A number of programs exist that can provide start-up grants for aspiring entrepreneurs in Florida. Be prepared to make a good case for why the business can be successful, and to compete with other entrepreneurs who are looking for similar capital. Successfully receiving one of these grants can help a business receive the head start it needs to grow into a viable venture.

How to apply for small business grants in Florida

Several entities and organizations provide grants to small businesses in Florida, or provide those businesses with assistance that can help businesses receive grants. Business owners should prepare themselves before applying for business grants, and work with local resource centers to make sure preparation is thorough enough to help the company qualify for financial assistance.

Start by making sure to write a business plan for the company. This is a document that explains what the name of the company is, what services the business will perform or goods it will sell, and the company's plan for bringing in customers and making money. Business plans are crucial to applying for grants, or any other type of small-business funding, because they demonstrate why a company is worthy of receiving a grant, and they help entrepreneurs articulate why their businesses are worth the investment.

The Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network provides free training for people who want to start small businesses, and can help provide free assistance for writing business plans. To find the closest location, visit http://floridasbdc.org/Home/Location.asp.

Secondly, work with the local SBDC office or local chamber of commerce to provide contacts for organizations that can help provide start-up grants. Working with these organizations can be helpful because the employees can match businesses with grant programs that meet a business' specific needs (for instance, if the company is in a specialized industry), or connect the company with grants that apply to businesses in a specific region (such as Jacksonville's Small Emerging Business program). This can save a small-business owner time because it will keep him or her from applying for grant programs that do not meet his company's needs.

Lastly, make certain to follow grant applications very closely and fill them out thoroughly. Because competition is often tight for grant programs, it is easy to disqualify businesses based on incomplete information or because they didn't follow directions. Work with the SBDC to make sure grant applications are completed correctly, and have friends or family members proofread the application for clarity and correct spelling.

Guidelines and requirements for each organization's grant program can differ, so it's recommended that people contact each grant-giving group for more information on how to apply and qualify for grants.

Florida grant organizations

This is a sample list of Florida organizations that offer small business grants. Work with a local chamber of commerce or the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network for a more extensive list of grant opportunities.

Workforce Florida Inc. http://www.workforceflorida.com/employers/qrt.htm 1580 Waldo Palmer Lane, Suite 1 Tallahassee, FL 32308 Phone: (850) 921-1119 This organization has a Quick Training Reponse program that gives grants to new and existing small businesses that will create high-quality jobs. The grants are to be used specifically for job-training.

City of Jacksonville Equal Business Opportunity http://www.coj.net/Departments/Central+Operations/Equal+Business+Opportunity+Contract+Compliance/default.htm 214 North Hogan Street, Suite 800 Jacksonville, FL 32202 Phone: (904) 255-8840 The City of Jacksonville has a Small Emerging Business program that provides a grant scholarship program, as well as assistance with access to capital and mentorship opportunities.

Palm Beach County Job Growth Incentive Program http://www.pbcgov.com/edo/programs/pbc/jgip_criteria.htm 301 N. Olive Ave., 10th Floor West Palm Beach, FL 33401 Phone: (561) 355-3624 Palm Beach County provides grants to companies that have potential to create new jobs in the area. The program's criteria is available on the website.

A note of caution about federal small-business start-up grants

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) does not give grants to start businesses. According to the SBA's frequently asked question site (http://www.sba.gov/mostrequesteditems/CON_FAQ2.html):

"While SBA does offer some grant programs, these are generally designed to expand and enhance organizations that provide small business management, technical, or financial assistance. These grants generally support non-profit organizations, intermediary lending institutions, and state and local governments."

For more information about federal grants, visit http://www.sba.gov/services/financialassistance/grants/index.html.