Wisconsin Small Business Grants: The Top Options

Written on October 22, 2021
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There’s plenty of reasons to get a Wisconsin small business grant. Whether you’re trying to expand your business, plan renovations, or invest in a big project, a small business grant can help you get there without the same hassles that come with a small business loan. And if you live in the state of Wisconsin, land of dairy products, you’ll be pleased to know that there are several small business grants at your disposal.

In this article, we’ll look into seven different Wisconsin small business grants. We’ll also go over some tips on finding the right small business grant and gloss over some tips on preparing your grant application.

The Top 7 Wisconsin Small Business Grants

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation administers most of the following grants (WEDC). There are also some local and national grant programs that may be of interest to women business owners or businesses that don’t have the time to fill out lengthy grant proposals. With that said, please keep in mind that this list is not definitive. We advise you to look into local grants first because these tend to be easier to qualify for and have less competition.

1. Entrepreneurial Micro-Grants

Managed by the Center for Technology of Commercialization, the Entrepreneurial Micro-Grant Program helps early-stage technology businesses on their journey to receive federal grant funding. EMG primarily awards grants to three services:

  • SBIR/STTR Assistance Program: Awards up to $4,500 to small businesses that need assistance with preparing the SBIR/STTR proposal. If an applicant receives federal funding, they can receive an additional $1,000 bonus.
  • Commercialization Planning Assistance: Provides individuals and small business applicants up to $4,500 to get Phase II SBIR/STTR funding or prepare for angel and venture capital funding.
  • Entrepreneurial Training Program: Entrepreneurs who complete the start-up coursework by the SBDC at the University of Wisconsin-Extension can earn a grant of up to $750. However, applicants must provide at least a $250 match.

Applicants that would like to apply to either the SBIR/STTR Assistance Program or the Commercialization Planning Assistance must complete the online application found on the Center for Technology Commercialization. Entrepreneurs interested in the Entrepreneurial Training Program must check the Wisconsin SBDC website and check class schedules.

2. City of Superior Small Business Grants

Small businesses within the city of Superior may be qualified for a small business grant. If your business wants to invest in a project to improve the facade of your brick-and-mortar business, you can apply for a small business grant of up to $25,000 or up to 50% of the project costs. The grant can also be used to make property purchases, but restrictions apply. To qualify, your business must have a commercial storefront or be a brick-and-mortar business. You also must contribute a minimum of 10% equity toward the project.

Interested businesses can apply by downloading and completing the application form, which is just a few pages long.

3. Workforce Training Grants

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation also provides workforce training grants to develop and retain talent in Wisconsin. Businesses planning to move or expand a facility in Wisconsin so they can upgrade a product, service, or process are eligible to apply for a Workforce Training Grant. Businesses that are in retail, farming, hospitality, telemarketing, or media outlets are not eligible to apply for these grants.

Applicants must speak to a representative to learn more about the training grants.

4. SBIR/STTR Matching Grants

The SBIR/STTR Matching Grant Program is another state-sponsored program that awards a partial matching grant to businesses that received an SBIR or STTR federal grant. The SBIR/STTR Matching Grant program will award up to 50% of the federal Phase I grant or up to $100,000 for Phase II grants. Businesses can receive matching grants for both Phase I and Phase II awards.

To apply, applicants should fill out an online application at the Center of Technology Commercialization.

5. Zach Grant

Inspired by the founder of Fundera’s entrepreneurial cousin, the Fundera Zach Grant is an annual grant that awards $2,500 to one small business. The Fundera Zach Grant is a simple grant program that only asks business owners to submit a three-minute video about why they started their business. There are no minimum requirements or tedious paperwork. All they ask is that your video is creative, original, and of high quality.

To apply, simply like and follow Fundera’s Facebook and publish your video entry to your YouTube channel. You must then email your video to Fundera and post it to your social networks.

6. Amber Grant for Women

Women business owners in Wisconsin are eligible to apply for the Amber Grant. The Amber Grant is a grant award for women-owned businesses. Every month, they select one woman entrepreneur to receive a $10,000 grant. The Amber Grant is a large national grant program, which means that competition is fierce. However, the application process is significantly easier than most grant programs. To apply, all you need to do is fill out their online application form and pay a $15 fee.

Another bonus is that if you’re selected to receive a monthly grant, you automatically qualify to win the end-of-year grant, which is an additional $25,000.

7. GrantWatch

GrantWatch is not a grant program but a database of grants for small businesses, nonprofits, and individuals in Wisconsin. The site aggregates all of the latest grants every day, and you can filter through the search results. Not all of the grants on GrantWatch are specifically for small businesses, but it is a reliable source for new, local grants.

How to Find the Right Small Business Grant For Your Business

As you navigate all of the possible small business grants, it can be hard to narrow down your options. Note that applying to state and federal grants is usually much more challenging, as they require more documents than local or regional grant programs.

Here are some tips to help you find the right Wisconsin small business grant:

1. Write a strong grant application

Writing a small business grant application is very important. You will need to spend at least a few months, if not a few weeks, to write your grant application. Try not to procrastinate on your grant application. It can be hard to juggle business responsibilities along with the grant application, so set aside a few hours each day. To write a robust grant application, we recommend taking a few grant classes or hiring a consultant who can help incorporate feedback into your application.

2. Look out for grant scams

Grant scams are incredibly rampant. To prevent yourself from falling into grant scams, we recommend looking at reputable grant programs only. Do not trust any grant program that requires you to submit your personal banking information or any other sensitive information, such as your SSN. If you believe that you’ve been scammed, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission immediately.

Other Funding Resources

Of course, aside from small business grants, there are plenty of other financing options available. If you’re concerned about the expense of taking on a small business loan, SBA Loans and microloans are an affordable option. There are also plenty of online small business loans, which are great for businesses that need quick funding and don’t want the hassle of a lengthy application process.

There are also plenty of CDFIs, or Community Development Financial Institutions, that offer small business financing to businesses in underserved areas or businesses that have trouble securing funds from traditional lenders.

The Bottom Line

Finding the best Wisconsin small business grant is a long journey. In addition to sourcing the latest grant programs, you’ll also be spending your time filling out grant applications and waiting for results. With that said, grants can be a great way to help your business without incurring the cost of a high-interest loan. Keep in mind that, even if you aren’t able to secure a grant, you can seek business financing elsewhere.