“Free money.” If you’re starting or running a business, nothing sounds better. Sadly, there’s no such thing…
Unless you count small business grants. Unlike business loans, grants don’t need to be repaid, so there’s no worry over term length, interest rates, APR, or refinancing. You just need to qualify, and boom—free money.
There are two caveats, though. First, grants are generally pretty specific about what you can spend that money on, whereas small business loans tend to be very flexible. If you score a grant for developing a new kind of environmentally-friendly lemonade stand, then you’d better not spend it buying lemons and sugar, or you’ll wind up paying that money back.
Second, and maybe most importantly, small business grants are just darn hard to qualify for—and even harder to find. There’s a lot of misinformation, dead old websites, confusing databases, complicated government restrictions, discontinued contests, and more out there. It’s a real pain to make heads or tails of it all.
So we’ve compiled a list of 108—and growing!—verified small business grants for you to check out, and we’ve categorized them 7 different ways. Good luck! (Plus, check the bottom of the post for a summarizing infographic!)
Most federal small business grants go to one of a few places: larger companies, because few people want to pay taxes to fund small businesses across the country; research and development programs, to finance scientific progress and national initiatives; and state and local departments, which in turn give that grant money to small businesses.
We’ll talk about state, local, and corporate small business grants later on—so most of these programs deal with research and development, though not all.
The SBIR encourages small businesses engaged in research and development that has commercial potential. Like the second grant below, the SBIR aims to stimulate technological innovation and scientific entrepreneurship.
The STTR has similar goals, but requires its small business applicants to collaborate with a research institution.
Federal agencies with R&D departments have to set aside a bit of their budget to work with small businesses, and that’s where this small business grant comes into play. Let’s take a quick look at the five main federal agencies that participate in the SBIR and STTR programs.
The NSF accepts proposals in any area of engineering or science, though specific topics change from year to year. They even have a YouTube channel to help you get your application in order.
What’s cooler than collaborating with NASA? Getting paid to collaborate with NASA. Plenty of technology sectors are important to develop for NASA, but they’re especially interested in energy efficiency or alternative and renewable energy. 3, 2, 1, lift-off.
The National Institutes of Health, a subset of the Department of Health & Human Services, offers small business grants to companies researching and developing commercially innovative biomedical technologies. Sound like you? Save some money while you’re saving lives.
The Energy Department’s Office of Science also participates in these two small business grants. Check out their hour-long program overview webinar (or peruse the presentation slides instead), and save your green while going green.
Whether your technology R&D is meant for the Army, Navy, Air Force, or DARPA’s advanced initiatives, the Department of Defense will help you fund and commercialize your entrepreneurship.
There are also a few governmental agencies that offer small business grants for the Small Business Innovation Research program only. The STTR mandates collaboration between the agency and your small business, but the SBIR does not—which could be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on what you’re looking for. Let’s take a look.
This branch of the Department of Agriculture supports R&D in the agricultural field specifically. Topics include forestry, food science and nutrition, aquacultural, biofuel products, animal protection, and more.
A section of the Department of Commerce, the NIST gives small business grants to companies developing technology under topics like cyber security, manufacturing, software, and trade. Note that it also deals with energy, healthcare, and others—apply to some or all of these departments if you qualify for the SBIR, just in case!
The EPA rewards businesses looking to advance green technology and sustainable scientific developments.
The Department of Transportation’s transportation systems center, Volpe, accepts solicitations for aid in developing technology regarding aviation, railroads, and highways primarily, but make sure to check their updated topic listings before you apply.
The Department of Homeland Security covers topics like border and maritime security, chemical and biological defense, cyber security, explosives, and first responder group technology.
The Department of Education’s SBIR grant topics are listed under its National Center for Education Research branch, and range from pre-reading and pre-writing technology developments to research that deals with STEM skills, language learning, and behavioral learning patterns.
The Technology Partnerships Office of NOAA offers small business grants for developments and research in coastline communities and economies, healthy ocean monitoring, climate adaptation and mitigation, and much more.
Beyond these two major research and development initiatives, the Federal government also offers some (extremely) specific grants to small businesses. We’ve trawled through a few databases of Federal small business grants and pulled a handful—but make sure to search yourself, especially if your small business is involved in agriculture, public health, or sustainable development!
This grant program, run by the Department of Agriculture, centers on small businesses in eligible rural areas looking to purchase, construct, or install renewable energy systems or energy efficiency improvement technologies. You can partner it with a loan guaranty program as well, and together they’ll back up to 75% of your eligible project costs.
If you’re an agricultural producer, the VAPG program could help with working capital expenses, ranging from processing, to marketing and advertising, to inventory and salary expenses.
If your small business is health food-oriented, then you might qualify for this support grant. It provides funding for your business to participate in SNAP outreach and education, which assists low-income individuals, families, and communities with accessing healthy food.
Do you deal in wood, forestry, or biofuel production? If so, the WUI grant can help you develop or showcase your products.
This program offers money to small businesses that provide services and programs that help children in out-of-home placement, or at risk of it, due to a caretaker’s substance abuse.
Do you perform research, training, or education regarding oral health? If yes, you may qualify for this National Institutes of Health grant.
State-level small business grants are generally geared towards that particular state’s social or economic concerns. They’re meant to work in tandem with Federal or other State grants, so you’ll usually get less funding, but they’re much more accessible. Also, many are matching grants: instead of just providing the funds for you to use for a certain purpose, some will require that you match the money they give as well.
As a result, State-funded small business grants can be difficult to score, since many small businesses can’t put up the money to match large grants as well as larger companies can. However, there’s substantially less competition—so check out our partial list or search for your own state and industry.
Also, an important note: while we’re listing state-specific small business grants, many of these run across multiple states, so don’t give up if the grant looks right but your states don’t match!
This program, like many state grants, focuses on technological development and commercialization. In fact, one way to use the Fast Grant is to supplement your SBIR or STTR proposal developments!
Funded by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the TTAG program offers grants to small businesses that develop, improve, and implement technology responding to industry-driven issues.
Located in Colorado and looking to export your products? Look into the CEDG, which gives up to $4,500 for travel expenses, trade shows, business development, and more.
The State Trade and Export Promotion small business grants give reimbursements to eligible export-ready small businesses—so long as their main office is in the District of Columbia.
Many states actually have a STEP program, Idaho included. However, they each have individual application processes and qualification criteria, so make sure you double-check what you need to do to apply!
Recycling-oriented small businesses in Illinois (and other states) should look no further than the REM program. Note that this is a matching grant program, so you’ll have to put up your own cash to receive the government’s—budget well in advance if you’re aiming for this opportunity.
KEOIF gives grants to businesses looking for help expanding in Kansas. They also offer non-interest bearing forgivable loans in return for some non-traditional agreements that you might want to look into as well.
Run by the Tourism Division, this grant program assists small businesses developing new tourist attractions or updating old ones.
The Office of Community Development aims to improve the living environments and economic opportunities for Louisiana’s low income residents. While small businesses can’t apply directly, contact the state or local government branches most relevant to your business’s function and see if you can receive that funding to do community work.
The Division of Early Childhood Development recently reopened its CCQIG program for childcare facilities, which is awarded quarterly.
For those especially enterprising small businesses: if you’re looking to market internationally, then this program could help you cut down costs.
Although we happen to be listing a lot of Maryland initiatives, many states carry the same or similar programs in their own boundaries as well. In this case, the MEDAAF is an unusually broad small business grant and loan opportunity for Maryland small business owners, so don’t miss it.
On the other side of the spectrum, this program covers a narrow sliver of Minnesota’s small businesses—but that means low competition. If you manage a dairy farm or are developing environmental technologies related to dairy farming, look into the DBPG.
REETAIN, or Retaining Early Educators Through Attaining Incentives Now, is a bit of a mouthful, but it may just come with a pocketful—of cash! If you’re a child care professional in Minnesota, this could be that extra cash you need.
Again, most state’s agriculture departments have small business grants that are some variation on the CRGP. If your business researches agricultural product quality, quantity, or value, search for grants no more.
The full title of this grant program? Minnesota Emerald Ash Borer Community Preparedness Forest Protection Reserve Appropriation. Thankfully, its actual use is friendlier: if you’re into pest control or environmental protection, you can score a substantial amount of capital with this grant.
Specifically for rural youth organizations that conduct community development projects, this grant probably doesn’t apply to your small business… But it’s good to know it exists.
For child care homes and centers, this program offers a number of smaller grants for you to apply to.
Up to $10,000, the NYCCE grant can apply to a number of initiatives related to city commuting. If you’re a New York small business with a toe in transportation, applying here is a must.
The Recycling Business Assistance Center aims to encourage sustainability and reduce waste with this grant program.
Looking for startup grants? IDEA gives out grants of up to $50,000 and has sponsored nearly 100 high-tech companies with growth potential.
With small business grants for companies that are expanding, offering training initiatives, or improving public infrastructure, the Tennessee DoECD isn’t one to skip if you’re located in the right place.
For residents between 18 and 46 years of age, this grant funds projects that support Texas’ agricultural production and community.
Your states, in turn, will fund cities, towns, and nonprofits to finance their own small business grant programs. Continuing the trend, these usually carry smaller payloads but less competition. In the local small business grant situation, you’ve got a substantial upper hand if you service your community in a tangible and demonstrable way, as well.
Plus, is your small business aimed at promoting health, environmental consciousness, or similar initiatives? If so, you’ll be looking at even more local grants to apply for—and get funding from. Because local small business grants are so geographically specific, we’ve pulled just a few to show you what kinds of opportunities may exist in your nearby city or town. Again, make sure to look for similar programs in your own locality!
Many cities—including Cleveland, which we’ll use as an example for this section—will have a number of small business grants and initiatives to foster entrepreneurship. For example…
Your small business might be in an Enterprise Zone (as Ohio terms it), or a similar type of area, and accordingly be offered tax incentives for projects or operations that create jobs. Maybe these aren’t technically small business grants, but they function pretty much the same way!
Environmental sustainability initiatives exist on every level of the government, so consider going green to save with your small business.
Similarly, plenty of small business grants encourage new technology developments, and the local level proves no exception. Unlike the Federal programs, however, local grants are more interested in job creation than in commercialization of groundbreaking new developments, generally speaking. But why not do both?
Cleveland’s eligibility requirements for this grant? Create five or more new jobs within your first year, or demonstrate substantial job creation if you’ve been in business for longer.
Continuing the trend of encouraging research and development, this contest presented a challenge to companies in Central and Northern Pennsylvania and awarded a sizeable grant—alongside $50,000 in cash, a $100,000 low-interest loan, special service access and consultation.
The Ben Franklin Technology Partnership partially funds the Innovation Partnership, which is a local grant program centered around helping Pennsylvanian small businesses afford those SBIR and STTR Federal research and development grant programs we looked at way back when. Though this is statewide, we’re including it under the local category because it’s actually a consolidation of microloan programs throughout the region.
This project awarded $400,000 to six cultural projects in the city of Chicago. While it’s unclear whether this grant will be repeated in future years, it’s a reflection of grants you should be looking for in your own city! You don’t need to be running a research and development business or a green technology-oriented farm to get small business grants, after all.
The SBIF supports small businesses repairing or remodeling their location, whether by updating windows and floors, replacing signage, or purchasing nearby property to expand into. Note that you’d receive this grant after completing and paying for your remodeling, so be cautious—plenty of other businesses are likely competing for small business grants like these.
If you’re in Miami and have been in business for at least a year, make sure to apply to this program meant to “bridge the gap between local government and small owned and operated businesses.”
The FMI offers grants to New York City fashion companies who need to purchase equipment, make upgrades, or train their employees.
Is your small business new to Lower Manhattan, and can you commit to creating at least 75 new jobs in the area? If so, look to the JCRP grant.
While this grant program no longer applies to businesses today, it shows that you can and should look for small business grants in case of natural disasters that may have affected a large number of local businesses.
This program provides grants between $5,000 and $40,000 to small businesses that own their buildings in downtown Orlando and improve their stability or appearance. Part infrastructural, part city beautification, this program incentivizes the small business owning residents of Orlando to contribute to their city’s well-being in a few different ways.
Aimed at fostering economic growth and entrepreneurial spirit in Detroit (alongside a few other cities), the NEIdeas grant program gives out $10,000 and $100,000 grants to businesses—as well as exposure and free resources.
Local townships and cities, as well as states, give tourism grants to businesses that promote travel. This particular grant also weighs whether your business is promoting tourism during season or off-season, which is something to consider.
Another beautification program, this grant applies only to businesses within a certain district of the city. Again, though not a lot of money, small business grants like these are uncompetitive and low in effort to apply for—who’s going to turn down free cash?
Why not look beyond governmental grant offers? Big corporations will often provide small business grants to contest winners—it’s a PR win, netting loyal corporate customers and a lot of good will.
The difference here is that many corporate-sponsored small business grants involve pitch competitions or something similar. Not all do, of course, but you’ll want to be aware that applying to a corporate grant might involve more work. With that, though, comes the potential for publicity—and for runner-up prizes.
Intuit, the tax preparation software company, gives 15 small businesses $5,000 apiece in marketing prizes with its Small Business Local Buzz program, previously called Love Our Local Business —and they still have their blog!
What small business owner doesn’t dream of landing a commercial spot during the most-watched television event of the year—the Superbowl? Win Intuit’s Small Business Big Game competition and you’ll have exactly that opportunity!
Intuit’s Love a Local Business grant has given away over $1 million in grant money to small business owners. You’ll have to be nominated to be in the running for the grant, but you can nominate your own business. The average reward is around $5,000, but there’s opportunities to score more cash for your business!
FedEx annually awards grants of up to $25,000 to ten small businesses, nationwide, with its Small Business Grant Contest. You can check out past winners—and hear their words of wisdom and warning—and the FedEx site.
If you’re a maker of furniture, ceramics, fabrics, toiletries, art—or anything else that west elm offers—then check out their small business grant contest. The first place winner receives $25,000, and each runner-up gets featured in west elm’s catalog of local shops and items.
Each year, Chase Bank puts aside $3 million to split between 20 small businesses—that’s $150,000 each. You’ll have to answer a few essay questions regarding your business, its story, and its community impact, and then winners are decided by a panel of small business experts and senior executives. You’ll also get a free trip to Google for a small business marketing workshop, and more.
Industrial Bank’s Small Business Grant Initiative awards a total of $80,000—split into five individual grants—to small companies within its service area, which covers areas of Maryland and Virginia
Visa’s Everywhere Initiative looks for startups with innovative fixes and offered $50,000 to the final three winners.
Canvas is a “food and drink concept lab” maintained by Marriott International—so if you’re an aspiring restaurateur in need of money, space, or advice, look no further. Unlike many small business grants, this funding opportunity is for the concept stage only.
This business pitch competition offers $200,000, plus seminars and additional resources, to startups.
Now, this grant program doesn’t directly assist small businesses—instead, it offers funding to nonprofit organizations that support small business owners. So while you can’t apply, you should keep tabs on the program and its recipients, in case any wind up in your neck of the woods.
Offering grants in nearly every state, the Wells Fargo Community Investment program focuses mainly on nonprofits—but small businesses with the right criteria can qualify, too.
Walmart has a number of different grant programs, again mostly aimed towards nonprofits. Similar to the Sam’s Club program, you should apply if you can, but keep tabs on relevant nonprofits who might want to sponsor you in turn.
This philanthropic arm of Exxon Mobile focuses on funding sources concerned with eliminating malaria, increasing math and science education, and investing in women’s economic opportunities.
Similarly, Coca-Cola’s community-giving branch centers around empowering women, improving access to clean water, and fostering healthy living and youth development. If your small business doesn’t qualify under the mostly charity-centric criteria, then try to see if you can contract or cater for the nonprofit that does.
NASE offers small business grants of up to $5,000. Just register and see if you’re eligible!
This is the inaugural year for LendingTree’s Small Business Grant Contest. The winning small business will receive $50,000 to fund the needs of their growing business!
We’ve split the above sections by the institutions giving out small business grants, but these next three organize grant programs by eligibility.
There are many Federal, State, Local, and Corporate initiatives that offer money to female entrepreneurs, in order to work towards fixing the gender gap and promoting equality in business—especially in STEM fields, but beyond them as well. If you’re eligible, look into these excellent programs below.
Awarding $100,000 in grant money to up to 10 recipients, this initiative is geared towards small businesses interested in creating environmental and social change—and, of course, companies owned and run by women.
Zions Bank offers $18,000 across six categories, including child and elder care, arts and culture, and teacher support.
Though an international program, Walmart’s GWEEI should still be on your list if you’re a female business owner: they’ve pledged to support women-owned businesses with over $100 million in grants.
With a number of different grant initiatives for women, WomensNet’s Amber Grant program is a great place to look for assistance with your business, especially at an early stage.
This initiative provides up to $15,000 grants to 12 “mompreneurs,” alongside business counsel and networking opportunities.
If you’re a woman who holds a B.A. and is looking to advance or change careers, the AAUW’s career development program can help you fund that major life shift!
This isn’t a direct grant provider, but rather a database of Small Business Administration-sponsored centers. Some will give small business grants themselves, while others will simply help you find local corporations or foundations that do so. Either way, make sure to check yours out.
Co-hosted by the SBA, this competition offers $70,000 in grant money across its first, second, and third prize winners. It’s only a part of the InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Summit, sponsored by Microsoft as well.
Open Meadows funds projects with $2,000 grants, so long as they’re designed and led by women.
This funding opportunity is for women business owners who make and sell jewelry. You’ll receive $7,500 in cash, a $1,000 gift certificate to Halstead, and a variety of social media and public relations spotlights—as well as a trip to Arizona. The top ten runners-up receive prizes as well, so don’t let anything hold you back from entering!
This program, offered by NMWE, gives $14,000 to women who engage in startup entrepreneurial efforts relating to news and information. Their project mission is unique, but definitely worth investigating if your small business is young and news-oriented.
In a similar vein, these small business grants are intended to help minority business owners overcome the unique social, political, and economic challenges they’ve historically faced.
Many governmental grant programs focus on businesses owned by individuals who belong to a Federally-recognized Native American tribe. Even if the grant is for a community rather than a small business, check to see if you can contract for some of the work that would be involved in fulfilling the grant’s terms. Grantseeking requires creativity, determination, and patience—so don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.
This Department of the Interiors grant provides funding to both tribes and individual mineral owners seeking to make use of those resources on Indian lands.
If you own a health-related small business, you can use this grant to spread information and awareness of health and healthcare for minorities.
President Obama began the Partnerships for Opportunity, Workforce, and Economic Revitalization Initiative to help communities hurt by the changing power industry. Look into the block grants the federal government awarded to state and local institutions, and if you’re nearby, see if you can snag a contracting opportunity or second-hand grant from them!
Available to small businesses, the RBEG program offers funds for rural development—including, by not limited to, infrastructural development, working capital for startup businesses, purchasing equipment, and real estate development. Smaller requests are actually given higher priority, and grants usually range between $10,000 and $50,000.
Similarly, the RBOG program gives up to $100,000 to support training for business development, in order to stimulate the economies of rural communities.
If you live or operate in a rural area lacking an Internet broadband speed of 3 Mbps or more, and are looking to fix that, then check to see whether you’re eligible for this Department of Agriculture grant. We’ve included this and the previous grants under the “Minorities” category because the government also often groups them together—it’s all about enfranchising the disadvantaged. Indian tribes are also a major target demographic for these programs.
Though not explicitly targeted towards small businesses, this grant initiative—like many others—includes Federally-recognized tribes among its eligible applicants. If you’re a business owner operating in recognized tribal lands, and you’d like to invest in water or waste disposal, this cash could help out.
The MBDA has regular grant competitions for minority business owners, alongside a long list of other resources for you to learn from.
Though not exclusively available to minority business owners, this grant program focuses on diversity in entrepreneurship. They award up to $150,000 to five winners, plus the consumer’s Choice award grant of $10,000.
The Native Arts Capacity Building Initiative gives up to six grants of $30,000 each to Native American institutions supporting arts and culture. However, to qualify you must already have programs in place supporting this goal. The program is also limited to those initiatives that support Native American artists in Minnesota, North Dakota, south Dakota, and Wisconsin, although if you have a strong case, make it!
This program gives Federally-recognized tribes more resources to improve the economic influence of energy development in their areas. While this grant doesn’t provide directly to small businesses, look for the “trickle down” approach of funneling this government money into your business by securing the right contracts.
This program is definitely not a grant—however, it is a federally-funded initiative aimed towards helping minority-owned small businesses capture more clients and work, so we decided to include it.
The SBA’s 8(a) program helps “socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs gain access to the economic mainstream of American society”—or in other words, it guarantees minority-owned businesses special government contracts that they might otherwise not have special standing for.
Finally, veteran-owned businesses are eligible to receive certain small business grants from the government, nonprofits, and some corporations as well. These initiatives seek to give back to our troops for their service and dedication, and to support their entrepreneurial contributions.
Similar to the 8(a) program, the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Concern Program isn’t a grant—rather, it helps veterans who own businesses get additional contracting opportunities from the government.
If you’re a veteran who’s been awarded a franchise through the IFA VetFran program, then you’ll also qualify for this $10,000 grant.
This program rewards veterans or military spouses who run businesses with up to $5,000 in grant money. It also offers the same service as the SDVOSBC!
The 2501 Program, run by the Department of Agriculture, gives small business grants—as well as education, training, outreach, and other forms of support—to veterans and minorities looking to begin or expand their agricultural operations.
While not quite a grant, this initiative gives veterans looking to join the UPS franchise a $10,000 discount off the franchise fee, and 50-75%% off the initial application fee. The UPS Store ranked as the top participant of the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative program in 2008, and has a large number of its locations run by veteran entrepreneurs.
Similar to UPS and a number of other companies, 7-Eleven offers special benefits to veteran franchisees. If you’re eligible, you can receive up to 20% off the initial franchise fee, up to 65% financing through 7-Eleven, and special financing options.
Not to belabor the point, but if you’re a veteran looking to start your own business, franchising could be a worthwhile path to pursue. Little Caesars offers a set of discounts to honorably discharged veterans, including a $5,000 franchise fee discount, the same amount off the first equipment order, and other marketing and supply services that total up to $30,000. Service-disabled veterans qualify for even more, including a full waiver of the full $20,000 franchise fee and $30,000 worth of other benefits.
Hosted by AT&T Experts, this grant offers $1,000 to unique business ideas submitted in the form of a two-minute video. (Note that if your business is already established, its annual revenue must be can’t be greater than $20,000.
Fundera now hosts our very own small business grant, giving out $2,500 every year to entrepreneurs looking to start or fund their businesses. All you have to do is submit a video entry to the annual contest explaining why you started your company, follow us on social media, and… That’s all! Apply today to get that easy capital.
This list is constantly growing, so check back soon. Did we miss any? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know!