Those seeking funding for their small business have the debt-free option of applying for startup business grants or small business grants. These grants are typically awarded by government entities, private organizations or corporations and, unlike loans, are not expected to be paid back. There are incentives for these companies and organizations to award these grants, as the new businesses could create economic growth or support a certain cause/research topic (like social or environmental) that one of these entities is interested in.
These grants are highly competitive and have very specific requirements that must be met before they are awarded. Most likely, applicants will need to prepare by verifying the eligibility criteria, funding amount, application deadlines and any restrictions of a grant that their business aligns with. Also, ensuring the applicant’s business is specific enough to the grant’s requirements is very important. Doing so ensures the applicant has a better chance of being awarded the grant, making the most of their time.
The criteria of the requirements businesses are looking for are usually related to the business size, industry, location or target demographic. Other necessary documents such as financial statements, legal documents, business registrations, business plans, applicant information and other materials may be required for the application.
Types Of Grants
Different types of grants include those from federal, state or local entities, as well as grants from the private sector. Some grants from federal governments do not go straight from that government to the small business. These funds may be sent to different entities like local or state governments, non-profit organizations or schools of higher education to be awarded locally.
The following is a list of startup business grants that may be helpful to aspiring entrepreneurs. Remember, grants are free money that do not have to be paid back. Though a small-business loan may seem more expedient in the moment, it comes with interest rate strings attached. This list may be the best starting place to researching startup business grants and getting a solid cash injection to make your paper napkin dream a reality.
Government Startup Business Grants
Various government grants can cover financing needs across startup stages – from early research funding to expansive venture support. Federal options like SBA and USDA initiatives facilitate upwards of $500K towards accelerators, commercialization partnerships, and rural development. Additional local programs also promote urban entrepreneurship through micro-funding or resource development. Understanding available public funding fitting strategic objectives allows startups to tap into non-diluting capital supporting early capability advancement unfundable otherwise.
Grants.gov is an official United States government website that provides access to and information on various federal, state and local government grants. Those seeking startup business grants can search through specific criteria on the site. Here are some of the participating federal organizations:
AmeriCorps grants typically focus on areas such as education, disaster response, environmental conservation, public health and economic opportunity. AmeriCorps stated that it provides more than $800 million in financial and human resources grants every year. These grants are said to provide resources and people power in the form of members and volunteers for organizations that are trying to make a positive impact across the country. Apply to one of these grants today to receive funding from the many organizations AmeriCorps partners with.
The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) does not provide grants directly, but it serves as a valuable resource hub, connecting entrepreneurs to various opportunities that can aid in business development and success. It does so by offering support and resources to help minority-owned businesses access opportunities for growth, innovation and success in the marketplace. MBDA’s primary goal is to foster the growth and competitiveness of minority-owned businesses by providing resources, guidance, and support. Visit its website to learn more or to apply. Also find similar grants through the US Department of Commerce.
SBIR and STTR
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs provide competitive grants to small businesses involved in research and development in areas aligned with federal agency priorities. Visit the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to apply and for similar grant opportunities.
OSERS and OSEP
The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) are part of the U.S. Department of Education and oversee programs and grants aimed at improving educational and transitional outcomes for individuals with disabilities. These offices administer grants that support various initiatives related to special education, vocational rehabilitation and services for people with disabilities. The grants provided by OSERS and OSEP support a wide range of programs, services, research and innovations in the field of special education and rehabilitation.
Private Company/Organization Startup Business Grants
These grants are provided by private entities, such as corporations, foundations or non-profit organizations. The funding may come from corporate philanthropy, social responsibility initiatives or specific business goals. While private grants still have accountability measures, they may provide more flexibility in terms of fund utilization. Private entities may also be more interested in the success of the funded project and may offer additional support beyond just financial assistance.
The Amber Grant
The Amber Grant is a small business grant specifically designed to support women entrepreneurs in the United States. It’s not a large-scale grant but rather a smaller, monthly grant given to a woman-owned business to help with various business needs. The Amber Grant was founded by WomensNet, an organization dedicated to helping women achieve their entrepreneurial dreams. Each month, they award a $10,000 grant (sometimes divided among multiple recipients) to a woman-owned business of each offered category. This grant is meant to assist in starting a new business or supporting an existing one. A $25,000 Annual Amber Grant is also available.
The FedEx® Small Business Grant Contest
The FedEx® Small Business Grant Contest is an annual competition hosted by FedEx to support and recognize small businesses in the United States. It’s aimed at helping small businesses grow and succeed by offering grant money, along with visibility and networking opportunities. Each year, FedEx awards grants to several small businesses based on their business plans, achievements, and potential for growth. The grants can vary in amount, and recipients can receive financial support to help expand their business operations, invest in technology, marketing, equipment, or other areas crucial for growth. The contest is over for 2023, but it is still worth checking out with the start of 2024 approaching soon.
NASE Growth Grants Program
The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants Program is an initiative aimed at providing financial assistance to help self-employed business owners and entrepreneurs grow their businesses. NASE, a non-profit organization, offers these grants to support small businesses and freelancers in various stages of development. The NASE Growth Grants Program typically provides small grants to assist with specific business needs or projects that contribute to business growth. These grants might cover expenses related to marketing, equipment purchase, hiring additional staff, technology upgrades, professional development, or other business-enhancing activities.
Operation HOPE is a non-profit organization focused on financial literacy, economic empowerment, and providing financial tools and resources to underserved communities. The Small Business Empowerment Program offered by Operation HOPE aims to support aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, by providing education, guidance and access to resources.
The Military Entrepreneur Challenge
The Military Entrepreneur Challenge is an initiative or competition specifically designed to support and empower military veterans who are aspiring entrepreneurs or business owners. These challenges are often organized by various organizations, businesses, or foundations to provide resources, mentorship, funding, and networking opportunities to veterans looking to start or grow their businesses. These challenges are aimed at leveraging the unique skills, discipline, leadership, and determination that veterans acquired during their military service and applying these qualities to entrepreneurship. The challenges seek to ease the transition to civilian life by providing tailored support and resources for veterans pursuing their entrepreneurial goals.