Small business grants are small sums of money offered by federal, state, local and private organizations to small business owners. Unlike loans, you don’t have to repay them but that doesn’t mean it’s completely free.
You would have to spend time searching countless websites learning about the different types of small business grants available and how to apply to them. In addition, you may come across out-of-date and broken links, thereby wasting more of your precious time.
Even if you find a list of grants available, you would still have to read through each of them to see which one fits your business the best. Even then, the opportunity of securing a grant is limited to a small fraction of candidates.
My point? Securing a grant is a difficult and time-consuming task. To make things easier we compiled a list of federal, state, local and corporate grants for small businesses, along with a small description for each of them.
As I mentioned above, not all qualify to get a grant. The federal government prefers small businesses in technological, scientific, agricultural, medical and transport industries. Grants for each of these industries are provided by different federal agencies.
Grants are awarded to businesses that are working towards the creation and development of innovative technology and alternative energy sources as well.
The reason why federal grants are awarded to a limited number of candidates each year and why the requirements are so strict is because the grants are funded from the taxes we pay and because the approval must go through the Congress and White House.
The approval procedure for state and local grants is more simple but you would still have to prove that your business can meet it’s future objectives.
These grants quite difficult to get and are issued by federal agencies. Let’s take a look at some of them below.
Before we go any further, please keep in mind that the federal government does not provide grants to start or expand a business, pay off debts, or cover operational expenses.
Grants.gov has a complete, comprehensive list of all the grants that are administrated by federal agencies. This is the best place to find out exactly what grants are available for the type of business you own, their eligibility requirements and how to apply to them.
To get started just visit the website and then click “Apply for Grants” under the “APPLICANTS” tab in the main menu. Then simply follow the instructions given. Don’t forget to create a grants.gov account before you start applying.
Challenge.gov showcases a list of challenges and competitions issued by federal agencies on a wide range of topics such as science, technology, environment, construction and etc.
Different challenges are posted by different agencies with a closing date and prize money listing. You could browse through the challenges to find one that you can compete for, with the aim of winning the prize money.
Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer are two highly competitive grant programs that encourage businesses to conduct research and development specifically on scientific and technological innovations.
They award grants to small businesses, universities and research centers using federal research funds invested by 11 federal agencies each year.
To participate, you should own a U.S. based for-profit business with less than 500 employees. Also, more than 50% shares should be owned by U.S. citizens, with some exceptions.
You should also check other eligibility requirements relating to the type, size and structure of your business.
Federal and State Technology is a grant program controlled by the SBA and designed for small businesses that research about the innovation and commercialization of new technology.
The Economic Development Administration provides grants and other resources to communities in order to promote economic growth and entrepreneurship among states. There are only 6 regional EDA offices for all 50 states.
People visit them to get help regarding securing capital, re-locating businesses, recruiting employees and etc.
Head over to the resources map in the official website to identify which regional office your state is associated with and to get the necessary contact details.
Small Business Development Centers provide support for startups and small businesses, and are typically associated with local universities and Economic Development Administration agencies.
Their mission is to introduce new financing and networking opportunities to businesses and help them grow. Aside from free consultancy services, they have low-cost training programs for entrepreneurs.
The State Trade and Export Promotion is a grant program that aims to increase the number of small businesses that are exporting and to increase the value of the exports that are being exported by already established small businesses.
Businesses from all 50 states are eligible to compete in the program and it’s managed at the national level by the Small Business Administration’s Office of International Trade and by state government organizations at the local level.
To find the STEP service provider in your state, visit the STEP program page, scroll down to the interactive map “Current Grants by State” and choose your state. You will then be taken to a page that shows the award amount and contact details of the STEP state representative.
Amber grants $1,000 for women chosen by the WomensNet judges each month and one of those 12 monthly winners will receive the amber grant of $9,000 at the end of the year.
FedEx holds an annual grant contest that awards one grand prize winner $25,000, one silver prize winner $15,000 and eight bronze prize winners $7,500.
In addition, they would receive FedEx Office print and business services worth $7,500, $5,000 and $1,000 respectively. Participants must be for-profit businesses with at least six months of run-time and less than 99 employees.
The famous beer brand Miller Lite encourages entrepreneurship by holding an annual grant competition that grants $20,000 for each of the five semi-finalists and a grant of $100,000 to the winner.
They have been holding this competition for 10 years straight and it appears they will continue to do so in the future as well. The deadline is usually in mid-April.
National Association of the Self-Employed offer grants worth $4,000 to small businesses each month.
This grant helps you secure funding for a specific need such as website creation, purchase of new machinery, renovations in office space and etc. You have to be a NASE member to apply.
This annual grant competition is hosted by StreetShares, a small business funding community. It awards grants to small businesses owned by veterans, reserve or active duty members of the United States armed forces or their spouse.
The grant program led by the famous clothing company Eileen Fisher grants a minimum of $10,000 to 10 women-owned businesses each month.
The grant contest hosted by LendingTree awards one participant a grant worth $50,000 each year, to help them grow their business.
Hopefully, now you can understand what small business grants are, who are eligible to receive them and the different types of federal, state, local and corporate grants available.
Grants are usually much harder to get than bank loans because many people are competing with you and only a limited number of candidates will be given the grant amount.
So is it really worth it? Yes, of course. This is free money we are talking about. You don’t even have to repay them.
On the flip side, you would be spending the precious time that you could have otherwise spent on the development of your business.
Usually, all it takes to get your grant approved is to submit a well-written business plan stating the unique selling proposition and your future milestones clearly.
Some countries don’t even provide grant programs to small businesses so you are extremely lucky considering that fact alone.
I recommend you to try out crowdfunding while you wait for the grant approval. If you aren’t successful you don’t have to pay them a cent but if you are, just give them a portion of the return.
Give me your honest opinion on small-business grants. Do you think they are helpful or just a waste of your time? Leave your comment below.