Here at Startups, we hate the term “free money.” But, it’s one that people throw around a lot when they’re talking about grants. The reason we don’t call small business grants “free money” is because they take a lot of work to get. And there’s a lot of competition, so oftentimes that work doesn’t even result in a payday. Sure, you don’t have to pay back a small business grant the way you do a loan — but it’s certainly not “free money.”
However, we also understand that small business grants can really boost a startup, if they qualify. And it’s not like other forms of startup funding — like venture capital, angel investment, and even crowdfunding — don’t also take a lot of time and effort. So we thought we’d throw together some resources for any startup founders who are interested in getting a small business grant.
Check out these five types of business grants available to small businesses and startup founders. Who knows — maybe you’ll find something that works for you and your startup.
Government grants for small businesses come in three forms: federal, state, and local. Federal grants usually offer the most money — and have the most competition. They’re also pretty specific and usually tied to a government agency that has clear requirements for qualifying for the money — and for what they expect you to do with it.
State grants, on the other hand, are usually less money than federal grants but also — depending on your state — less competitive. State governments may work with the federal government to administer money that’s been set aside specifically for small business grants.
And on the local level, grants tend to be even smaller but they may be easier to get, because personal connections still mean something! Usually these grants are about improving your local community, so if your startup or small business is focused on bettering your town or county, definitely take a look at local grants.
In addition to agency-specific government grants for small businesses, there are grants available that are much, much more specific. Your best bet for finding a grant that matches your startup closely is to search the Grants.gov database to find out what’s currently available and what most closely matches your startup. You should also check back periodically, as government grants for small businesses end and are added frequently.
Another thing to know about when you’re looking at government grants is that a lot of grant management is handled through the Small Business Association or SBA. The SBA doesn’t actually manage the money — that’s done through partner organizations, like community grants — but rather they act as a go-between for the government and partner lending organizations.
Click here for more information on government grants for small business.
Grants for veterans are a little harder to list out than government grants (even though almost all grants for vets are government-funded) because grants are usually open for a set period of time, after which that money is no longer accessible. So it’s not actually possible to list out business grants for veterans, because by the time you read this, they may or may not still be available. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great financing options — including grants — out there for vets!
For example, in addition to all of the federal and state loans that are available to small businesses and startups founded by veterans and non-veterans alike, the government also runs a few loan programs specifically for veterans. There are also private loans for veterans and training programs to help vets who want to become entrepreneurs or who want to improve their entrepreneurial skills. Basically, there are a bunch of great options of veteran entrepreneurs, including but not limited to grants!
Click here for more information on government grants (and other funding opportunities) for veterans.
Business grants for women is a popular topic — and no wonder. According to research from Kaufman, 40 percent of first time entrepreneurs in the United States are women. Even more impressive? The number of women-run businesses in the US is growing at twice the rate of man-owned businesses. The rate of women starting businesses and startups throughout the country is at an all-time high.
But women aren’t getting nearly as much money for those businesses as men are. In the startup world, women founders got only 2 percent of VC funding in 2017. That means women are forced to look to other money sources when they’re looking to launch a startup or small business. With access to that funding source so dramatically limited (some might even say unaccessible) many female founders are looking for business grants for women.
Another women-only financing option for people look for business grants for women is women-only incubators and accelerators. Incubators and accelerators both offer varying combinations of funding, workspace, mentorship, and community.
While many women-only incubators and accelerators are based in bigger metropolitan areas, it’s worth doing search for women-only incubators and accelerators in your region, as this is an area that has seen a lot of growth in recent years. It seems like maybe the tech industry is starting to recognize how important it is to include women?
In addition to instructions for searching on government databases, we’ve listed out a few government grants for women. We’ve also included private small business grants for women, investors who are looking specifically to invest in woman-founded startups, women-only crowdfunding sites and equity financing platforms, and women-only incubators and accelerators.
Click here for more information on small business grants for women, as well as other funding options.
While there aren’t too many small business grants that are specifically for immigrants and other minority groups, they do exist! Refugees in particular may find that they have more options than other groups for small business grants.
No one knows grants like non-profits! Because as the name makes clear, non-profits don’t have any other profit source. As a result, there are a lot of grants out there available for non-profit organizations.
As most grants are only offered within a specific period of time, GrantWatch.com is a great resource for finding grants that match your non-profit. The Small Business Association also offers grants for non-profits, in addition to low interest loans and other financial and training assistance.