When a low-income entrepreneur dreams of starting a small business, the initial cost of business development may present a significant obstacle to overcome. While small-business loans may provide financial support, an entrepreneur must plan to eventually pay back those funds. Grants for low-income entrepreneurs, however, often help with business expenses without a requirement for repayment. Entrepreneurs might find help through state or community programs, women's organizations and programs for minority-owned businesses.
Federal Government Grants
Low-income entrepreneurs may benefit indirectly from grant money dispersed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA doesn't give grants directly to small businesses. Instead, the federal agency provides grants to local and state organizations through the SBA's PRIME Program. Organizations receiving PRIME grants use the funding to support programs that benefit local entrepreneurs. As part of the PRIME Program criteria, the SBA looks for organizations that focus on helping entrepreneurs from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as small businesses in rural and urban communities. The SBA gives at least 50 percent of its grant funding to organizations that serve "very low-income persons."
While entrepreneurs can't apply directly for SBA grants, they can find direct grants for individuals through state-specific and local programs, some of which have receive federal funding. The SBA directs entrepreneurs to each state's economic development agency. As the grants and other resources available vary from one state to another, an aspiring entrepreneur should look first for opportunities offered in his own state. Other nonprofit, nongovernmental programs offer financial assistance to entrepreneurs who'd like to start small businesses in particular states. The Washington Community Alliance for Self-Help, for example, administers the Washington CASH program to provide training and financing opportunities for low-income entrepreneurs who meet the organization's income guidelines.
Grants for Women Entrepreneurs
Low-income women who would like to start their own businesses may find grant opportunities through programs that specifically support women. Entrepreneurs should research women's organizations serving their own communities or states. The Center for Women and Enterprise, for example, gives financial aid scholarships to Boston women who would like to participate in the center's training, networking and technical assistance opportunities. Low-income women who need small-scale assistance with startup costs for a business might apply for the Amber Grant, which gives money for equipment and website development. In addition, low-income women who plan to start socially-conscious businesses might find support through the Zions Bank Smart Women Grant program.
Grants for Minorities
Minorities with limited financial resources for starting businesses might find support through grant programs for minority-owned businesses. The SBA recommends that entrepreneurs search for minority business development or enterprise agencies serving their local communities and states. These agencies often provide financial support, loan opportunities and training in business development. Low-income individuals from specific cultural backgrounds or heritages may also find funding programs that seek to support their endeavors. The Montana Indian Equity Fund, for example, specifically provides grants to Native Americans who would like to start or grow business initiatives.
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Facts About Government Grants
- U.S. Small Business Administration: PRIME Program
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Economic Development Agencies
- Washington CASH: Financing
- Zions Bank: Smart Women Grant
- Zions Bank: 2010 Smart Women Grant Awardees
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Minority Owned Businesses
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