Business Grants – a Realistic Assessment

We commonly field inquiries from entrepreneurs looking for grant funding to start a business.  The reality is that there are very few grants available to start a business.   If you are looking for funding assistance to start a business, we suggest that you contact your local Small Business Development Center.  The SBDC is a service provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA), and they will be able to tell you about different funding options as well as which industries are more or less likely to receive funding.  The SBA website also offers a wealth of useful information.

Small bussiness owners can also look to the FedEx Opportunity Knocks program. This program awards grants to 10 U.S.-based entrepreneurs and small businesses across the country. The top winner will receive a $25,000 grant. There is also a $15,000 grant award as well as seven $7,500 awards.

Minority business funding opportunities are important enough that the federal government has established the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). Their page on Grants and Loan information has several useful references. There is also a separate organization for women, the Women's Business Development Center, that offers resources for women business owners.

The GIRLBOSS Foundation aims to help women entrepreneurs. This company awards a grant biannually to female entrepreneurs. Grants are available to women in the creative business world of design, fashion, music, and the arts. Only U.S. women over the age of 18 are eligible to apply. Each award winner will receive funding of $15,000.

Additionally, The National Association for the Self-Employed offers a $4,000 grant award to NASE members. These small business grants must be used for financing a particular small business need. Applications are reviewed quarterly in April, July, October, and December.

There are some federal grants available to support businesses that are already established, but they are available in only a few very specific areas.  The federal government’s Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program is one such grant program, and it provides grant funding to innovative businesses for technology research and development.  The following federal departments have SBIR competitions:

  • Department of Agriculture

  • Department of Commerce, which includes the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

  • Department of Defense

  • Department of Education

  • Department of Energy

  • Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the National Institute of Health and the Center for Disease Control

  • Department of Homeland Security

  • Department of Transportation

  • Environmental Protection Agency

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  • National Science Foundation has helped small, hi-technology companies received millions of dollars in SBIR grants.  If you are interested in learning more, we would love to speak with you.

Some foundations fund certain types of business efforts.  For-profit businesses with an emphasis on education, the environment, or social causes may find funding from independent foundations.  However, foundations generally prefer to fund schools, municipal agencies, public agencies, and other nonprofit organizations.  Furthermore, foundations tend to fund special efforts rather than startup or ongoing operational expenses.

Occasionally, local governments will receive funding to spur economic development, and they may deem to provide those funds to local businesses through a grant program.  To find out if your community has a program running, you should contact your local Chamber of Commerce and your local Economic Development Corporation.  In addition to notifying you about any relevant grant programs, they can also tell you about any business incentive programs your community might be participating in.

Online development websites, such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo, may be another option for business funding.  These websites allow you to market your idea and solicit donations for your business.

Our Role works primarily to provide grant research, grant writing, and grant management support to nonprofit organizations, municipalities and local governments, schools and educational entities, and businesses eligible for SBIR funding.  If you’re an entrepreneur going for profits, your best bet would be to talk to other small business owners, contact your local SBDC, and review the SBA website for more information.  If your business has found a possible funding opportunity, we can help with the strategic approach and the proposal development.