You know the phrase “there’s no free lunch.” In fact, you can receive small business grants, which require no repayment. However, you will need to invest time into searching many websites and following out-of-date links before finding the right grant that meets your needs.
What is a grant?
A grant is financing that does not require repayment by one party to the other. Grants are frequently offered by philanthropic organizations or government agencies in order to finance a specific project by an individual, educational institution, non-profit organization, or for-profit organization.
By finding, applying for, and winning grants, you or your small business can get appropriate funding in support of your project or organization. Each new grant will require different processes and separate applications. However, if you keep your information together and available in an organized manner, each new application should go more smoothly.
To make that process of finding free money a little easier, here is a list of several federal, state, and specialty websites that offer resources or grants for small businesses.
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Federal government small business grants
The federal government is a large distributor of grants to support an array of SMEs from child care services to start-ups. The application process can be complex, but federal government grants represent an excellent opportunity for small business owners who want to grow their operations.
USA.gov: This site doesn’t offer federal grants. However, it is an extensive resource for SMEs, including a link to GovLoans, which offers information on federal loans for businesses. It is a good place to start while continuing to look for grants.
Grants.gov: This site is a comprehensive database of grants offered by an array of government agencies. You can get additional information about available grants, eligibility requirements, and the application process using the links on the site.
Small Business Technology Transfer and Small Business Innovation Research programs: The STTR and SBIR are grant programs for research and development. They specifically make grants for scientific research and technology innovation. The programs work to connect SMEs with research centers and universities, and they offer contracts and grants from 12 different government agencies. Qualifying requirements include a for-profit business, a maximum of 500 employees, and other requirements.
State and local small business grants
Small Business Development Centers: The SBDC offers assistance for small businesses and entrepreneurs. They are frequently connected with local universities or a state’s economic development agency. The SBDC can also help connect you with other financing options, mentors, and networking opportunities.
Economic Development Administration: The U.S. Department of Commerce maintains this agency as a source for grants and technical assistance in an effort to promote and encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. Each state has a website to find financing.
Specialty small business grants
In an effort to offer financial assistance across an array of demographics, many organizations will target specific groups. Here are some resources for women, veterans, and minorities:
- National Association for the Self-Employed
- Fedex Small Business Grant
- Eileen Fisher Women Owned Business Grant
- Women’s Business Center
- The Girlboss Foundation Grant
- Veterans Business Outreach Center Program
- Boots to Business
- Institute for Veterans and Military Families
- Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan
- Patriot Boot Camp
- Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Program
- The StreetShares Foundation
- Veteran Entrepreneur Portal
- Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship
- The USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program
- National Association for the Self-Employed
- Minority Business Development Agency
- National Minority Supplier Development Council
- Operation Hope Small Business Empowerment Program
Writing your grant applications
Almost all grants will require that you submit a grant proposal. This should very clearly supply details of how you meet the grant’s requirements, your budget, and how you intend to use the grant money. In general, your application should include the following information:
- Information on how you meet all of the requirements of the grant.
- A well written and comprehensive document that argues persuasively about the worth of your project
- Adhere to all formatting requirements, such as page limits and font specifications. Do not deviate from these requirements.
- Include as attachments all documents that are required and support your grant application. This may include a business plan and tax documents.
Writing a business plan to support your grant application
Many grant applications will ask for a business plan. This will be necessary if you apply for business loans as well. A comprehensive, detailed plan offers a definitive road map for the future. It also ensures that you have thought through your idea, its validity, and establishes that you understand your business’s competition and financials.
Your business plan should look out across the next three to five years, explain in detail what your objectives are, and exactly how you plan to achieve those objectives. A business plan shows that you are not acting on a whim, but that you have fully prepared and vetted your specific business idea.
You will also need to include a financial forecast. For loans, this shows how you will repay the loan. For grants, this will show that you are prepared to use the funding in a responsible manner.
You can find step-by-step guides to writing business plans online. In general, your business plan should include:
- Executive summary
- Company description
- Objective statement
- Business and management structure
- Products and/or services
- Marketing and sales plan
- Business financial analysis
- Financial projections
The resources listed above are a great starting point for locating grant money. If you invest the time and effort, you could have free money coming in soon. And once you get your business up and running, check out Homebase’s free team management software.