Who doesn’t like free money?
I don’t think there is anyone in the world who will turn down free money. Especially a small business.
Most small businesses are already running on a shoestring budget, and any amount of money that helps further their bottom line would be really appreciated.
Though there are not as many grants for small businesses as there are grants for charitable purposes, there are a few that can be beneficial for a business if utilized correctly.
Here are a few below.
Coronavirus small-business grants
The U.S. Small Business Administration and several large corporations are providing coronavirus small-business loans or grants.
Amazon Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund: Amazon has created a $5 million relief fund to provide grants to support neighborhood small businesses in Seattle (South Lake Union and Regrade neighborhoods) and Bellevue, Washington.
To be eligible, your business must be a service or retail establishment, and have fewer than 50 employees or less than $7 million in annual revenue.
Economic Injury Disaster Loans: The SBA provides EIDL advances of up to $10,000 for agricultural businesses experiencing a loss of revenue due to the coronavirus crisis. The advance works more like a grant than a loan, as it does not need to be repaid.
Verizon Small Business Recovery Fund: The Local Initiatives Support Corporation is offering grants to support businesses in underserved communities. Verizon is supporting the recovery fund by donating $7.5 million worth of small-business grants.
» MORE: Coronavirus relief for small-businesses
Federal small-business grants
Government agencies are among the biggest distributors of grants, supporting a range of enterprises from environmental conservation to child care services. The application process can be intimidating, but federal grants are great opportunities for small-business owners looking to grow.
Grants.gov: Grants.gov is a comprehensive, though daunting, database of grants administered by various government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs: The SBIR and the STTR grant programs focus on research and development for technology innovation and scientific research. The programs help connect small businesses with federal grants and contracts from 12 government agencies.
To qualify, you must operate a for-profit business, have no more than 500 employees and meet other eligibility requirements.
USA.gov: You won’t find any federal small-business grants here, but this government website provides resources for starting or growing a business, including a link to GovLoans, which has information on the types of available federal small-business loans.
State and regional small-business grants
Economic Development Administration: This U.S. Department of Commerce agency provides grants, resources and technical assistance to communities to support economic growth and encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.
Each state’s agency helps businesses find financing (including state or regional grants), secure locations and recruit employees. You can search the economic development directory for regional offices and local resources.
Small Business Development Centers: Your local SBDC provides support for small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. They’re often associated with local universities or the state’s economic development agency, and many can help connect business owners with financing opportunities, as well as counseling, training and technical assistance.
Corporate small-business grants
Many corporations and large companies have a philanthropic component that includes small-business grants. While some provide grants only to nonprofits servicing specific industries, some give to for-profit companies.
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest: The company’s annual grant competition awards $250,000 to 12 small businesses, including a $50,000 grant and $7,500 in FedEx print and business services to its grand prizewinner. The contest entry period typically takes place early in the year.
The contest is open to U.S.-based for-profit small businesses that have been operating at least six months, with no more than 99 employees.
National Association for the Self-Employed: NASE members can apply for monthly small-business grants worth up to $4,000, as well as an annual $3,000 college scholarship for members’ dependents. The application period for the scholarship program runs from Jan. 1 through April 30.
Here are 10 places women entrepreneurs can look for small-business grants and financial resources.
- Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer Programs
- The Girlboss Foundation Grant
- Women’s Business Centers
- Economic Development Administration
- Small Business Development Centers
- Amber Grant
- Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant
- Fedex Small Business Grant
- National Association for the Self-Employed
» MORE: Small-business grants
Federal small-business grants for women
Some federal government grants for small-business owners are designated for specific purposes, such as research and development projects, or for businesses in rural areas. Government grants typically must be used for purposes other than startup costs or day-to-day expenses.
Grants.gov is a database of federally sponsored grants, including grants for small businesses. To apply, you must obtain a DUNS number for your business (a unique nine-digit identification number), register to do business with the U.S. government through its System Award Management website, and create an account at Grants.gov.
To view grants specifically for small businesses, filter the results on the left side of the page under “eligibility.”
2. Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs
The SBA facilitates these two competitive programs, which provide grants to small businesses that contribute to federal research and development. Twelve federal agencies, including the departments of Agriculture, Defense, and Health and Human Services, post grant opportunities on their websites. You can search current grant opportunities on the SBIR website. To qualify, you must operate a for-profit business with no more than 500 employees and meet other eligibility requirements.
3. The Girlboss Foundation Grant
Launched in 2014 by entrepreneur Sophia Amoruso, the Girlboss Foundation awards grants twice a year to female and female-identifying entrepreneurs.
Each grant recipient receives funding of $15,000. Grants are exclusive to female business owners working in design, fashion, music and the arts. Selections are judged by creativity and innovation, business acumen and planning, and demonstration of a financial need.
» MORE: Find small-business grants for veterans
State and local small-business grants
Because federal small-business grants are limited in number and often very competitive, you may have better luck looking for grants at the state and municipal levels. You’ll have to do your own research to pinpoint specific grant programs in your area, but here are some places to look:
4. Women’s Business Centers
The SBA sponsors about 100 Women’s Business Centers nationwide, designed to help women entrepreneurs with business development and access to capital. Some, such as the California Capital Financial Development Corp., lend money directly, while others help you find small-business grants and loans that you may qualify for.
5. Economic development administration
Every state and many cities have economic development resources focused on promoting strong local economies. For example, California has several economic development districts, such as the Superior California Economic Development District, which provides financing to local entrepreneurs.
6. Small Business Development Centers
There are hundreds of SBA-sponsored Small Business Development Centers around the country, typically housed at colleges and universities. SBDCs offer free, one-on-one business consulting, including help with developing a business plan, researching markets and finding financing.
Private small-business grants for women
Some private organizations and businesses offer national grant programs for women small-business owners. Here are two to consider:
7. Amber Grant
The Amber Grant Foundation awards $4,000 to a different women-owned business every month. At the end of each year, one of the 12 grant winners is awarded an additional $25,000. The application is relatively simple: Explain your business, describe what you’d do with the grant money and pay a $15 application fee.
The foundation’s advisory board chooses the winners, looking for women with passion and a good story. Businesses operating in the U.S. and Canada are eligible.
8. Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant
Eileen Fisher, a women’s clothing retailer, awards a total of $100,000 to up to 10 women business owners each year. To be eligible, women must make up at least 51% of your business’s ownership and leadership, your business must have been in operation for at least three years, earn less than $1 million in annual revenue, and be focused on environmental or social change.
» MORE: Find small-business grants for minorities
Two other grant possibilities
These options aren’t specifically for women, but they’re good small-business grants to consider:
9. FedEx Small Business Grant
FedEx awards up to $25,000 apiece to 10 small businesses annually. In 2017, the contest provided a total prize pool of $120,500. Winners also receive money to use toward FedEx Office print and business services.
The application requires an explanation of your business, how you’d use the money, photos of your business and — this part is optional — a short video explaining your business. To be eligible, you must operate a for-profit business with fewer than 99 employees and at least six months of operating history.
10. National Association for the Self-Employed
This nonprofit trade association awards $4,000 per month in growth grants to small businesses that can be used for a variety of business needs, including marketing, advertising and hiring employees.