Small business owners often ask if they can obtain a grant for their business. The great news is you can. Small business grants range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. Each grant has its own guidelines, requirements, and purposes.
Getting a grant doesn’t happen overnight. The grant application process can take several months, and you will encounter many other companies competing for the money. Nonetheless, getting a grant award can be just the boost your business needs. One of the best aspects of getting a grant, as opposed to a business loan, is that grant money does not need to be repaid.
Because the competition is stiff, it’s wise to research and apply to as many relevant grant programs as possible. Before embarking on the grant application path, let’s look at the kinds of grants available for small businesses.
Four Sources for Small Business Grants
There are four primary general sources of small business grants and I’ll touch on each below.
1. Federal Grants
The U.S. government offers federal grants to support specific startups, encourage employment for innovative research and development, and help businesses expand into new markets.
To determine which federal grants your small business may be eligible for, start at the Small Business Administration (SBA). Although the SBA does not provide general grants for starting and expanding a business, it does offer a few specific grant programs.
- State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) provides financial awards to state and territory governments to help small businesses with export development. Through awards to U.S. states and territories, STEP provides grants for small businesses to learn to export, participate in foreign trade missions, design international marketing campaigns, and more.
- Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs support scientific excellence and technological innovation through the investment of Federal research funds in critical American priorities to build a strong national economy. If your small business engages in scientific research and development, you may qualify for federal grants under SBIR and STTR.
- SBA 7(j) Management and Technical Assistance Program, or the 7(j) program, is available to help small businesses receive training, executive education, and one-on-one consulting to encourage eligible business owners to compete for federal, state, and local contracting opportunities. To qualify for the 7(j) program, a small business must be one (or more) of the following:
- Located in areas of high unemployment or low income
- Owned by low-income individuals
- Certified as an 8(a) participant, HUBZone small business, or economically- disadvantaged women-owned small business
Another place to find federal grants is Grants.gov, an extensive database of all federal grants, including those available for small business owners.
2. State Grants
State governments also offer grants to small businesses operating within their states. Check with your state government to learn about the requirements and amount of funding available for startup costs, job creation, and expansion. The online portal USgrants.org is also a good resource for state-funded small business grants.
3. Local Grants
Local governments, including cities and counties, also offer grants to small businesses. These are typically for specific business activities, such as creating jobs in low-income areas or renovating due to vandalism or natural disaster. Again, check with your local government to find out what’s available in your area.
4. Corporate Grants
Many large corporations offer small business grants in their communities, regions, and nationwide as part of their social responsibility programs or to collaborate on new and innovative products or services. Each grant program has its own criteria, so make sure your business meets the requirements before applying.
Grants for Specific Small Businesses
Depending on your business’s industry, ownership, and needs, your business may be eligible for other types of grants. For example, does your company sell specialty crops? The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program offers grants to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, such as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and nursery crops (including floriculture).
Are you a minority-owned business, women-owned, or veteran-owned? Thousands of grants are available to disadvantaged small businesses if you take the time to do the research.
In addition to the resources noted above, here are a few additional ones for small business grants to help get you started:
- IdeaCafe Grant is a small business grant for $1,000 that is available for anyone who owns a business or plans to start one.
- GrantsforWomen.org is a database of grant opportunities for women business owners across various industries. The grant amounts will vary.
- Visa Everywhere Initiative is a program for tech startups focused on products delivering innovative payment and commerce solutions to consumers and businesses. These funding amounts range between $10,000 and $50,000.
- FedEx Small Business Grant is a FedEx grant contest that runs annually. In this program, 10 winners will receive $30,000 and a $1,000 print credit at FedEx Office.
- Comcast RISE is a program that runs from June 1 through June 30, 2023. Small businesses in Baltimore, Detroit, Memphis, Philadelphia, and Portland, Oregon, are eligible to receive a grant package that includes business consultation services, educational resources, a $5,000 monetary grant, creative production, media schedule, and a technology makeover.
- Military Entrepreneur Challenge is open to veterans, military spouses, and Gold Star family entrepreneurs. The grant amounts will vary.
- Coalition to Back Black Businesses, along with its founding partner American Express, provides $5,000 in financial assistance and long-term support for black-owned small businesses.
Finding Grant Opportunities
Search grant databases, such as GrantWatch, an online hub of over 26,000 grants in the United States and Canada, to find available grants in your industry. You can easily search for funding opportunities by filtering your specifications.
Getting a grant is not necessarily easy. It’s competitive, and the process can be a little complex. But it’s worth the effort, especially if you secure funding.