The Top Small Business Grants in 2020
- Small Business Innovation Research Program
- Small Business Technology Transfer Program
- Rural Business Enterprise Grant
- FedEx Small Business Grant
- Eileen Fisher Grant for Women
- Girlboss Foundation Grant
- Visa Everywhere Initiative
- Walmart Grant Program
- Wells Fargo Community Investment Program
- Eileen Fisher Program
“Free money.” If you’re starting or running a business, no business finance solution sounds better. Unlike business loans, you don’t have to repay small business grants, so there’s no worry over term length, interest rates, APR, or refinancing. You just need to apply, qualify, and boom—free money.
There are two caveats, though. First, small business grants are generally pretty specific about what you can spend the money on, whereas small business loans tend to be very flexible. For example, if you score a grant for developing a new kind of environmentally friendly lemonade stand, then you’ll likely have to spend the money on equipment or research, not on buying lemons and sugar.
Second, and maybe most importantly, small business grants are 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. So, are you wondering what government grants are available for small businesses? Or, perhaps you’re more interested in learning about corporate grants—like the FedEx small business grant.
Well, we’re here to help out—we’ve compiled a list of 107 verified startup grants and small business grants for you to check out. We’ve categorized them in seven different ways so you can figure out which grants are the best option for you to pursue for your business. Learn about eligibility requirements, timelines, and the application process for each grant.
In this article:
- Federal grants
- State grants
- Local grants
- Corporate grants
- Grants for women
- Grants for minorities
- Grants for veterans
- Grants for startups
Federal Business Grants for Small Business
Although there are plenty of federal business grants for small businesses, they are primarily open to companies in the science, technology, or health fields. If your business is involved in research and development or in scientific initiatives—including environmental and climate initiatives—then federal grant programs might be able to cover some of your expenses and help with your small business funding.
Wondering how to get federal grants for your small business? Sometimes grant winners receive funding directly from the federal government. However, in most cases, the federal government just doles out grant money to state and local governments. States and localities then distribute the funds to small businesses.
Here are the top federal business grants for small business:
Small Business Innovation Research Program
The SBIR encourages small businesses engaged in research and development that have commercial potential. The SBIR aims to stimulate technological innovation and scientific entrepreneurship. Eleven government agencies participate in the program, and each creates their own eligibility guidelines, research and development topics, and reviews applications. Grants start at $150,000, but if your business shows promise, then you can receive additional small business grants of up to $1 million.
Small Business Technology Transfer Program
The STTR has similar goals, but requires its small business applicants to collaborate with a research institution. Five federal agencies currently participate in this program, setting aside a bit of their budget to work with small businesses. As with the SBIR grants, these federal business grants start at $150,000 and then go up to $1 million. 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 and their more specific grants.
National Science Foundation
First, the NSF accepts proposals in the areas of engineering, science, or medicine, 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, alternative and renewable energy, or efficient ways of building spacecrafts.
National Institutes of Health
The National Institutes of Health, a subset of the Department of Health and Human Services, offers grants for small businesses researching and developing commercially innovative biomedical technologies. Sound like you? Save some money while you’re saving lives.
Department of Energy
The Department of Energy’s Office of Science also participates in these two small business grants. Topics for these federal business grants for small businesses include environmental science, clean energy, and material science. Check out their program’s Frequently Asked Questions page for more details.
Department of Defense
Whether your technology research and development is meant for the Army, Navy, Air Force, or DARPA’s advanced initiatives, the Department of Defense will help you fund and commercialize your products with a handful of grants for small business startups.
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 a research institution 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.
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
This branch of the Department of Agriculture supports research and development in the agricultural field specifically. Topics for grant funding for small businesses include forestry, food science and nutrition, aquacultural, biofuel products, animal protection, and more.
National Institute of Standards and Technology
A division of the Department of Commerce, NIST gives small business grants to companies developing technology under topics like cybersecurity, manufacturing, software, and trade. This being said, however, this agency also deals with energy, healthcare, and others—so you’re free to apply to some or all of these departments if you qualify for the SBIR.
Environmental Protection Agency
The EPA awards government grants for small businesses looking to advance green technology and sustainable scientific developments.
Department of Transportation
The Department of Transportation’s transportation systems center, Volpe, accepts solicitations for aid in developing technology regarding aviation, railroads, and highways, but you’ll want to make sure to check their updated topic listings before you apply.
The Department of Homeland Security provides grants for small businesses that work in the areas of border and maritime security, chemical and biological defense, cybersecurity, explosives, or first responder group technology.
Department of Education
The Department of Education’s SBIR grant topics are listed under the 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.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
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 SBIR and STTR, the two major federal research and development grant programs, some federal government agencies also offer specific government grants for small businesses. We trawled through a few databases of federal small business grants—of which the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance is the authoritative source—and pulled the most noteworthy options. Nevertheless, you’ll want to make sure to search for yourself, especially if your small business is involved in agriculture, public health, or sustainable development—these offerings update regularly.
Rural Energy for America Program
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 one of these federal business grants with a USDA loan guaranty as well, and together they’ll back up to 75% of your eligible project costs.
Value-Added Producer Grant
If you’re an agricultural producer, the VAPG program could help you with working capital expenses, ranging from processing to marketing and advertising, to inventory and salary expenses.
Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant
The Department of Agriculture offers this grant program for small businesses and agricultural producers that are modernizing education and health in rural communities. Specifically, these business grants are an option if your company provides education or health services through telecommunications. Awards range from $50,000 to $500,000.
3D Elevation Grant
The Department of the Interior is offering a government grant for small businesses that can creatively leverage lidar and map data to come up with natural 3D imaging of the nation’s topographical boundaries. This is a great business grant for design and technology firms.
This grant program, run by the Department of Homeland Security, offers grant funding to small businesses that provide services and programs that help prevent sex trafficking and exploitation of children.
The Fish and Wildlife Service, a branch of the Department of the Interior, offers a Wildlife Grant to help develop programs to benefit wildlife and their habitats, including conservation planning and implementation activities. Awards go up to $1 million.
State Government Grants for Small Business
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. That said, they’re much more accessible due to lower competition. 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.
You can search for business grants in your own state and industry by looking at your state’s department of commerce website or grants portal. The Grants.gov website is primarily for federal grant search. Below, we list some popular states.
Also, an important note: While we’re listing state-specific government grants for small businesses, many of these run across multiple states, so don’t give up if the grant looks right but your states don’t match.
Arizona Commerce Authority
The Arizona Commerce Authority is a great resource for small business owners in AZ. You can check back throughout the year for new competitions and grant options. The Arizona Step Grant is a popular program, which provides grant funding for small businesses that are exporting products or expanding into international markets.
Arkansas Technology Transfer Assistance Grant Program
The Arkansas Economic Development Commission offers several grants, rebates, and incentives to businesses that create jobs or expand in Arkansas. For example, the Infrastructure Grant is for businesses that create full-time jobs in Arkansas.
Colorado Export Development Grant
Colorado regularly ranks as one of the best states for startups and entrepreneurship, and the state government is helping to make sure that innovation continues in this state. Colorado offers government grants for many types of small and medium-sized businesses, especially businesses that are interested in international development or that are involved in advanced industries like robotics.
D.C. Small and Local Business Grant
The D.C. Department of Small and Local Business has multiple open grant opportunities for businesses in particular “wards” of the city. You can keep track of the ongoing grant opportunities on their Current Solicitations and Opportunities site. They tend to offer the most grants to retail businesses that are revitalizing downtown neighborhoods.
Idaho State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) Grant
Many states actually have a STEP program, Idaho included. However, they each have individual application processes and qualification criteria, so you’ll want to make sure you double-check what you need to do to apply. In Idaho, these government grants are primarily for small businesses that want to enter international markets.
Illinois Recycling Expansion and Modernization Program
Sustainability-driven businesses in Illinois (and other states) should consider the REM program, which offers grants of up to $250,000. Note that this is a matching grant program, so you’ll have to put up your own cash to receive this government grant funding for your small business. Budget well in advance if you’re aiming for this opportunity.
Iowa Business Development Grant Recycling
Iowa provides a wide range of business development grants. The state’s focus is on businesses that create manufacturing jobs and enhance Iowa’s other industries. There are also grants for retail businesses that are rehabilitating downtown buildings. You can see the latest opportunities on Iowa’s grants portal.
Kansas Job Creation Fund
The Kansas Job Creation Fund gives grants to businesses looking for help establishing themselves in Kansas. The fund typically disburses the grant money to recipients over three years as their company reaches certain investment and employment benchmarks.
Louisiana Community Development Block Grant
The Office of Community Development aims to improve the living environments and economic opportunities for Louisiana’s low-income residents. Although small businesses can’t apply directly, you can contact the state or local government branches that are most relevant to your business’s function and see if you can receive that funding to do community work. There are also disaster recovery grants that are issued to businesses affected by hurricanes.
Maryland Child Care Quality Incentive Grant Program
The Maryland Division of Early Childhood Development recently reopened its CCQIG program for local childcare facilities. This small business grant is awarded quarterly.
For those especially enterprising small businesses: If you’re looking to market internationally, then this Maryland program could help you cut down on costs.
Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund
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. Priority funding areas and industries vary with each grant cycle, so you’ll want to keep an eye out for updates.
Minnesota Dairy Business Planning Grant
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, offers small grants to childcare professionals in Minnesota. If you’re a childcare professional in Minnesota, this could be the extra cash you need to help defray costs.
Minnesota Crop Research Grant Program
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, this government grant could work well for you.
Minnesota Innovation Voucher Award Program
If your business needs cash to purchase technical assistance or to commercialize your products, you can score a substantial amount of capital with this grant. This is a matching grant for small business startups, so you’ll need to put up half of the cash.
Minnesota Job Creation Fund
The Minnesota Job Creation Fund is for new and expanding businesses that meet targets for job creation and capital investment. Eligible companies can receive up to $1 million for creating or retaining high-salaried jobs and for rehabilitating facilities.
Nebraska Child Care Grant
For childcare homes and centers, this program offers a number of smaller business grants for you to apply to.
New York City Commute Enhancement Grant
With awards 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.
North Carolina Recycling Business Development Grants
The Recycling Business Assistance Center aims to encourage sustainability and reduce waste with this yearly grant program.
North Carolina IDEA
Looking for grants for your small business startup? The NC IDEA gives out business grants of up to $50,000 and has sponsored nearly 100 high-tech companies with growth potential. This is actually a private foundation, but their grants are open only to North Carolina businesses. There are different grants for different types of companies—such as small business grants for women-owned businesses or seed-stage businesses.
Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
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 this state.
Texas Young Farmer Grant
For residents between 18 and 46 years of age, this small business grant funds projects that support Texas’ agricultural production and community.
Local Small Business Grants
In addition to statewide government grants, cities, towns, and nonprofits finance their own small business grant programs. Continuing the trend, these usually carry smaller payloads but less competition. For local small business grants, you’ve got a substantial upper hand if you serve your community in a tangible and demonstrable way.
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 for your eco-friendly business. 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.
Cleveland Department of Economic Development
Many cities—including Cleveland, which we’ll use as an example for this section—have a number of small business grants and initiatives to foster entrepreneurship.
Job Creation Tax Abatements
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. These aren’t technically small business grants, but they put additional money in your business’s pocket that you can use to grow.
Tech Delta Grant Program
Small businesses in the tech space that create five or more jobs in the city of Cleveland can apply for this grant that awards funding on a square foot basis—$5 per square foot, up to $50,000 to expand operations or lower rent costs.
Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Big Idea Contest
Continuing the trend of encouraging research and development, this contest presents a challenge to companies in Central and Northern Pennsylvania and awards a sizable grant—$50,000 in cash, alongside seminar access, special business and financial services access, and consultation for applying for federal grant money.
Ben Franklin Innovation Partnership
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 discussed above. Though this is statewide, we’re including it under the local category because it’s actually a consolidation of microloan programs throughout the region.
In past years, this project has awarded $400,000 to cultural projects in the city of Chicago. Although 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.
Chicago Small Business Improvement Fund
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 matching grant after completing and paying for your remodeling, so be cautious—plenty of other businesses are likely competing for small business grants like these.
Miami Mom and Pop Small Business Grant
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.”
New York City Fashion Manufacturing Initiative
The FMI offers business grants to New York City fashion companies who need to purchase equipment, make upgrades, or train their employees.
New York City Job Creation and Retention Program
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.
Centers for Advanced Technology Grants in the Buffalo Niagara Region
These small business grants are given out in the Buffalo Niagara region of New York to businesses that partner with a college or university on a research and development project that helps commercialize a technology and bring it closer to market. There are 15 of these grants available across the state.
Lumpkin Foundation Grant
The Lumpkin Foundation is a private foundation, but they offer grants for small business startups in East Central Illinois. Grants are available to organizations that focus on foodservice, the local agriculture economy, and sustainable practices.
Orlando Downtown Commercial and Residential Building Improvement Program
This Orlando program provides business grants between $15,000 and $120,000 for organizations that make improvements to buildings within the downtown Orlando Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) boundaries. This program encourages the reuse of vacant or underutilized properties and hopes to improve the appearance and support the long-term viability of downtown Orlando.
Southeast Michigan Resilience Fund
Aimed at investing in stormwater infrastructure solutions and restoring the region’s unique natural areas, the Southeast Michigan Resilience Fund grant program gives out small business grants ranging from $50,000 to $300,000 for businesses working on projects that support either of these goals.
New Mexico True CoOp Program
Local townships and cities, as well as states, give tourism grants to businesses that promote travel and visitors to their area. This particular program works with small businesses to help them promote what’s uniquely New Mexican about their event or location.
Salt Lake City River District Gardens Facade Improvement Grant
Part of a local 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.
San Francisco Historic Preservation Grant
The city of San Francisco gives grants and business loans to emerging and established businesses. Grants are available to companies that are working on preserving and rehabilitating historic buildings. This could be perfect for retail, brick-and-mortar businesses.
Corporate Small Business Grants
Government grants for small businesses are great, but the requirements are often hyper-specific, or the funding amounts aren’t that large. Big corporations, on the other hand, will often provide small business grants to contest winners. For you, it’s money to grow your business. For them, it’s a PR win, netting loyal corporate customers and a lot of goodwill.
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 if you don’t win first prize.
Intuit National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Grant
Intuit, the tax preparation software company, gives small businesses a $4,000 grant in partnership with NASE. This is designed to help small businesses and freelancers take their business to the next level. Intuit usually gives out these small business grants annually.
FedEx Small Business Grant
FedEx annually awards grants of up to $25,000 to 10 small businesses, nationwide, with its small business grant contest. You can check out the past FedEx small business grant winners—and hear their words of wisdom and warning—on the FedEx site.
Etsy Maker Cities Grant
If you’re a maker of furniture, crafts, ceramics, fabrics, art, or anything else that Etsy sellers offer, then check out Etsy’s small business grant contest. Only nonprofits and educational institutions are eligible to win this contest, called Maker Cities. However, those recipients support small businesses. This is a great way to get more vintage and handmade goods into the hands of customers.
Girlboss Foundation Grant
Twice per year, the Girlboss Foundation awards $15,000 to women entrepreneurs who are pursuing businesses in design, fashion, music, or the arts. Your small business grant application will be evaluated based on creativity and innovation in the industry, business acumen, financial need, and business goals for the next year.
Visa Everywhere Initiative
Visa’s Everywhere Initiative offers grant funding for small business startups with innovative fixes—awarding $50,000 to the final three winners every year.
Nav’s Small Business Grant
Nav, the business credit monitoring company, offers a small business grant competition to help “take your business to the next level.” Nav awards three prizes: first place wins $10,000, second wins $2,000, and third wins $1,000.
Comcast Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs
This small business grant contest from Comcast is specifically for business owners who have the best plans for new and developing technology. Grand prize winners receive $20,000 and a trip to Philadelphia to meet with business innovation experts.
Walmart Grant Program
Now, this grant program doesn’t directly assist small businesses—instead, it offers grant funding to nonprofit organizations in local communities. So while you can’t apply, you should keep tabs on the program, to see how these betterment grants can impact your community.
Wells Fargo Community Investment
Offering business 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 Northwest Arkansas Grants
In addition to its local community grants, Walmart offers grant funding to businesses, again mainly nonprofits, in Northwest Arkansas who work to better the quality of life there—a place Walmart also calls home.
This philanthropic arm of Exxon Mobile focuses on grant funding for small businesses 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 a nonprofit that does.
Patagonia Grants Program
Patagonia offers grant funding for small businesses who are actively committed to protecting and preserving the environment through their work. This grant program has two deadlines per year and awards range between $10,000 and $20,000.
Kuvio Creative is a full-service web design and development company that gives back to entrepreneurs who are making a difference by providing them with small business grants and free services. Applications for the Kuvio Impact Grant open three times per year. Grant recipients will have a consultation with the Kuvio team and receive up to 100 hours of free services, such as web design and marketing, depending on the scope of the project. For-profit companies, nonprofits, women-owned companies, minority-owned businesses, and veteran-owned organizations from across sectors are welcome to apply.
Small Business Grants for Women
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 business loans to women—or other types of funding—in order to work toward fixing the gender gap and promoting equality in business. This is especially true in STEM fields, but goes beyond them as well. If you’re eligible for this type of small business grant, look into these excellent programs below.
Eileen Fisher Program
Awarding $100,000 in grant money to up to 10 recipients, this annual initiative is geared towards small businesses interested in creating environmental and social change—and, of course, companies owned and run by women.
Tory Burch Fellows Program
This competitive grant-fellows program is designed for women entrepreneurs to help them grow their businesses and get the support they need to do so. Tory Burch Fellows receive a $5,000 grant, a one-year fellowship with educational and networking opportunities, a trip to the Tory Burch offices, and more.
Cartier Women’s Initiative
This program offers grants for small businesses run by women with the goal of helping them grow and take their businesses to the next level. Twenty-one finalists are chosen in this Cartier business grant program—14 will receive $30,000 and the top seven will receive $100,000 each.
The Amber Grant
With a number of different grant initiatives for women, WomensNet’s Amber Grant program is a great place to look for assistance with your company, especially if you’re looking for grant funding for your small business startup.
Patrina Foundation Grants
The Patrina Foundation awards small business grants to not-for-profit organizations within the New York Metropolitan area and surrounding counties that work to improve the lives of girls and women—whether educational, cultural, or social.
American Association of University Women Career Development Grant
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.
Women’s Business Centers
This isn’t a direct grant provider, but rather a database of Small Business Administration-sponsored Women’s Business Centers. Some centers give out small business grants themselves, while others will simply help you find local corporations or foundations that do so. Either way, you’ll want to make sure to check yours out.
Women-Owned Small Businesses Federal Contracting Program
Although not technically a loan program, the SBA works with women-owned businesses through this program to help them compete for federal contracts. This program also works directly with federal agencies to increase their contracting opportunities for women.
Open Meadows Foundation
Open Meadows funds projects with $2,000 grants, as long as they’re designed and led by women. The projects should also aid racial, gender, and economic justice. You should note that at the time of this writing, Open Meadows is not accepting small business grant applications, but you’ll want to check back for when they reopen their programming.
The Halstead Grant
This grant funding opportunity is for small business owners who make and sell jewelry. Although open to men, women tend to be much more active in this industry. You’ll receive $7,500 in cash, $1,000 in Halstead merchandise, and a variety of social media and public relations spotlights.
Idea Cafe Grant
This program gives women $1,000 micro-grants for their small business startup. Again, men are free to apply for this grant, but most of the former winners have been women.
Small Business Grants for Minorities
In a similar vein, there are some funding opportunities out there for minority business owners. These might take the form of minority business loans, while others, like the ones below, are small business grants intended to help minority business owners overcome the unique social, political, and economic challenges they’ve historically faced or may currently face.
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, you can check with the grantor to see if they’ll make an exception. Grant seeking requires creativity, determination, and patience—so don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.
Minerals and Mining on Indian Lands
This Department of the Interiors small business grant provides funding to both tribes and individual mineral owners seeking to make use of those resources on Indian lands.
Empowered Communities for a Healthier Nation Initiative
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. These grants are gifted to various institutions instead of directly to businesses. You can see if you can snag a contracting opportunity or second-hand business grant by looking into the block grants the federal government awarded to your nearby state and local institutions.
Rural Business Enterprise Grants
Available to small businesses, the RBEG program offers funds for rural development—including, but not limited to, infrastructural development, working capital for small business startups, purchasing equipment, and real estate development. Smaller requests are actually given higher priority, and grants usually range between $10,000 and $50,000. Federally-recognized Indian tribes are among the eligible applicants.
Community Connect Grants
If you live or operate in a rural area that lacks an internet broadband speed of three megabits per second or more, and are looking to fix that, then check to see whether you’re eligible for this Department of Agriculture business grant. Indian tribes are also a major target demographic for these programs.
Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program
Though not explicitly targeted toward 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 grant funding could help out.
Minority Business Development Agency
The MBDA has regular grant competitions for minority business owners, alongside a long list of other resources for you to learn from.
First Nations Development Institute Grant
The Native Arts Capacity Building Initiative gives up to six small business 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 limited to those initiatives that support Native American artists in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
Tribal Energy Development Capacity Grant
This program gives federally recognized tribes more resources to improve the economic influence of energy development in their areas. Although this grant doesn’t provide grants directly to small businesses, look for the “trickle-down” approach of funneling this government money into your business by securing the right government contracts for your small business.
Small Business Administration 8(a) Certification Program
This program is not a grant—however, it is a federally funded initiative aimed toward helping minority-owned small businesses capture more clients and work, so we decided to include it. The SBA’s 8(a) program guarantees minority-owned businesses special government contracts that they might otherwise not have access to.
Small Business Grants for Veterans
Veteran-owned businesses are eligible to receive certain small business grants from the government, nonprofits, and some corporations as well. In particular, the SBA owns many programs dedicated to veteran business owners like VA SBA loans. These initiatives seek to give back to our troops for their service and dedication and to support their entrepreneurial contributions.
Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses Program
Similar to the 8(a) program, the SBA’s SDVOSBP isn’t a grant, but it helps veterans who own businesses get additional contracting opportunities from the government.
Small Business Administration Veteran’s Entrepreneurship Act of 2015
The SBA’s Veteran Entrepreneurship Act removes the borrower fee on Express Loans of up to $350,000 awarded to veteran-owned businesses. Although this isn’t a grant, removing the fee make SBA loans more affordable for veterans.
StreetShares Commander’s Call Veteran Business Award
This program rewards veterans or military spouses who run businesses with up to $15,000 in grant money.
USDA Veteran and Minority Farmer Grant
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.
UPS Franchise Discount
Although 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.
7-Eleven Veterans Franchising
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.
Little Caesars Veterans Program
As you’ve seen by now, if you’re a veteran looking to start your own business, franchise financing could be a worthwhile path to pursue. Little Caesars Pizza offers a set of discounts to honorably discharged veterans, including a $5,000 franchise fee discount, a $5,000 credit on 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 $20,000 franchise fee and $30,000 worth of other benefits.
Small Business Grants for Startups
Finally, many small business grants are open only to businesses that have been operating for a few years and have an established product or service, and traditional loans to start a business can be hard to find. However, it’s often the newest businesses that need the most financial assistance. Therefore, you might check out these grants for small business startups.
A Grant for Greatness
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, your annual revenue can’t be greater than $20,000.)
ActivityHero Business Grant
Co-sponsored by web hosting service GoDaddy, this grant awards cash and prizes (worth $15,000) to eight kids camp and activity providers to grow their businesses. To win, fill out an application, get three family reviews, and boost your odds with votes from customers!
4.0 Schools Fellowships
Fellowships from 4.0 Schools are designed to help business owners who have an idea to improve education in the United States. Your business idea could be a school, technology tool, retail product, or service. Business owners who are just testing the waters on their idea can get mini-grants of $600, and businesses that are further along are eligible for $10,000. The application cycle closes every September.
Jack Daniel’s Pitch Distilled
Jack Daniels hosts an annual pitch competition with the goal of inspiring entrepreneurs to surface the next big idea. Small business startups can apply and if accepted, they’ll pitch their ideas at the Pitch Distilled event to a group of business owners. The winner of this pitch contest will win a $5,000 prize, plus advice and guidance from the judges panel to help make their idea a reality.
Fundera’s Zach Grant
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 and follow us on social media. Apply today to get grant funding for your small business startup.
Best Alternatives to Small Business Grants
Small business grants have one major advantage over business loans: You don’t have to pay back a grant. A loan has to be paid back with interest, which can be tough on new businesses and businesses with cash flow struggles. This being said, qualifying for a business grant is tough, but luckily, if things don’t pan out for you on that front, there are traditional small business financing options that can work for you.
Here are some loan options to consider if you can’t qualify for a grant funding for your small business:
Microloans are loans under $50,000, and usually have low eligibility requirements and reasonable interest rates. Many of the same organizations which provide grants, such as nonprofits and government organizations, also provide microloans. So, if you don’t qualify for a small business grant, we suggest asking the organization if they provide loans.
There are multiple crowdfunding sites where your business can access funds. All you have to do is create an account, pitch your product or service, and wait for people to donate to your organization. In exchange for their money, you provide “prizes,” like a coupon or free product. If you do decide on crowdfunding, make sure to carefully read the rules of the website you choose to raise funds on because the platform usually takes a small cut of your money.
SBA loans are another alternative if you’re unable to qualify for a grant, especially a federal government grant like SBIR or STTR. The federal government guarantees SBA loans and works with banks to get these loans in the hands of small business owners. You can approach your local bank and see if they provide SBA loans, or you can apply for an SBA loan through Fundera.
Business Credit Cards
Although you might not think of business credit cards as a financing option, they can actually be a very convenient way to finance startup costs and other business expenses. Business credit cards often have high credit limits and other perks, like rewards points and introductory 0% interest rates. Just be sure to use them wisely, and try not to carry a big balance month-to-month.
The Bottom Line
As you can see from this extensive list, there are a variety of business grants available out there—and the government actually provides a significant amount of funding for small business grants. This being said, however, applying for a small business grant can be time-consuming and may not always result in funding for your business.
Nevertheless, if you can qualify for a grant, there’s no doubt that the money will help you along your business’s journey, whether you’re a startup or established business. On the other hand, if a small business grant doesn’t work out for you, don’t let that hold you back. As we’ve mentioned, there are a variety of other financing options that can work within your budget—in fact, the majority of businesses launch and grow with traditional financing.
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