Small business grants allow entrepreneurs to get additional money to be put back into the business without getting a loan.
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Anyone who owns a business knows it isn’t all peachy.
Setting it up is one thing, but expanding your business often requires additional investment, more employees, extra money for advertising, and other unplanned expenses.
If you launched a business with very minimal capital, such as blogging for business, affiliate marketing or other online businesses, then you’re lucky.
But for the thousands of other business owners, looking for funding often leads to getting loans, which doesn’t always end up as a ladder for improvement. Getting business loans has a 50% chance that it could lead to a revolving door of debt.
So if you’re a business owner with an impressive product, innovative idea, or one-of-a-kind service, discover if you have a chance to win a business grant.
3 Important Things to Know about Small Business Grants
Before I give you a list of legitimate business grants to apply to, there are 3 things you must understand:
1. Small Business Grants Are NOT Easy to Obtain
You shouldn’t consider small business grants as handouts because they’re actually super-hard to obtain.
Grants generally do not need to be repaid, which is why the competition for small business grants will be tough and requirements are plenty.
You’d have to provide a comprehensive business plan (for start-ups) and proof of finances, operations, expansion or other detailed plans (for existing businesses).
2. Small Business Grants Are NOT Transferred Overnight
Note that most grants only accept applications once a year.
Let’s say you prepared a highly impressive plan and applied for a business grant.
It’s realistic to assume that you’re going to be competing with thousands of people for any specific grant, so the government agency or other organizations may take months to a year to go through all applications.
If you won the grant, you will be notified either via e-mail, a call, or snail mail, and will include details about transfer of funds.
Just don’t expect a business grant as a short-term solution for a funding shortage of your business.
3. Small Business Grants Are Mostly Awarded to Existing Businesses
Does your business already need to exist when applying for small business grants? Or are they available to people with an idea that are looking to start a business?
It is rare to be chosen, especially if you haven’t started your business yet. However, this isn’t a rule. In fact, many startups in the tech and research industries are awarded grants, especially if the business idea is ground-breaking or one of a kind.
No one can deny that majority of businesses given grants are existing businesses, which is why experts would recommend looking for a loan if you’re just starting out.
40 Business Grants You Can Apply for
Now that you know how to manage your expectations, I hand-picked 40 of the most popular small business grants.
- Most government grants are offered to everyone, regardless of age or gender.
- Some grants offered by private companies are made exclusive only to a specific gender (only women), age group (only seniors), certain occupation (IT-related jobs), and so on.
- Requirements vary between grants
15 Business Grants from the Government
Grants.gov is the most useful website for searching business grants from the government, but it is primarily for federal grant search. T
here are hundreds on this database, but these 15 stood out most:
1. SBA.gov (The Small Business Administration)
One of the most important websites for any small business in the country, SBA.gov should be your go-to resource if you’re interested in traditional funding (loans, etc.) and grant programs. Under the SBA, check out these main grants:
- Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) – Exclusively for research-based businesses. You can apply to this grant from 12 federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and National Science Foundation.
- Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR) – Like SBIR, the STTR grant is only awarded to businesses involved with research, but only available from the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, NASA, Department of Health and Human Services, or National Science Foundation.
- State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) – If your business is involved in exporting, check SBA’s STEP program if you’re qualified.
2. National Institutes of Health
For companies involved in the research and development of biomedical tech, the National Institutes of Health can help you fund your business.
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3. Environmental Protection Agency
Is your business trying to develop sustainable tech? The EPA has programs that reward eco-friendly businesses.
4. Dept. of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture
Businesses supporting the agricultural field, whether it involves food science and nutrition, animal protection, forestry, or biofuel products and services can check out the National Institute of Food & Agriculture for applicable grants.
Rural Energy for America Program (renewable energy), VAPG program (agricultural production), and Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant (health services) are other Department of Agriculture grants that award cash from $50,000 to $500,000.
5. Department of Homeland Security
This agency awards grants to small businesses invested in cyber security, biological/chemical defense, and other security technologies. One notable program is the CyberTipline Grant, which helps businesses that are developing technology that can be used in preventing children exploitation and sex trafficking.
If your business is involved in renewable energy and similar technologies, NASA is interested in awarding you to collaborate with them.
7. National Science Foundation
Perfect for small businesses getting into the fields of medicine, science or engineering.
8. Recovery Challenge Grant
Launched by the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service, this grant provides assistance (of up to $3 million) to small businesses involved in preventing wildlife endangerment.
9. National Institute of Standards & Technology
Check the NIST, which is under the Department of Commerce, if your business is involved with healthcare, energy, manufacturing, trade, cyber security, software, and other technology fields.
10. Department of Transportation’s Volpe
This small business innovation research program assists businesses in developing technologies that can be used for highways, railroads and aviation building.
11. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
At NOAA’s Technology Partnerships Office, grants are offered to businesses involved in climate adaptation/mitigation, healthy ocean monitoring, and r&d of coastline communities.
12. Department of Education
Visit the National Center for Education Research if you’re interested in assistance for your business if you’re involved with behavioral learning, language learning and STEM skills.
13. Department of Defense
If you’re producing a technology or product that could help the Air Force, Navy and Army, The Department of Defense can assist you in funding and commercializing these ideas.
14. Economic Development Administration (EDA)
Is your business involved in the improvement of your community’s infrastructure? Check back to EDA’s funding opportunities to check once its grants become available.
15. Department of the Interior’s Recovery Challenge
Businesses involved with preventing animal endangerment and promoting the reintroduction of species into their natural habitats can be awarded grants amounting to up to $3 million.
State Level Grants
State-level small business grants exist, so you should check with your state to learn about the funding available.
The easiest way is to visit your state’s commerce website, similar to Arizona Commerce Authority.
If it’s available, your state’s grants portal would list programs, such as Texas Young Farmer Grant or New York City Commute Enhancement Grant.
Aside from your state, your city or town may also have business grants.
Good examples of this include the Chicago IncentOvate or Detroit NEIdeas Grants.
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Do note that federal grants have more budget than local grants, so depending on your business plans, find the most appropriate grant for your business needs.
10 Business Grants for Women
Some non-profit organizations and private companies award small business grants for women exclusively. If you have an innovative product or idea, check these 10 funding options:
16. SBA InnovateHER
This is a government grant run by the SBA. It is exclusive to women entrepreneurs with a total of $70,000 grant fund every year, which will be split between 3 winners.
17. Cartier Women’s Initiative Award
This annual grant is awarded to 18 female entrepreneurs from around the world with existing businesses.
Top 7 wins $100k and one-on-one business mentoring from a Cartier-chosen expert, while the other 14 winners get $30,000 each.
18. Womensnet.com’s Amber Grant
Launched in 1998 to honor the memory of female entrepreneur Amber who died too young to fulfill her dreams, the Womens Net grant awards $2,000 monthly to a woman business owner, who can get a chance to win a bigger $25,000 grant prize at the end of the year if voted by the online community.
19. Community Action Grants of the American Association of University Women
These grants award women who lead initiatives or non-profit organizations that help k-12 and community college girls, as well as women involved in the fields of math, engineering, science and technology.
Some grants are offered yearly, while others are available every 2 years.
20. Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program
This program has been awarding women entrepreneurs with grants since 2009.
Aside from the $5,000 grant, winners will also receive a yearlong fellowship, four days of workshops and network with Tory Burch’s industry, including a pitch day to influencers.
21. Open Meadows Foundation
Awards $2,000 to eligible, women-backed projects, but the organization only accepts businesses with less than $75,000 budget resources, so prepare to show financial documents aside from proof that your business promotes racial, gender or economic justice.
22. Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program
Chooses 10 women-owned businesses and awards up to $10,000 each.
The finalists need to have an existing businesses (3 years or longer).
They should also make positive environmental and social impact through their businesses.
23. The Girlboss Foundation Grant
Launched in 2014 by entrepreneur Sophia Amoruso (you probably remember her for the Netflix series “Girlboss.”), this biannual grant is awarded to women working in creative industries.
The small business grant winner not only receives $15,000, she also gets free online exposure via the Girlboss site.
24. The Halstead Grant
While the application for this one is comprehensive (they ask you to answer a ton of questions), if you’re the perfect fit and you own a business in the jewelry industry, you can receive a $7,500 grant, plus $1,000 toward Halstead jewelry supplies.
This isn’t a company or org that awards business grants for women, but it is a comprehensive resource for funding opportunities for women regardless of industry.
15 Popular Small Business Grants
The following grants for small business owners come from the private sector, and have different eligibility requirements, so better check with them (links are provided) if you’re interested in sending an application:
Annual, first place winners $25,000 grant money with $7,500 in FedEx print and business services, while second place receives $15k cash + $5k in FedEx services.
Eight 3rd placers get $7,500 grant money and $1k in FedEx services.
27. Lending Tree
Awards up to $50,000 to small business grant winners.
28. StreetShares Foundation
Supports veteran-owned small businesses by awarding $15k (1st place), $6,000 and $4,000 for second and third placers respectively.
29. Visa’s Everywhere Initiative
Visa announces different challenges for startups to meet (similar to SBIR/STTR programs) and awards up to $50,000 grant money and a chance to work with Visa.
30. Etsy Maker Cities Grant
Perfect for creative artists and makers of ceramics, crafts, art, furniture and everything in between, Etsy supports your business with up to $30,000 (for research grants) or up to $60,000 (for program grants).
31. Chase Mission Main Street Grants
JPMorgan Chase & Co divides $3 million each year to support 20 small businesses (that’s $150,000 each), but the application is more comprehensive than most.
Winners also receive workshops to Google, and other tools to help with their businesses.
32. Walmart Foundation Grants
Walmart has two types of grants – community grant program (awards $250 to up to $5,000 to local non-profits) and the national giving program (awards $250,000 and above to national nonprofits).
33. Wells Fargo Community Giving Grants
Wells Fargo grants are offered by state, but are awarded to non-profits and educational institutions year-round.
34. AT&T Aspire
There is no set grant money amount set, but these AT&T grants are awarded to small businesses that help improve education.
35. Coca-Cola Foundation
Exclusive to small businesses and non-profits that empower women, and promote community building with clean water and youth development.
The application guidelines can be vague, but there’s good news: there is no dollar limitation, so if your company can impress Coca-Cola’s community-giving branch, then you can receive a chunk of funding.
36. National Association of the Self-Employed (NASE)
Gives self-employed business owners $4,000 grant money monthly.
You’d have to be a member of NASE to apply, which requires membership fee, so think about it first.
37. Fundera’s Zach Grant
This grant is annual and awards $2,500 for the best video entry, which explains why you started your company.
Aside from the video, you just need to follow Fundera on social media and your application is good to go.
38. Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)
Exclusive to American minorities, the main MBDA grant is different because the winner gets to run one of MBDA’s Minority Business Centers.
MBDA hosts other grant competitions, but this vary from year to year.
39. Sam’s Club Grant Program
Sam’s Club grant program, which is also under Walmart Giving, is aimed at non-profit organizations that support small business owners.
Check the grantees list, so you can go directly to these non-profits instead.
40. ActivityHero Business Grant
This grant is co-sponsored by web hosting service GoDaddy and awards $15,000 grant money to businesses involved in children’s camp or activities.
7 semi-finalists are also awarded $500/each in services.
The Bottom Line
Grants are the closest “free government money” you can get to start a small business, but it isn’t the easiest to obtain. If you know your small business is innovative enough to win a grant, then apply to any or all of these 40 grants for small business.
And if you’ve had experiences with any of them, I’d love to hear about them below…