Free money! Grant opportunities your small business can qualify for now
Starting a business isn’t easy – and it isn’t cheap. But help is available in the form of grants. Grants are offered by various organizations to help businesses get started or grow. And the best part is, they don’t need to be paid back. The trick is to know where to find them and how to apply. Here’s what you need to know.
How to apply for a small business grant
Applying for a grant can be time-consuming, but if you’re awarded one, the time spent may be well worth it. Set yourself up for success by following these steps.
- Apply early. Many grant programs are annual, so try to find out ahead of time when applications open. Apply as soon as you can so you’ll have time to deal with any hiccups you may encounter in the process.
- Make sure you’re eligible. Check the requirements carefully to be sure that you qualify.
- Gather your information. Each grant will have its own requirements, but if you have these items available, you’ll be well on your way:
- Your business plan
- Financial statements (balance sheet, profit and loss, income statement, etc.)
- Payroll records. If you’re a sole proprietor, have a record of how much you’ve paid yourself
- An idea of what you would use the grant money for.
- Don’t be shy. This is the time to brag about your business and the potential it has.
- Double-check your application before you submit it. Make sure you’ve submitted everything they’ve asked for and presented your business in the best possible light.
Related: 1 Killer business plan in 8 steps
How to find grants for your small business
Grants are offered by public and private non-profit and for-profit entities. Some grants are directed at specific types of businesses; others are more general and can be awarded to almost anyone. Here are some general grants that are open to most businesses.
National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE)
This nonprofit trade association offers access to grants for entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses. Members of the organization can apply for up to $4,000. To apply, you’ll need to present documentation explaining how you plan to use the funds and how it will impact your business’s growth. Since the start of this program, the NASE has awarded almost $1,000,000 to members.
The grants.gov site offers guidance on over 1,000 programs from 26 grant-making agencies in the federal government. To apply, you will need to get a nine-digit number that’s unique to your business from Dun & Bradstreet, known as a DUNS number. This will register you as an entity that can conduct business through the US government’s System Award Management program. The grants provide billions of dollars and are available to all types of businesses.
Small Business Technology Transfer Program
The Small Business Technology Transfer Program provides grants for research and development needs for businesses with fewer than 500 employees. You can receive up to $250,000 during the startup phase, and receive an additional $750,000 for development if your research yields positive results.
USDA Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG)
The RBDG provides grants of up to $500,000 to businesses that serve an eligible rural area. The funds are intended for the benefit of regions that lie outside the “urbanized periphery” of a population center of 50,000 or more. These grants provide funds that can be used for land purchase, construction, renovation, feasibility studies, training, distance learning, and capitalization of revolving loans. Applications are accepted once a year.
While they don’t issue grants, Hello Alice is a website that provides links to open grant opportunities as well as other types of small business funding. They will walk you through the application process. Subscribe to their newsletter to get up-to-date information on grant opportunities for your business.
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest
Since 2012, FedEx has awarded over $1.5 million in cash grants and prizes in the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest. Any business with a FedEx shipping account can enter. The winners receive a $50,000 grant, a FedEx Office® print services credit, and more. The 2022 grants have already been awarded, but watch the website for information on when applications for 2023 grants will open.
Grant opportunities for minority owned businesses
Some grants are specific to businesses that are owned (or at least 51% owned) by those who are typically underserved by traditional financing options. These can include women, Blacks, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the LGBTQ+ community, veterans, those with disabilities, etc.
The Antares REACH grant program, in partnership with Hello Alice, will provide $20,000 grants to small businesses that are preparing for their next stage of growth. Businesses must be for profit, and majority (51+%) owned and/or operated by women, people of color, those with disabilities, military-affiliated, or LGBTQ+. Your business should have less than $5 million in annual revenue and a strong plan for moving forward. Grants for 2022 have been awarded, so watch the website for the 2023 program.
For AAPI-owned businesses
The National Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (National ACE), in partnership with UPS, offers grants through the AAPISTRONG Proudly Unstoppable Fund. Twenty-seven grants of $5,000 each are awarded to US businesses that are at least 51% AAPI owned.
You can find other opportunities for AAPI-owned businesses here.
For LGBTQ+-owned businesses
StartOut is the largest non-profit organization for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. StartOut supports business founders from idea development through established companies, in any industry, provided the business is able to scale. At least one founder of the business must identify as LGBTQ+. Since it was founded in 2017, StartOut Growth Lab has accelerated 56 companies that have secured over $500 million in funding and created over 3,400 new jobs.
More resources for LGBTQ+-owned businesses can be found here.
For businesses owned by people of color
Fast Break for Small Business is a collaboration by LegalZoom, the NBA, WNBA and NBA G League. It has provided $6 million in grants and services to small businesses in underserved and underrepresented communities. The program will accept applications for $10,000 grants and up to $500 in LegalZoom services during the 2022-2023 NBA season.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit Fund by SIA Scotch provides $10,000 grants to multicultural entrepreneurs. SIA is a scotch whiskey company founded by a Cuban American, and the program is dedicated to supporting people of color on their entrepreneurial journey. The program is a partnership with Hello Alice.
The Sage Invest in Progress Grant is a partnership between Sage and the BOSS network which will provide 25 grants of $10,000 each to Black women entrepreneurs who have been in business less than five years. Grant recipients will also receive a year-long education and mentorship program, which provides coaching and connections and removes barriers to capital.
For women-owned businesses
She’s Next is a business grant program for Black women-owned businesses offered through Visa. Eligible businesses must be owned by Black women, have been in business for two years or more, have at least $24,000 in revenue, and be a B2C company.
Amber Grants are awarded monthly, and total at least $30,000 per month. This program features a super simple application – just describe your business and you’ll be considered for all suitable grants.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative Award recognizes 21 female entrepreneurs. Each winners receives one-on-one expert coaching, business workshops, media coverage, and prizes ranging from $30,000 to $100,000.
The IFundWomen program partners with lots of organizations to bring grant opportunities to small businesses that are owned by women. Opportunities are listed on their website, or you can apply directly to IFundWomen, which has a grant pool of over $8M.
You can find more grant opportunities for women here.
If you can’t apply for or don’t receive a grant, or if the grant you were awarded is less than you need, here are some other financing options you can consider.
The US Small Business Administration guarantees loans, matches investors with businesses that need them, provides disaster assistance, and more. The SBA has several programs for businesses which are located in underrepresented communities or are owned by minority owners. The SBA can also help businesses with finding and winning contracts for government work.
America’s SBDC (Small Business Development Centers) offers no-cost business consulting and low-cost training to current business owners and those who are considering starting a business, including advice on access to capital. There are nearly 1,000 local SBDC chapters.
The Minority Business Development Agency provides programs, services, and initiatives to minority business enterprises (MBEs) to help them grow today and meet industry needs tomorrow. A national network of business centers and specialty centers provides general and specialized business assistance. In 2021, MBDA provided MBEs with access to over $708 million in capital, helped minority businesses secure over $2 billion in contracts and helped facilitate over $330 million in export transactions in 2021.
Having business insurance is a good way to show potential donors and lenders that you understand the risks involved in running a business, and you’re taking steps to protect yourself against them. Find out what kind of insurance you need and get a quote today.