For many small businesses, even a small infusion of capital can take a business to the next level. There are many ways to do this, from locating investors (if you have something that will give them a return on investment) to loans, and even crowdfunding. However, there is another way: applying for a small business grant. Grants are funds provided by the government, corporations, or other entities,and they do not require repayment, often awarded to individuals interested in funding a specific project or cause.

Are Small Business Grants Right For You?

By their very definition, small business grants are relatively rare and difficult to locate, and those that are available are commonly niche-specific. It’s also important to understand that unlike a loan or investor funds, grants will have a specific and strict set of guidelines that you must follow, otherwise you may be required to repay the grant. Before applying for a grant, or at least before accepting one, ensure that you read all the requirements and expectations and ensure that your small business operations can meet them.

Major Providers of Small Business Grants

There are many types of grants for small businesses, but the majority of available funding will fall into the below categories. Here we discuss the major providers of grants for each category.

Technological Innovation

The most common available grants are those that fund small business to invest in research and development of new technological products that can have commercial potential.

There are two very popular government-funded programs that fund small businesses interested in this kind of entrepreneurship: The Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR). For the SBIR, the grant comes in the form of a government contract and funds projects that benefit government interests for branches including the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, as well as others. The grant is broken into three phases, starting with an initial 6-month period that funds up to $150,000 to explore technical merit and development feasibility. If the technology is successful, the company retains all intellectual property and commercialization rights. An offshoot of this, also government funded, is STTR, which requires the awarded company to establish a partnership with a pre-qualified research group such as NASA, the Department of Energy, or others.

While the federal government provides some of the largest grants, there are many state, local, and private grants available for innovative small businesses.

Agriculture

There are many different types of agricultural grants available, from those that fund the startup of a new farm, to those that can help existing farms expand. Federal grants for agriculture are funded by the USDA or the Department of Agriculture, but many of these grants are funded at the state level. Federal grants, such as those provided by the Conservation Reserve Program, encourage farmers to help new or socially-disadvantaged farmers expand or start their farms by leasing them parts of their land long-term. It also provides incentives for farmers to implement sustainable farming practices. Many agricultural small business grants promote conservation, but others provide incentives for farmers to use renewable energy, attend training programs, and conduct research on sustainable and organic farming. Some even provide grants for the emergence of rural small businesses.

In addition to available federal grants, there are many local and state-based grants that are available regionally.

Job Creation and Municipal Improvement

These kinds of grants are often available to small businesses from local governments who have applied for federal funding in the form of municipal or block grants for these purposes from programs such as Reconnecting America. These grants can also be available from private companies like FedEx and Chase Bank specifically for companies interested in improving their communities in some way, or for companies whose business would create significant jobs for their community or employ disadvantaged groups.

How to Find Small Business Grants

There are many ways to find these kinds of grants. One of the most straightforward ways is to use grants.gov to locate available grants as well as their deadlines. Another way is to associate yourself with small business organizations like the Small Business Administration, a government organization that administrates SBIR and STTR programs as well as some small business export grants, but also compiles many other available funding opportunities for small businesses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *