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Small Business Grants: 105 Ways to Get Free Money for Your Business

Priyanka Prakash

Staff Writer at Fundera
Priyanka is a staff writer at Fundera, reporting on business financing, law, and news. Previously managing editor at Fit Small Business, she's also a licensed attorney who served as general counsel at a Y Combinator tech startup. She loves helping entrepreneurs launch, run, and grow their businesses.

“Free money.” If you’re starting or running a business, nothing 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.

To help out, we’ve compiled a list of 105 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.

Small Business Grants: Federal

Although there are plenty of federal small business grants, 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.

Sometimes, grant winners receive the funding directly from the federal government. However, in most cases, the federal government just determines eligibility but doles out grant money to state and local governments. States and localities then distribute the funds to small businesses.

Here are the top federal small business grants:

  1. Small Business Innovation Research Program

The SBIR encourages small businesses engaged in research and development that has 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 grants of up to $1 million.

  1. 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 in this program, setting aside a bit of their budget to work with small businesses. As with the SBIR grants, these 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.

  1. National Science Foundation

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.

  1. NASA

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 or efficient ways of building spacecrafts. 3, 2, 1, lift-off.

  1. National Institutes of Health

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.

  1. Department of Energy

The Energy Department’s Office of Science also participates in these two small business grants. Topics include environmental science, clean energy, and material science. Check out their hour-long program overview webinar for more details.

  1. 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.

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.

  1. National Institute of Food & Agriculture

This branch of the Department of Agriculture supports research and development in the agricultural field specifically. Topics include forestry, food science and nutrition, aquacultural, biofuel products, animal protection, and more.

  1. National Institute of Standards & 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. Note that it also deals with energy, healthcare, and others—you’re free to apply to some or all of these departments if you qualify for the SBIR!

  1. Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA rewards businesses looking to advance green technology and sustainable scientific developments.

  1. 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 make sure to check their updated topic listings before you apply.

  1. Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security provides grants to small businesses that work in the areas of border and maritime security, chemical and biological defense, cyber security, explosives, or first responder group technology.

  1. 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.

  1. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

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 some specific grants to 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 important. Still, make sure to search yourself, especially if your small business is involved in agriculture, public health, or sustainable development! These offerings update regularly.

  1. 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 it with a USDA loan guaranty as well, and together they’ll back up to 75% of your eligible project costs.

  1. Value Added Producer Grant

If you’re an agricultural producer, the VAPG program could help with you with working capital expenses, ranging from processing, to marketing and advertising, to inventory and salary expenses.

  1. 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 grants are an option if your company provides education or health services through telecommunications. Awards range from $50,000 to $500,000.

  1. 3D Elevation Grant

The Department of the Interior is offering a grant to 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 grant for design and technology firms.

  1. CyberTipline Grant

This grant program, run by the Department of Homeland Security, offers money to small businesses that provide services and programs that help prevent sex trafficking and exploitation of children.

  1. Recovery Challenge Grant

The Fish and Wildlife Service, a branch of the Department of the Interior, makes the Recovery Challenge grant to researchers and small businesses that are taking actionable steps to help prevent endangerment and reintroduce endangered species into their natural habitats. Awards go up to $3 million.

Federal government business grants

Small Business Grants: State

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 grants your own state and industry by looking at your state’s department of commerce website or grants portal. Grants.gov is primarily for federal grant search. Below, we list some popular states.

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!

  1. Arizona Commerce Authority

The Arizona Commerce Authority is a great resource for small business owners in AZ. Check back throughout the year for new competitions and grant options. The Arizona Step Grant is a popular program, which offers money to small businesses that are exporting products or expanding into international markets.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 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.

  1. DC Small and Local Business Grant

The DC 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 & Opportunities site. They tend to offer the most grants to retail businesses that are revitalizing downtown neighborhoods.

  1. 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 make sure you double-check what you need to do to apply! In Idaho, these grants are primarily for businesses that want to enter international markets.

  1. Illinois Recycling Expansion and Modernization Program

Sustainability-driven small 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 the government’s—budget well in advance if you’re aiming for this opportunity.

  1. 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 which are rehabilitating downtown buildings. You can see the latest opportunities on Iowa’s grants portal.

  1. Kansas Job Creation Fund

Kansas’s 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.

  1. 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. 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. There are also disaster recovery grants to businesses that are were affected by hurricanes.

  1. Maryland Child Care Quality Incentive Grant Program

The Maryland Division of Early Childhood Development recently reopened its CCQIG program for local childcare facilities. The grant is awarded quarterly.

  1. ExportMD Program

For those especially enterprising small businesses: if you’re looking to market internationally, then this program could help you cut down on costs.

  1. Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority & 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, so don’t miss it. Priority funding areas and industries vary with each grant cycle, so keep an eye out for updates.

  1. 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.

  1. Minnesota REETAIN

REETAIN, or Retaining Early Educators Through Attaining Incentives Now, offers small grants to child care professionals in Minnesota. If you’re a child care professional in Minnesota, this could be that extra cash you need to help defray costs.

  1. 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 grant could work well for you.

  1. 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, so you’ll need to put up half of the cash.

  1. 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.

  1. Nebraska Child Care Grant

For child care homes and centers, this program offers a number of smaller grants for you to apply to.

  1. New York City Commute Enhancement Grant

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.

  1. North Carolina Recycling Business Development Grants

The Recycling Business Assistance Center aims to encourage sustainability and reduce waste with this yearly grant program.

  1. North Carolina IDEA

Looking for startup grants? NC IDEA gives out 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 women-owned businesses or seed-stage businesses.

  1. Tennessee Department of Economic & 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 the right place.

  1. Texas Young Farmer Grant

For residents between 18 and 46 years of age, this grant funds projects that support Texas’ agricultural production and community.

local-small-buisness-grants

Small Business Grants: Local

In addition to statewide 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 service 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 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.

  1. Cleveland Department of Economic Development

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.

  1. 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.

  1. Green Technology Business Grant Program

Environmental sustainability initiatives exist at every level of the government, so consider going green to save with your small business.

  1. Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Big Idea Contest

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.

  1. 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 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.

  1. Chicago IncentOvate

In past years, this project has awarded $400,000 to 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Miami Mom & 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.”

  1. New York City Fashion Manufacturing Initiative

The FMI offers grants to New York City fashion companies who need to purchase equipment, make upgrades, or train their employees.

  1. 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.

  1. Seed Chicago

Seed Chicago is a crowdfunding platform specifically for Chicago-based businesses. This is technically not a small business grant, but crowdfunding is money which comes from many different community backers. In most cases, you don’t have to pay back the money.

  1. Lumpkin Foundation Grant

The Lumpkin Foundation is a private foundation, but they provide grants to organizations in East Central Illinois. Grants are available to businesses that focus on food service, the local agriculture economy, and sustainable practices.

  1. Orlando Downtown Facade & Building Stabilization Program

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.

  1. Detroit NEIdeas Grants

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.

  1. Roseburg, Oregon Tourism Grant

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.

  1. 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—who’s going to turn down free cash?

  1. San Francisco Historic Preservation Grant

The city of San Francisco gives grants and business loans for 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.

walmart grant

Small Business Grants: Corporate

Government grants are great, but the requirements are often hyper-specific, or the funding amounts aren’t that large. Big corporations 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 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.

  1. 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. Although the application period ended last year, Intuit usually gives out small business grants annually.

  1. FedEx Small Business Grant

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.

  1. 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 their small business grant contest. Called Maker Cities, only non-profits and educational institutions are eligible. However, those recipients support small business. This is a great way to get more vintage and handmade goods into the hands of customers.

  1. Chase Mission Main Street Grants

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.

  1. Visa Everywhere Initiative

Visa’s Everywhere Initiative looks for startups with innovative fixes and offered $50,000 to the final three winners.

  1. Marriott International’s Canvas

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.

  1. Miller Lite Tap the Future

This business pitch competition offers $200,000, plus seminars and additional resources, to startups.

  1. Sam’s Club Grant Program

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.

  1. Wells Fargo Community Investment

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.

  1. Walmart Foundation

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.

  1. ExxonMobile Foundation

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.

  1. Coca-Cola Foundation

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.

  1. National Association for the Self-Employed

NASE offers small business grants of up to $5,000. Just register and see if you’re eligible! Some of these grants, mentioned above, are in conjunction with Intuit.

  1. LendingTree

2017 was 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!

grants for women

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 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Zions Bank Smart Women Grants

Zions Bank offers $18,000 across six categories, including child and elder care, arts and culture, and teacher support.

  1. Walmart Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative

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. Although a lot of this money goes to overseas businesses, some is reserved for women-owned businesses in the US.

  1. 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 business, especially at an early stage.

  1. Huggies MomInspired

This initiative provides up to $15,000 grants to 12 “mompreneurs,” alongside business counsel and networking opportunities.

  1. 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.

  1. 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, make sure to check yours out.

  1. InnovateHER Women Business Challenge

Co-hosted by the SBA, this competition offers $70,000 in grant money across its first, second, and third prize winners. It’s one part of the InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Summit.

  1. 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.

  1. The Halstead Grant

This funding opportunity is for 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, 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!

  1. Idea Cafe Grant

This program gives women $1,000 micro-grants to start or grow a business. Again, men are free to apply for this grant, but most of the former winners have been women.

grants for minorities

Small Business Grants for Minorities

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 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.

  1. Minerals and Mining on Indian Lands

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.

  1. 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.

  1. POWER

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.

  1. Rural Business Enterprise Grants

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. Federally recognized Indian tribes are among the eligible applicants.

  1. Community Connect Grants

If you live or operate in a rural area that lacks 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. Indian tribes are also a major target demographic for these programs.

  1. Water & Waste Disposal Loan & Grant Program

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.

  1. 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.

  1. First Nations Development Institute Grant

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 limited to those initiatives that support Native American artists in Minnesota, North Dakota, south Dakota, and Wisconsin.

  1. Tribal Energy Development Capacity Grant

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.

  1. Small Business Administration 8(a) Certification Program

This program is 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 guarantees minority-owned businesses special government contracts that they might otherwise not have access to.

Veteran small business grants

Small Business Grants for Veterans

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. UPS Franchise Discount

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.

  1. 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.

  1. Little Caesars Veterans Program

As you’ve seen by now, if you’re a veteran looking to start your own business, franchising 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, 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.

The Ohio-based restaurant chain Fusian inspired Fundera.

Small Business Grants for Startups

Many small business grants are open only to businesses that have been operating for a few years and have an established product or service. However, it’s often the newest businesses that need the most financial assistance. Here are a few grants to start a business.

  1. 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, annual revenue  can’t be greater than $20,000).

  1. ActivityHero Business Grant

Co-sponsored by web hosting service GoDaddy, this grant awards cash and prizes (worth $15,000) to 9 Kid’s Camp and Activity Providers to grow their businesses. To win, fill out an application, get 3 family reviews, and boost your odds with votes from customers!

  1. 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, follow us on social media, and… That’s all! Apply today to get that easy capital.

Entrepreneurs Who Received Small Business Grants

Here are some entrepreneurs, representing a range of industries, who received grants for their small businesses.

Nancy Min, Founder, ecoLong

EcoLong LLC is an environmental science and renewable energy high-tech company based in Albany, New York. Our mission is to drive innovation and investment in the clean energy economy and empower consumers. I was awarded a $150,000 SBIR grant for Phase I funding from the US Department of Energy.

The funding is enabling us to develop a revolutionary, peer to peer transactive energy platform. Using blockchain technology, this platform enables consumers, prosumers (those that both produce and consume energy), and energy producers to trade and share energy, contributing to the clean energy future.

Priska Diaz, Founder, Bittylab

“Last year we received a grant due to winning a pitch competition. The grant amount was for $10,000, issued by 1010 WINS CBS RADIO and sponsor Canon MAXIFY Printers in NYC. We used this grant to implement a marketing campaign to propagate education about Bare’s Technology, usage, and proven healthy benefits.

Bittylab is a baby product manufacturer based in Westchester, NY. I am the founder, CEO and mom inventor of the innovative Bare® Air-free feeding system, a healthier alternative to traditional baby bottles. Bare helps initiate, reinstate, and extend breastfeeding while supplementing.”

 Guy E. Clarke II, Co-founder, Food Idea Group

“We received a $15,000 grant from our local government tourism department, the Collier Visitor Bureau in Bonita Springs, Florida. We used the money to promote our Sizzle Southwest Florida Restaurant Week event to people who live in cities surrounding ours. We mainly purchased radio air time.

The goal of Restaurant Week is to encourage people to visit the best local restaurants during a normally slow time of year and help expose the people of Collier, Lee, and the surrounding counties to our amazing SWFL restaurants!”

Hope King, Founder, Black-Tie Babysitting

“I received a small business grant from Women Involved in Nurturing, Giving, Sharing, Inc. (WINGS), a non-profit based in Dallas, TX.  It was a matching grant, so they matched me 2: 1 for every dollar, up to $2,000.

I own an event special occasion babysitting company and used the money to buy nursery pagers and create a promotional video.  Additionally, I used the money to purchase toy inventory and pay for marketing.  After receiving the grant four years ago, I am still reaping the benefits!”

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. That said, qualifying for a grant is tough, and if things don’t pan out for you on that front, there are traditional financing options which can work for you.

Here are some loan options to consider if you can’t qualify for a grant:

Microloans

Microloans are loans under $50,000, and usually have easy eligibility requirements and reasonable interest rates. Many of the same organizations which provide grants, such nonprofits and government organizations, also provide microloans. So if you don’t qualify for a grant, we suggest asking the organization if they provide loans.

Crowdfunding

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 crowdfunding, make sure to carefully read the rules because the platform usually takes a small cut of your money.

SBA Loans

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.

Small Business Grants Are a Great Option, But There Are Alternatives

Small business grants mean free money in your pocket, so if you’re able to qualify for one, congratulations! The grant will help you along your business’s journey. There are grants for startups, as well as established companies, but if a grant doesn’t work out for you, don’t let that hold you back. Other financing options can work within your budget. The majority of businesses launch and grow with traditional financing.

Our grant list is constantly growing, so check back soon. Did we miss any small business grants? Send an email to content@fundera.com to let us know!

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Priyanka Prakash

Staff Writer at Fundera
Priyanka is a staff writer at Fundera, reporting on business financing, law, and news. Previously managing editor at Fit Small Business, she's also a licensed attorney who served as general counsel at a Y Combinator tech startup. She loves helping entrepreneurs launch, run, and grow their businesses.

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