Starting and running a small business is expensive. Even though technology makes it seem like you can launch a startup on a dime, you still have to put in hours of hard work, plus pay for someone to design your logo and website. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you’ll be hard-pressed to do all of it without great software, which costs money. But the good news is, there are grants available for small businesses just like yours. You just have to know where to find them.
What Are Small Business Grants?
The government knows that small businesses are the backbone of a successful economy. They account for 99.7 percent of all private-sector businesses in the country, employing a large chunk of the population. Issuing grants for the creation and growth of small businesses can boost the economy by creating jobs and increasing tax revenue.
Investing in grants also allows corporations to serve in a mentorship role, while promoting types of small businesses, such as women- and minority-owned startups. You’ll also find that nonprofits like the National Association for the Self-Employed and WomensNet issue grants as part of the services they provide members.
Government Grants vs. Private Grants
Both government grants and private grants can benefit a small business, but it’s important to watch for scams. The Small Business Administration’s Small Business Innovation Research program issues grants to research-oriented businesses that qualify. The SBA also directs small businesses to its Small Business Technology Transfer program for research-oriented projects. You should also look up the State Trade and Export Promotion program for your state to see if your local government agency receives funds from the SBA for grants.
You’ll likely find many more opportunities, with less competition, by looking at the many private grant opportunities available. You can find lists featuring these by simply Googling “grants for small businesses.” FedEx has an annual Small Business Grant Contest, Street Shares helps veterans through its Veteran Small Business Award and the Amber Grant supports women-owned businesses. These are just a few of the many opportunities available.
How Can You Qualify for Small Business Grants?
Requirements can vary widely from one opportunity to the next. Most of the time, it’s merely about finding a grant that goes to your type of business. Pay close attention to organizations within your niche. If you can join one of those organizations, you’ll be more likely to hear about opportunities, as well as qualifying for any grants given by the organization itself. The SBA has Small Business Development Centers located in each state that may also help connect small-business owners. At the very least, you may be able to learn about networking opportunities where you can ask.
Before you start applying, it’s important to understand that where you spend the money will likely be restricted, especially with government funding. If you’re looking for access to capital you can put into general business use, a loan may be a better option.
Stephanie Faris is a novelist and business writer whose work has appeared on numerous small business blogs, including Zappos, GoDaddy, 99Designs, and the Intuit Small Business Blog. She worked for the State of Tennessee for 19 years, the latter six of which were spent as a supervisor. She has written about business for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2011.