Pennsylvania Small Business Grants: The Top Options

Written on October 9, 2020
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Home to some of the most iconic American industrial and manufacturing companies, Pennsylvania is booming with small businesses. The state has over 1 million small businesses that employ 2.4 million workers.[1] With so many thriving businesses, it’s no wonder that many Pennsylvania business owners want to secure business loans or small business grants to help their business.

In this article, we’ll discuss the seven best Pennsylvania small business grants and resources. These grants are a mix of both local, state, and national grants. We’ll also talk about other ways to find the best small business grants and go over the process and best practices when you’re applying.

The Top 7 Options for Pennsylvania Small Business Grants

Searching for the best Pennsylvania small business grants is a two-part process. You should begin your search by looking within your local city or region for business resources and grants, and if you can’t find anything suitable, turn to state-funded grants. You’ll often find that if you talk to your regional SBA center and other related chapters like the Women’s Business Centers or SCORE Chapters, there is likely someone who can refer you to local grants within your area.

With that said, here are seven Pennsylvania grant options to get you started.

1. Small Business Advantage Grant

Pennsylvania small business owners and farmers with less than 100 employees are eligible for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Small Business Advantage Grant. The Small Business Advantage Grant matches up to 50% of materials and equipment costs (up to a maximum of $7,000) for grant recipients investing in energy-efficient, pollution prevention, or waste reduction projects and processes.

Completing the grant application is possible through the DEP’s online application. You will have to submit information about your business, such as your business EIN and your project and budget.

2. Very Small Meat Processor Grant

The Very Small Meat Processor Grant program helps offset some of the costs associated with meeting federal inspection for small meat processors. The maximum grant amount is $50,000, or 50% of the project costs. Eligible applicants to this grant must be meat processors that generate less than $2.5 million in sales and have fewer than 10 employees. The grant will also offset some of the costs to purchase any equipment needed to complete these projects.

Applicants can apply to the Very Small Meat Processor Grant through Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture website.

3. Empowerment Zone Grants 

Several grants are available for businesses that reside in Philadelphia’s “Empowerment Zones,” which are designated areas that are eligible to receive funding for economic development. Businesses located on American Street, North Central, or West Philadelphia Empowerment Zones can apply for business assistance, business expansion, or beautification grants ranging from $20,000 to $25,000.

To apply for one of the available business grants, you will need to meet the basic eligibility requirements, which vary depending on the grant program. At minimum, your business must be located in one of the qualified Empowerment Zone neighborhoods. Some grants, such as the business assistance grant, will also require you to meet with the Philadelphia’s Commerce Department’s staff members to discuss your business needs and further details on the grant program.

Once you’ve completed all of the necessary requirements, you will need to download an application form and email it to a member of the Department of Commerce for approval. 

4. Storefront Improvement Program

Philadelphia business owners who want to improve their building or business’s exterior are eligible to apply to the Storefront Improvement Program. The Storefront Improvement Program reimburses up to 50% of the cost to improve a single commercial property up to $10,000. If you have a multiple-address or a corner business property, the program will reimburse up to $15,000.

To apply to the Storefront Improvement Program, your property must be located on an approved corridor, which you can determine by contacting a City of Philadelphia staff member. If you’re approved, you will then need to plan your project with a relationship manager. After you’ve finalized your plan to enhance your storefront, you can download and submit your application online through the City of Philadelphia’s website.

5. Amber Grant for Women

The Amber Grant for Women offers a $10,000 grant each month to women business owners. Although not exclusive to Pennsylvania, the Amber Grant for Women is open to women entrepreneurs nationwide. At the end of the year, one of the twelve grant winners will receive an additional end-of-year grant of $25,000.

Applying for an Amber Grant is easy. All you need to do is submit a short online application and pay a $15 fee to process your application. On your application, you will need to input information about your business and thoroughly explain how you would use the $10,000 and the $25,000 end-of-year grant. Although the application is short, you should complete all of the questions as comprehensively as possible. We also recommend researching past winners of the Amber Grant to get an idea of how to best position your business.

6. Pennsylvania GrantWatch

With so many grant applications opening and closing all the time, it can be hard to keep track of what opportunities are available to you. That’s where Pennsylvania GrantWatch comes in. This website contains information about all current grant programs for small businesses, nonprofits, and more. You can find federal and state government grants on this website for free. Pennsylvania GrantWatch updates daily, which makes it a great site to keep track of any new grant opportunities. 

7. Fundera Zach Grant 

The Fundera Zach Grant is not specific to small businesses located in Pennsylvania, but it’s another grant resource for Pennsylvania small businesses. To be eligible for the $2,500 grant prize, you’ll need to follow and like Fundera on Facebook, create a three-minute video explaining why you started your business, and post the video on your YouTube and social media pages. Grant winners are chosen based on their video quality, originality, and creativity. 

How to Find the Right Pennsylvania Small Business Grant for You

The road to getting a Pennsylvania small business grant can be grueling, but you can avoid some of the difficult parts by familiarizing yourself with the grant application process. Here are a few tips to consider as you navigate the grant process. 

Create an Application Timeline

Grant applications aren’t something you can rush. You’ll be competing with potentially thousands of other applicants for free money, so you want to make sure your business stands out.

To avoid the hassle of rushing through the grant process, you should allocate enough time for yourself to complete each application. You’ll need time to compile documents, edit your grant proposals, and think about conveying your business’s unmet financial needs. Creating an application timeline can help you organize all of these tasks and ensure you have enough time to complete them.

Write a Strong Grant Proposal 

The most important part of applying for grants is knowing how to write a strong grant proposal. Grant proposals can range anywhere from a few pages to over 150 pages. A grant proposal allows the grant organization to get a better sense of who you are and what sets your business apart, which is why it’s vital that your number one focus should be on your grant proposal.

Grant organizations will look at your proposal to determine whether your grant request fits with the organization’s mission, requirements, scope, and has credibility. If your proposal doesn’t align with the above, it’s unlikely that your business will receive a grant.

Generally, grant proposals contain the following elements:

  • Title
  • Summary
  • Introduction
  • Need Statement
  • Goals 
  • Project Plan
  • Evaluation Plan
  • Timeline
  • Sustainability Plan
  • Budget
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • CV

Avoid Grant Scams 

Scammers targeting desperate business owners are steadily increasing, which is why you must do your due diligence and research the grant organization or program before applying for a grant. If you find that a grant program seems too easy to qualify for, that could be a red flag. Avoid any grant program that asks you to input sensitive information, such as your banking details, and be sure to never give personal information over the phone. If you were the victim of a grant scam, you should immediately report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission.

The Bottom Line

It can take a while to get a small business grant, so in the meantime, you may want to look into other small business loan options. Pennsylvania also has several loan programs within each city to help small businesses start or launch a business. 

If you’re having trouble securing Pennsylvania small business grants, you may also want to consider expanding your options and look for grants beyond state borders. There are several grants available to small businesses nationwide, some of which specifically target business owners with unique and underrepresented backgrounds, such as grants for women, minorities, or veterans.

Article Sources: 

  1. “Small Biz Stats
Zoe Weisner
Contributing Writer at Fundera

Zoe Weisner

Zoe Weisner is a contributing writer at Fundera. Previously, Zoe worked at BlueVine, a fintech startup that provides working capital to small businesses. At BlueVine, Zoe worked with small business owners to understand their financial needs and wrote content about small business-related topics, including marketing, business operations, and small business financing. Today, Zoe writes articles about personal finance, small business, and banking.

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