HQ, where they receive guidance and mentorship from industry experts. The program is designed for women-owned businesses that show promise and are making an impact on their communities.
Second Service Foundation Military Entrepreneur Challenge
The Second Service Foundation Military Entrepreneur Challenge is a grant program aimed at supporting military veterans who are transitioning from active service into the business world. Applicants participate in a pitch competition for a chance to win grant money. The program also offers mentorship and resources to help veterans launch and grow their businesses successfully.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative awards a grant to each of the top three businesses in nine regions. First prize is $100,000. The business must demonstrate a positive impact on one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and the applicant must be a woman who serves in a leadership role.
America’s Top Small Business Award
The America’s Top Small Business Award is a prestigious recognition bestowed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The award is open to all small businesses that demonstrate exceptional business practices, community engagement, and customer service. Finalists are selected based on their business strategies, growth, and impact on their communities. Winners receive national recognition and a platform to showcase their businesses, promoting further growth and success.
SubSummit Pitch Competition
The SubSummit Pitch Competition is a unique platform for entrepreneurs who are eager to showcase their innovative products or services. This competition is a part of the annual SubSummit conference, the largest event dedicated to the growth and evolution of the subscription box industry.
Entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to pitch their business ideas in front of a panel of industry leaders and investors who are ready to offer advice, feedback, and potentially, investment. This competition is open to all small businesses in the subscription box industry, whether they’re just starting out or looking to scale up.
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest
Here’s a great option for small business owners hoping to make an impact in their communities. There is voting involved, requiring promotional efforts on your part. But that could be time well spent, as the grants can be worth up to $30,000.
Visa Everywhere Initiative
The competition is fierce for these $50,000 small business grants, but you should definitely check out this initiative if you feel that you have a particularly innovative solution to offer America.
Verizon Digital Ready Small Business Training Program
Verizon offers the Verizon Digital Ready Small Business Training Program. This initiative is focused on aiding small businesses to thrive in the digital space. The program provides a comprehensive range of services, including training and mentoring, to help small businesses leverage digital tools effectively. Whether you’re looking to develop a robust online presence, learn how to utilize digital marketing strategies or understand the nuances of e-commerce, this program has you covered.
Small Business Growth Fund
The Small Business Growth Fund is a fantastic opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to expand their operations. This grant is designed to fuel the growth of small businesses by providing them with necessary financial assistance. The Fund acknowledges that each business has unique needs and aspirations, and hence supports a wide array of growth-driving activities. This could range from investing in new equipment, scaling up production, or hiring more staff to launching a new product line.
Venmo Small Business Grant
Venmo Small Business Grant is a fantastic initiative designed to support small businesses striving to make a mark in their respective industries. The grant can be used for a range of business-enhancing activities, from buying new equipment, investing in digital marketing, to hiring new staff.
Amazon Small Business Grant
The Amazon Small Business Grant is an initiative aimed at bolstering the growth and success of small businesses. The grant is exclusively available to Amazon Business customers that make less than $1 million in annual revenue. Grant amounts range from $15,000 to $25,000.
Grants to start a business.
IdeaCafe Business Grant
Can you get a grant to start a business? The answer is yes, and this program is one of the many potential sources. Whether you currently own a business or are still trying to get your big idea off the ground, these $1,000 grants provide a spark plug.
The Amber Grant Program
WomensNet offers both a $10,000 monthly Amber grant and a $25,000 annual Amber grant. They also offer a $10,000 startup grant every quarter to entrepreneurs with new business ideas.
Incfile Entrepreneur Grant
The Incfile Entrepreneur Grant is an opportunity for budding entrepreneurs who are just getting their businesses off the ground. Awardees can use the grant to meet various business needs, such as product development, marketing initiatives, or operational expenses.
Support for applying for grants.
Minority Business Development Centers
Minority Business Development Centers (MBDCs) are federally funded institutions that provide extensive support and resources to minority-owned businesses. These centers offer various services to empower minority entrepreneurs, including business consulting, procurement matching, capital sourcing, and networking opportunities.
Small Business Development Centers
Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) are local hubs that support small businesses and promote economic development. Backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), SBDCs provide a range of services to empower entrepreneurs at every stage of their business journey. From start-up planning to loan packaging, and market research to mentoring, SBDCs offer invaluable resources for small businesses to thrive.
Alternatives to small business grants.
Alternatives to small business grants.
While small business grants are indeed a great way to fund your business, they can sometimes be difficult to qualify for and win. There are, however, other effective alternatives that you can explore.
Business loans are a popular funding option. Banks and online lenders offer loans to small businesses with competitive interest rates. These funds can be used for various business expenses. Loan approval depends on your business’ financial health and credit score.
Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo help raise business capital. Present your idea to the public, who decide whether to back your venture. Crowdfunding not only raises funds, but also validates your idea by gauging public interest.
Remember, while grants are an attractive funding option due to their non-repayable nature, they’re not the only avenue available. Explore these alternatives to determine the best fit for your small business’s financial needs.
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