The United States government offers various grants and assistance programs for small businesses. These programs are designed to help business owners start and grow their businesses, and they can be accessed by anyone who meets the eligibility requirements.
Grants and assistance programs can fund research, development, marketing, training, or business expansion. They can also offer tax breaks or other forms of financial assistance.
What is a grant?
A grant is financial assistance provided by federal, state, county, and local governments, private businesses, or corporations. Unlike a loan, a grant does not require repayment, making it "gifted" money. Grants are intended to help people, businesses, nonprofits, or corporations build upon their operations and succeed.
To secure a grant, applicants must meet eligibility requirements, submit applications, and go through interviews. There are several types of grants, and they usually come from the government, foundations, or businesses. Government grants are often the most involved, while grants made by businesses may include a "competition" aspect.
What are the different types of grants available for small businesses?
Microgrants are a form of financial assistance for small businesses that typically provide a small amount of funding to cover a specific need or project. They are designed to help businesses cover start-up or operational costs that are otherwise difficult due to limited access to capital. Microgrants can be especially useful for small businesses that may not have the resources to otherwise secure larger grants or loans. They can cover expenses such as marketing, research and development, training, and the purchase of technology or equipment. They can also be used to launch or expand new initiatives or programs.
Microgrants are typically awarded to businesses that demonstrate a commitment to innovation, social impact, and sustainability. Furthermore, they can provide needed capital to businesses without requiring them to take on additional debt or give away equity in their business. This makes them an attractive option for start-ups and small businesses that may not have the resources to otherwise secure larger grants or loans.
2. Growth Accelerator Grants
Growth accelerator grants are financial awards that help small businesses to access resources and collaborations to help them grow. These grants are typically offered by government bodies, corporations, and nonprofits, providing capital and resources to help a small business take the next step in its growth. They can be used to access capital, research, development resources, mentorship, and other support services that can help entrepreneurs scale their small businesses. Examples of some current growth accelerator grants include the 2023 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition from the Small Business Administration (SBA), the AARP Community Challenge, Amazon's Black Business Accelerator Program, the Amber Grant Foundation, and the Association of African-American Vintners Grant.
3. Business Grants
There are four types of business grants available to small business owners: federal grants, state grants, local grants, and corporate grants.
Federal grants are financial assistance the government provides to stimulate the economy and are drawn from the U.S. general federal revenue. State grants are usually smaller than federal grants, but due to their specific requirements, they are often easier to attain. Local grants are designed to stimulate the community and are usually offered to smaller establishments. Lastly, corporate grants are given out by corporations and can vary in the requirement, amount, and suitability for certain businesses.
Additionally, grants are specifically designed to target certain types of businesses, such as minority-owned, veteran-owned, and women-owned businesses. Examples of such grants include the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest, Halstead Grant (jewelry businesses only), IdeaCafe Small Business Grant, NASE Growth Grants (micro-businesses only, ten employees or fewer), Wells Fargo Community Giving (nonprofits and educational organizations only), WomensNet Amber Grant (women-owned business only), StreetShares Foundation Grant (exclusive to veteran entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry), Walmart Foundation (nonprofits only), Visa Everywhere Initiative, and more.
4. Startup Grants
Startup grants are an attractive source of funding for small businesses, as they allow entrepreneurs to launch their businesses without the burden of a loan. Several startup grants are available for small businesses, including those offered by federal, state, and local governments and private companies.
Federal startup grants are typically limited to businesses that advance scientific research, but there are still quite a few options available. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Dream Big Awards offers $25,000, while Incfile's Fresh Start Business Grant offers $2,500.
In addition, private grants are offered by large companies such as FedEx, Walmart, and Visa, as well as smaller companies like LendingTree and the Coca-Cola Foundation. These grants are often more accessible for small business startups, as they may be focused on a specific entrepreneur demographic or business profile and may have an easier application process.
Lastly, there are grants specifically for women-owned businesses, such as WomensNet's Amber Grant for Women, which offers $10,000 per month and two $25,000 grants annually. Hello Alice also offers grant programs for small businesses, as they partner with companies such as Progressive and DoorDash.
Overall, there are a variety of startup grants available for small businesses, depending on the specific needs and qualifications of the business. With the right research and dedication, entrepreneurs can succeed in obtaining the necessary funding to get their small businesses up and running.
5. Grants for Innovation
Small businesses have a variety of innovation grants available to them from the federal government, including the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, the 7(j) Management and Technical Assistance Program, and the National Institute of Health Grants.
The SBIR and STTR programs are designed to encourage small businesses to undertake scientific research and development that has the potential to help meet federal research and development objectives and could be commercially successful. The 7(j) Management and Technical Assistance Program provides assistance and guidance to eligible small businesses. The National Institute of Health Grants funds small businesses to develop and research new biomedical technologies related to COVID-19. NIDILRR's SBIR program provides ten grants for improving the lives of those with disabilities.
In addition to these opportunities, applicants should check with their state and local governments for other grant and technical assistance programs.
6. SBA Grants
The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers grants to small businesses to help with research and development, exporting, and associate rewards.
Research and Development Grants: These grants are available through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. These programs encourage small firms to undertake scientific research that helps meet federal research and development objectives and has a high potential for commercialization if successful.
Management and Technical Assistance Grants: The SBA's 7(j) Management and Technical Assistance Program is for capable small businesses in Regions I - X interested in providing management and technical assistance and guidance to eligible small businesses.
Government Agency Grants: Government agencies are among the biggest distributors of business grants, supporting a range of enterprises from environmental conservation to child care services. Applying may seem intimidating, but federal grants are great opportunities for small-business owners looking to grow.
Grants.gov: Grants.gov is a comprehensive database of government small-business grants administered by various federal agencies, such as the Department of Education and Veterans Affairs.
Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs: The SBIR and the STTR grant programs focus on research and development for technology innovation and scientific research. The programs help connect small businesses with federal grants and contracts from 11 government agencies.
USDA Rural Business Development Grants: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Business Development Grants Program provides grants to rural communities to support small-business development, including start-ups and expansions. These grants are available to non-profit and public entities located in rural areas.
7. USDA Grants
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers a variety of grants for small businesses. The most common grants are:
1. USDA Rural Business Development Grants: These grants are designed to help strengthen and grow small businesses in rural communities. Businesses must have fewer than 50 new employees, less than $1 million in gross revenue, and be located in an eligible rural area to qualify. Applications are accepted once per year.
2. Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs focus on research and development for technology innovation and scientific research. The programs help connect small businesses with federal grants and contracts from 11 government agencies. To qualify, the business must operate a for-profit business, have no more than 500 employees, and meet other eligibility requirements.
3. Program for Investors in Microentrepreneurs: The SBA does not typically offer grants directly to small businesses. However, the Program for Investors in Microentrepreneurs (PRIME) offers grants to microenterprise development organizations so that they can assist disadvantaged microentrepreneurs. These organizations can be private nonprofits or run by the state, local, or tribal governments.
8. Grants for Women-Owned Businesses
There are several types of grants available for women-owned businesses, including:
1. Government Grants: The federal government offers grants to support small businesses for economic development.
2. Grants for Veterans: These grants are available for veterans and can include opportunities such as Nav’s small business grant, which offers up to $10,000.
3. Grants for Women-Owned Businesses: These grants can be accessed at Women's Business Centers and often include the Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant.
4. Private Business Grants: These grants vary depending on the nature of the business but can include programs like the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest, the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants, and the IdeaCafe Small Business Grant.
5. Grants for Minorities: These grants are offered to help spread entrepreneurial success across demographics and include programs such as the StreetShares Foundation Grant and Walmart Foundation grants (for nonprofits only).
9. Grants for Minority-Owned Businesses
Numerous grants are available to minority-owned businesses, each with its eligibility criteria and application process.
Federal Grants: These grants are funded by the government and are available to small businesses of all kinds to help them locate additional funding opportunities at the national and local levels.
Private Business Grants: These grants vary depending on the nature of the business, and may be offered by not-for-profit businesses, state or local governments, or other organizations. Examples of private business grants include the FedEx Small Business Grant, the Halstead Grant (jewelry businesses only), the IdeaCafe Small Business Grant, the NASE Growth Grants (micro-businesses only, ten employees or fewer), the Wells Fargo Community Giving (nonprofits and educational organizations only), the WomensNet Amber Grant (women-owned businesses only), the StreetShares Foundation Grant (exclusive to veteran entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry), the Walmart Foundation (nonprofits only), and the Visa Everywhere Initiative.
Small-Business Grants for Women: These grants celebrate diversity by offering grants specifically for women to help them and their businesses grow.
Small-Business Grants for Veterans: These grants help spread entrepreneurial success across demographics by focusing funding efforts on veterans.
Small-Business Grants for Minority Groups: These grants are designed to help minority-owned businesses grow.
Small-Business Grants for Black Women: These grants are tailored to help Black women-owned businesses succeed.
10. Grants for Disaster Recovery
The types of grants available for small businesses to recover from disasters can be divided into two main categories: emergency grants and loan programs.
Emergency Grants: Emergency grants are typically funded through municipal funds or the federal government. These grants can be used for various services, such as providing food, housing, homeless, and/or mental health services. For example, the City of Duvall offers a COVID-19 Human Resources Grant Program that provides up to $30,000 in emergency grant funding to 501C3 non-profit organizations to help those impacted by the pandemic. Similarly, the City of Lacey has established a $1 million business support program, which includes small business grants. Shoreline has also established an Emergency Community Response Grant Program with $100,000 to provide grants to 501(c)(3) and/or faith-based organizations.
Loan Programs: Loan programs are typically funded through the federal government, such as the CARES Act, and provide funding for small businesses to help offset the financial impacts of disasters. These programs are often subject to certain requirements and must comply with federal regulations. For instance, Pierce County has established a COVID-19 small business loan program that provides zero-interest loans of $1,000 per employee for up to 20 employees. Furthermore, Richland offers a CDBG Small Business Stabilization Loan program, which requires recipients to hire or rehire at least one FTE and provide monthly reports; after 12 months, the loan is forgiven as long as the criteria are met.
How to apply for grants and assistance for small businesses?
Research available grants and programs
Step 1: Research grants within your local community. Your local Chamber of Commerce is a great place to start looking for grants that fit your business’s needs. Reach your local Chamber of Commerce for more information on the award amounts and application requirements.
Step 2: Prepare a detailed business plan. Once you know what grants fit your business, take time to craft a thorough business plan. This should include information about your business, your goals, how you plan to achieve those goals, and how the grant money would be used to help your business succeed.
Step 3: Give yourself at least a few weeks to thoroughly fill out the grant application. Have a few people proofread it before you submit it.
Step 4: Research the grant you’re applying for. Look at the previous winners for the grant you’re applying for and see if there are any patterns between the businesses. This can help you understand whether your business is a good fit and what you could do to increase your chances of success.
Step 5: Start by applying for local grants first. Look for grants offered by your town or city, state, and regional level. These grants may not have as many awards as nationwide grants, but you will compete with a smaller pool of applicants and have a greater chance of winning funding.
Step 6: Look for federal grants. Begin your search for a grant from the federal government at Grants.gov. This government site offers the most comprehensive database of funds the government is giving away.
Step 7: Research other sources of funding. In addition to grants, look into other funding sources like the National Institute of Health grants, the NIA Research and Entrepreneurial Development Immersion (REDI) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grant, and the NIDILRR’s SBIR program.
Step 2: Apply for the grant that is right for you
Finding the right grant for your small business can be a daunting task. To help increase your chances of success, follow these steps:
You’re eligible for research grants that align with your business. Start by researching grants within your community—your local Chamber of Commerce is a great place to start. Note any patterns you see between the businesses awarded a certain grant. This can help you determine if your business is a good fit and what you can do to increase your chances.
Write a detailed business plan. Include financial projections, sales figures, and growth percentages demonstrating your business’s potential.
Give yourself at least a few weeks to complete the application. You’ll want to communicate your passion for your business and include accurate information. Have a few people proofread it before you submit it.
Track your application. After submitting your application, follow up with the granting organization periodically to ensure your application is still being considered.
Consider other financing options. In addition to grants, explore other options like working with angel investors or crowdfunding.
By following these steps, you can increase your chances of finding and securing the right grant for your small business.
Step 3: Provide detailed explanations for each grant request
Applying for grants can be a long and daunting task. Fortunately, if you take your time and fill out the application correctly, you can increase your chances of getting the grant. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to provide detailed explanations in your grant request.
Research grants you are eligible for and fit with your business: Start by searching for grants that you are eligible for and that align with your business. Take time to look through the criteria of each grant and make sure you are a good match.
Create a business plan: Once you have identified the grants you are interested in, create a detailed business plan to explain your plans and goals. Make sure to include all the necessary information, such as the time in business, number of employees, monthly or annual revenue, and how the funds will be used.
Prepare your elevator pitch: Your elevator pitch is your chance to pique the interest of the grant reviewer. Explain in a few sentences why you are the best fit for the grant and how it will help you reach your goals.
Create a professional profile: Gather all the necessary documents and information that the grant application may require, such as an Employer Identification Number, social media handles, a photo of you and your partners or offices, and a business plan.
Fill out the application: The application should be filled out thoroughly and correctly. Take time, write clearly, and include all the required information and documents.
Proofread, edit and finalize: Have a few people proofread your application before you submit it. Make sure all the information is accurate and that the document is error-free.
By following these steps, you can provide detailed explanations for each grant request and increase your chances of success. Good luck!
Step 4: Make sure all documents are complete, and copies are attached
Applying for grants and assistance for small businesses requires various documents, such as a detailed business plan, SF-424 Family forms, Post-Award Reporting forms, Retired Forms, a resume outlining answers to common questions business grant-givers ask of their applicants, an elevator pitch, your Employer Identification Number (EIN), social media handles, a professional photo, a business plan, information about your business's industry, the number of employees, monthly or annual revenue, and how the funds will be used.
Additionally, you may need to provide documents related to vehicle use, sensitive data storage, employees, property or equipment, and the location of your business.
Step 5: Provide any additional information requested in the application
What additional information is requested in an application for a grant or assistance for small businesses?
Time in business
The number of employees
Monthly or annual revenue
How the funds will be used
Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Social media handles
Photo of the business owners and/or office space
Sensitive data storage
Property or equipment
Location of business.
Step 6: Wait to hear back about the grant application
When applying for a grant, giving yourself ample time to submit your application is essential. Depending on the grant program and the number of applications received, the process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. To give yourself the best chance at success, it’s important that your application is complete and accurate.
To ensure that you don’t miss any important steps in the grant application process, follow these steps:
Search for grants that you’re eligible for and that align with your business.
Write a detailed business plan.
Give yourself at least a few weeks to complete the application.
Have a few people proofread it before you submit it.
Stay selective and make sure the grant aligns with your business goals.
Share your passion for your business in your application.
Use numbers to back up your points, such as sales figures and growth percentages.
Provide accurate information and have multiple people proofread your application.
Get advice from program staff, experts, customers, or former grantees.
Get help from a grant writer if you need help with the writing process.
Check out recent winners of grants and see if you can identify any patterns.
Create a “resume” for your business outlining your answers to the common questions business grant-givers ask their applicants.
Once you’ve submitted your application, it’s essential to follow up with the grant administrator to check on the status of your application. It’s also good to periodically check the grant program’s website for updates or announcements.
Step 7: Follow up if there is any unexpected action required
If you're applying for a grant or assistance for small businesses, it's important to stay on top of any updates or changes that may occur during the process. To ensure you are up-to-date, follow these steps:
Monitor your application status regularly. Keep an eye out for notifications about the status of your application or any changes that need to be made.
Reach out to the organization or agency you applied with. If you have questions or problems, contact the organization or agency you applied with directly via phone or email.
Follow up on any action items. If you're asked to provide additional information or documents, do so promptly. This will help keep your application moving forward.
Stay organized. Keep all documents, communications, and other materials related to your application in one place. This will make it easier to refer back to if you need to.
By taking these steps, you can ensure you're staying on top of any changes or action items required for your grant or assistance application.
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