Money to start your business—could anything be better? That’s what a grant could do for your startup. And while small business owners may dream of receiving grants to fund their startup, they may not be as plentiful or easy to get as you may think. However, if you know where to look and how to apply, you might be successful in securing free money for your business.
Before you invest any time and energy in finding and applying for a small business grant for your startup, it’s important to understand what criteria these grants look for, and decide whether or not your particular business or industry qualifies.
What Is a Startup Small Business Grant?
A startup small business grant is monetary funding from the government or an organization that is given in order to help small companies and nonprofits succeed in building and growing their business. Unlike loans, you don’t have to pay this money back. There’s no collateral that you’re required to put up, and you won’t need to pay fees or interest. The best part about grants is that the money is yours to keep, and you’ll never have to pay it back after using it for your startup.
While grant money is awarded to you, it may come with rules that dictate how you can spend it. For example, let’s say you apply for a grant that is to be used to advance the technology in your business so that you and your team can work faster and produce more of your product. If you were to use that money to pay your team instead of to buy new technology and equipment, you may have to pay the funds back. You may be guilty of fraud, too, which could cause legal issues for you and your business.
If you do receive a small business startup grant, it’s imperative that you meet the funder’s accounting and reporting guidelines and that you spend the money on what the grant covers and nothing else.
Who Qualifies for a Startup Small Business Grant?
In general, government startup small business grants aren’t available for starting a business, paying off debt, or covering operational expenses. And unless your business is a nonprofit or is launching a project related to areas such as technology, medical research, or education, government grants may be hard to find. That being said, there are startup small business grants available for specific business types and owners, including:
- Green businesses
- Rural businesses
- Women, veteran, or minority-owned businesses
- Nonprofit organizations
Unfortunately, typing “startup small business grants” into your search engine won’t necessarily provide you with an up-to-date or complete list of available grants organized by business type. However, you may be able to find grants for your small business by visiting specific websites and organizations, such as these listed below.
- Small Business Development Centers
- USDA Rural Business Development Grants
- National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE)
- FedEx Small Business Grant Contest
- Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)
- Asian Women Giving Circle
How to Apply for a Small Business Grant for Your Startup
Although startup small business grants may be difficult to obtain, there are things that you can do to increase your chances. Once you find the grant that you think is best for your business, gather everything you need to know before applying. Understand what’s required in the application, when it’s due, and anything else that may be needed.
A grant application could take weeks to fill out and submit.
A grant application might require an outline of your proposed work and financial data on your organization. Don’t be afraid to consult other experts such as your accountant or any team members who may be able to help with the application, too. Whatever you do, just be sure to follow the parameters of the grant application and don’t leave anything out. Otherwise, you might not be considered.
Look for workshops or conferences that you can attend to learn more about the entire grant process. These events may connect you with grant writers and funders, which could give you the chance to make a good impression before even submitting an application.
The Bottom Line
Grants for small business can be hot commodities. Even if you do your research, find available grants, and decide to apply, you might find that the application process isn’t a good fit for you or your business. If you’re feeling intimidated by the application, consider bringing in another party to help you fill it out. Grant-writing classes, conferences, and workshops may be able to help, too. Another option might be to hire an experienced grant writer to develop your startup business grant proposals for you. No matter how you approach the process, the rewards are there for small business owners who put in the time and energy to submit a complete and compelling grant proposal.