Hundred dollar bills stand on a table, representing the money that could be attained through small business grants

Small Business Financing 101: Small Business Grants

Too many people tell small business owners that they can't attain grants. But the truth is that there are quite a few agencies, corporations, and nonprofit groups that offer grants for small business owners. Some help people get started with an idea, ramp up operations, or explore a new market. Others are earmarked for people who take on problems in the environment or society.

If you need funding for your business, spend some time looking into federal, state, local, and private grant programs. You may find some that are a great fit for your business.

 

Federal grants

Government agencies sometimes offer grants to small business owners who work in fields that closely align with their own. In most cases, the fields of focus relate to science, the environment, or medical research. Some also offer discretionary innovation grants that the agencies can give a bit more freely.

The grants are funded by tax dollars, and they can be quite difficult to attain. Of course, if your business performs work that aligns with an agency's agenda, your odds of attaining funding improve significantly.

You can find federal grants in a number of places. Most start with www.grants.gov (be sure to narrow your search to grants for small businesses). Challenge.gov and SBIR.gov also feature federal funding opportunities, and the site www.mdba.gov/grants can also be a great resource to find grant money set aside for minority business owners.

 

State grants

Many state agencies set aside grant money, too. Like federal grants, the funds are usually reserved for businesses that align with state agency objectives. Often, large corporations land this grant money. It’s rare, but not impossible, for small businesses to attain a state grant.

Still, it can be worth your time to connect with your state’s economic development agency and ask about their discretionary incentive grants. These grants are sometimes easier for small businesses to attain. You can find a directory of state agencies at the U.S. Economic Development Administration site. You can also find a few state-based, small-business–friendly grants here:

 

Local grants

There are local grants to consider, too. Many organizations set aside some grant dollars to ensure that small businesses can thrive in that community.

Here are a few examples of local grants (and contests):

 

Other grant (and contest) options

Certain nonprofits, corporations, and local agencies also offer grants for small business owners. Others offer contests that provide cash and services to qualified business owners. Below, you'll find a few grant and contest programs you might consider.

 

Grants for minority business owners

American Express IFundWomen of Color 100 for 100 Program

Through this program, 100 Black female entrepreneurs can attain $25,000 grants and 100 days of resources to help their ventures thrive.

Caress Dreams Fund

This program offers $5,000 grants, coaching, and creative services to select women-of-color founders.

Justworks' Grant Program

This Justworks program sets aside money for early-stage minority and women-owned nonprofits. It often awards five $50,000 grants per year.

Instacart's Ads Initiative Program

Instacart has set aside $1 million in advertising dollars to amplify Black-owned and women-owned consumer packaged goods brands on their platform. Business owners can apply for a portion of this investment and receive Instacart ad credits.

SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant Program

The SoGal Foundation has teamed up with Winky Lux, bluemercury, twelveNYC, Twilio, Walmart.org's Center for Racial Equity, and others to provide several $5,000 and $10,000 cash grants and tactical help to Black women or Black nonbinary entrepreneurs.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit Fund by SIA Scotch

SIA Scotch Whiskey sets aside 25 $10,000 grants and provides mentorship and community for small business owners of color so they can take action, build stronger businesses, and positively impact the economy.

The K4 Foundation Grant Program

The K4 Foundation offers $500 grants and educational workshops to help women of color go after their entrepreneurial goals.

Visa Grant Program for Black Women-Owned Businesses

Visa has set up a new grant program and educational resources to help Black women in the United States grow their businesses.

 

 

Grants for women

Amber Grants (and grants from WomensNet)

Each month, the Amber Grant program provides one female business owner a $10,000 award and five runners-up can receive $1,000. Monthly grant winners are entered to win the program's annual $25,000 award for a total of $35,000 in award money. WomensNet also offers non-profit grants each quarter (valued at $10,000), business category grants each month (valued at $10,000), and a twice-yearly marketing grant.

Cartier Women's Initiative Awards

This grant program offers seven grant awards of $100,000 each and another 14 grants of $30,000 each to female business owners who show the potential to grow their businesses in significant ways in the coming years.

Cocokind Impact Foundation Grant Program

This program provides grants of $2,500 to $10,000 plus a mentorship to select female founders creating social impact through health, wellness, and sustainability who have yet to raise institutional capital.

Gusto • IFundWomen Jumpstart Grant Program

This program provides four early-stage, women-owned small businesses with a $2,500 grant to jumpstart a year of growth, plus three months of Gusto's payroll services.

IFundWomen Fund Forward Awards

This IFW program offers one grand-prize winner a $100,000 equity investment in their business. It also awards category honorees and runners-up monetary grants and coaching scholarships.

Instacart's Ads Initiative Program

Instacart has set aside $1 million in advertising dollars to amplify Black-owned and women-owned consumer packaged goods brands on their platform. Business owners can apply for a portion of this investment and receive Instacart ad credits.

Jane Walker • IFund Women First Women Grant Program

This program supports 15 ground-breaking women-owned businesses that focus on entertainment, music, sports, journalism, or hospitality with a $10,000 grant plus a one-year coaching membership.

Johnnie Walker First Strides Grant Program

This program offers a $10,000 grant plus a year of premium coaching services to 10 groundbreaking women-owned businesses.

Justworks' Grant Program

This Justworks program sets aside money for early-stage minority and women-owned nonprofits. It often awards five $50,000 grants per year.

Peanut StartHER Microfund Program

This program sets aside money for select early-stage, pre-seed, women-owned businesses that strive to make a positive impact on society, healthcare, or the environment.

Real Relief for Visionary Women Program

SYSTANE® and business legend Barbara Corcoran have set aside grants of $5,000 for ten female business owners. The grand prize winner also receives business coaching from Barbara herself.

The Eileen Fisher Grant Program (temporarily suspended)

This program offers grants of $10,000 to $40,000 to 501(c)(3) nonprofits that increase women's participation in decision-making, train women and girls in climate change adaption or mitigation and advocacy, and engage women in the sustainable economy. The program sets aside up to $200,000 in award money each year.

The IFundWoment X Neutrogena Fund

Through this program, 18 qualified U.S.-based female entrepreneurs can receive a $10,000 grant to support a fresh start in their business.

The Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program

This program offers 50 grants of $5,000 to select female entrepreneurs. It also offers opportunities for community building and networking.

Women Founders Network

Each year, the Women Founders Network hosts a fast-pitch competition that enables female investors to win cash prizes, access to a pitch coach, financial mentorship, a connection to a potential inventor, and feedback on their business.

 

 

Other grants and competitions

Fast Break for Small Businesses

This popular grant program is backed by Legal Zoom, the NBA, WNBA, and NBA G League. It sets aside money for up to 50 U.S.-based small business owners who face obstacles because of who they are, who they love, or how they identify. Grant award winners receive $10,000 and a free Legal Zoom product.

Kapitus' Building Resilient Businesses Contest

This new contest awards up to $100,000 to small business owners who show resilience through hardships, including the COVID-19 pandemic, high inflation, supply chain issues, and “The Great Resignation.” Owners, who must be actively generating revenue (which could not have exceeded $5 million in the previous year), may also win free advisory sessions on digital marketing, finance management, or data analytics.

Love, Tito's Small Business Grant Program

This program offers grants of $25,000 to 10 owners of U.S.-based small businesses who show grit, love, kindness, family, meaning, and purpose.

Samuel Adams Pitch Room Competition

This award competition offers a $10,000 grant to an entrepreneur who successfully pitches a packaged food or beverage product to their team.

The Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation Grants and Grand Challenge

This set of programs offers grants to select 501(c)(3) and other tax-exempt businesses innovating to solve key health and development problems. Winners are chosen by the proposals they make for specific problems. Prize amounts vary.

The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

This grant contest offers 10 awards to support U.S.-based, for-profit small businesses. Eligible businesses must have shipping needs, a FedEx 9-digit shipping account, fewer than 99 employees, and continuously operated for six months prior to the contest date. Franchised and direct-seller businesses may not enter. The contest gives three $50,000 awards and seven $20,000 awards, and it awards winners in five special categories another $10,000.

The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants

This program awards $4,000 grants to select NASE members who need capital to take on a business need.

The StreetShares Veteran Small Business Award

This award provides three military veterans or their spouses with funds to start or grow a business that will create a social impact. One winner receives $15,000. The second-place winner receives $6,000, and the third-place winner earns $4,000.

 

Want to find more grants? Pocketed is a resource thousands of business owners use to seek out grants that suit their goals. Their free, basic grant-matching service is robust enough to help most business owners take on the task, but many prefer Pocketed+, which offers more filtering and an alert service, and Pocketed's managed service, which can apply for grants on an owner's behalf. If you'd like to work with Pocketed, check out this offer:

 

What do I need to do to apply for small business grants?

For most grant programs, you'll need to complete an application, write a grant proposal, and provide your business plan. In some cases, you may also need to make a pitch on your idea, where you stand today, and how you'll use new funding.

We have a few resources that can help you apply for grant funding.

To start, check out this free grant proposal template from JotForm. It's fully customizable and includes a cover letter you can modify to communicate what matters most.

Next, take a look at this guide for writing a business plan:

Finally, this resource can help you work on your pitch:

 

Not willing to take this take on alone? Think about working with a grant writer who can help you build a winning grant proposal. Many owners look for proposal writers on Upwork, but you can also search the web for a local grant expert.

 

Are small business grants a smart choice for my business?

They can be. Unlike loans, grants have no interest terms or repayment obligations. But there are drawbacks, too. Here are a few:

  • Grants are taxable income. Because of this, you'll need to set aside a portion of the grant proceeds to cover your tax obligations.
  • Unlike loans, grants can't help you build business credit, which you may need for other forms of financing.
  • Grants are much more difficult to attain than loans because grant money is in far shorter supply.
  • The grant application process is long and involved. The hands-on work it requires can pull you away from other tasks you need to take on to grow your business.

 

Are there other ways to find the funding I need?

Yes. Lots of owners use SBA loans, term loans, asset-backed loans, 401(k) options, portfolio loans to build up the cash they need. Some explore other options, including angel investment and venture capital. You can learn more about all these options in this guide:

 

Need more support? Log into your owner’s portal for a free, step-by-step guide to make your venture a success.

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