Grants for Small Business Startups

Knowing which small business grants are out there can be a financial game changer for your company.

Small business owners reviewing grant application
September 30, 2022
Sara Cardoza
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Reading time about 6 min

From covering employee salaries and buying equipment, to funding office space and shelling out funds for marketing efforts… starting a new business can get expensive. In fact, most small businesses struggle to become profitable during their first few years. So, if you’re wondering how to ease some of the financial weight of your entrepreneurial journey, grants can be one source to seriously consider. We’ve compiled a few resources to help jumpstart your grant research for your startup.

Understanding the Grant Process

Before we cover specific grant options, let’s first talk about what a grant really is. Unlike a business loan, a small business grant is free money which helps a business owner cover challenging startup costs. Essentially, a grant is a gift, which means you don’t have to pay the money back. But, as the old adage goes: nothing in life is truly free, and grants often come with specifications and limits around how you can spend the money.

It’s also important to note that almost all grants require a business to already exist. So, if you’re hoping to score free grants to start a business from scratch, you may need to look into a business loan instead.

Keep in mind, applying for a grant is not like ordering off a menu. Applying for a grant does not automatically mean you will receive it! Grants tend to be limited, extremely specific about their eligibility requirements, and applying can be a time-consuming process. Considering this, it’s important to identify which grant types might be a fit for your specific business, so you don’t waste time applying for funding that you are unlikely to be awarded. There are a large variety of grant types, but some of the most commonly pursued include:

  • Hardship Grants
  • Grants for Women
  • Grants for People of Color
  • Federal & State Grants

Additionally, grants are typically highly competitive and time-intensive, so it’s good practice to do your research and only apply to those for which your company is eligible. To help get started, let’s dive into a few grant categories and popular programs you may want to consider.

Hardship Grants

Hardship grants are designed to do exactly what their name implies: offset or reduce financial hardships. Financial hardships may be the result of the pandemic, widespread natural disaster, and systemic economic fluctuations. The pandemic, for example, hit small businesses especially hard as lockdowns resulted in shutdowns for many mom and pop companies. As a result of the financial hardships that came along with the pandemic, so did a variety of small business hardship grants. Now that you have a basic understanding of hardship grants, let's take a look at a few examples.

Shop owner in mask placing closed due to covid sign on door

 

DoorDash Restaurant Disaster Relief Fund

If you own a restaurant and have struggled to keep your doors open in the wake of a force majeure, the DoorDash Restaurant Disaster Relief Fund can help. DoorDash has partnered with Hello Alice to offer qualifying restaurants with $10,000 in relief grants following a natural disaster.

To qualify, restaurants must have:

  • A brick and mortar location
  • No more than three total locations
  • 50 or fewer employees per location
  • Been open for at least six months
  • Revenues of $3 million (or less) per location in the last 12 months
  • Been impacted by an eligible state or federally-declared natural disaster, including but not limited to wildfires, hurricanes, and earthquakes

Additionally, applications must be submitted within 12 months of the declared disaster. Grants can be used to cover expenses directly related to any eligible disaster.

Etsy Emergency Relief Fund

Through a partnership with the non-profit organization CERF+, Etsy is working to support artists, makers, and Etsy business owners of all stripes who have been affected by emergencies and unexpected natural events. Established in 2017, the Etsy Emergency Relief Fund provides up to $2,500 in funding through its grant program.

To qualify, you must be:

  • A registered Etsy business account that’s in good standing
  • A registered Etsy business account that’s at least a year old
  • A business located in a federally-declared, natural disaster area

IFundWomen COVID-19 Relief Fund

Available on a rolling basis, IFundWomen COVID-19 Relief Fund is a program that provides community-funded “microgrants,” free coaching, and community building to women-owned businesses affected by COVID-19. The IFW COVID-19 Relief Fund centers around community support and in order for a business to be considered as a potential grant recipient, they must start a community fundraising campaign on the IFW platform.

To qualify, you must:

  • Be a woman entrepreneur
  • Own a company negatively impacted by COVID-19
  • Start a campaign on the IFW platform

Grants for Women

The last grant we covered was a hybrid type: part hardship, part grant for women, so it’s a good segway into the category of small business grants for women. Are you a hard-working female entrepreneur on the hunt for grants to support your small business? If so, you’re in luck — there are many grantors out there who want to support women who are passionate about their businesses. Here are just a few you may want to consider.

Group of female entrepreneurs discussing business

 

Amber Grant

Founded by WomensNet in 1998, the goal of the Amber Grant honors the memory of Amber Wigdahl (a woman who died at the age of 19 before realizing her business dream) by helping other women entrepreneurs realize theirs. Each month the foundation awards a $10,000 grant — along with an additional $25,000 grant each December — to female-led businesses with a compelling story. The application cutoff for the next $10,000 Amber Grant is September 30, 2022.

To qualify, you must:

  • Identify as a woman
  • Fill out an application which includes:
    • Your personal story
    • Your intentions for the grant money

Cartier Women’s Initiative

The Cartier Women’s Initiative awards grant dollars to international female entrepreneurs whose businesses focus on sustainability and are guided by eco-driven business principles. Founded in 2006 with the goal of empowering women-led companies, grants are awarded across 10 regions, with three grants awarded per region. The grants range from $30,000 to $100,000, and winners also receive access to expert coaching, workshops, and media coverage.

To qualify, you must:

BREAKTHROUGH

Digitalundivided is a nonprofit startup with a mission to stimulate economic growth specifically for women entrepreneurs who identify as Latina and Black. Digitalundivided partnered with JP Morgan Chase’s Advancing Black Pathways to develop the BREAKTHROUGH program, which provides Latina and/or Black founders with, “a deeper understanding of their customers, startup funding, growth marketing strategies, and networking opportunities to scale their ventures.” Qualifying small businesses will receive a $5,000 grant, a business mentor, and sessions with industry leaders focused on growth strategies, funding, and customer analytics.

To qualify, you must:

  • Identify as a woman
  • Identify as Black or Latina (or both)
  • Be at least 18 years-of-age
  • Have a business registered for at least a year
  • Have a majority ownership of an established business with traction
  • Have a technology component incorporated into your business
  • Generate a minimum of $50,000 in annual business revenue

Curious about other grant opportunities? Check out grantsforwomen.org for more grants, scholarships, and other funding sources specifically for women.

Grants for People of Color

The last grant we covered was a combination of grants for women and People of Color, a perfect warm-up for the category of grants for People of Color. According to a 2021 report published by the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 18.7% (1.1 million) of U.S. employer businesses were owned by people of color (referred to as minorities in the report). Yet, the wealth gap between White entrepreneurs and Non-White entrepreneurs persists. To help combat this issue, many grantors offer programs to a broad range of startups and small businesses owned by People of Color. If you are a person of color who owns a small business, here are a few grants you may want to consider.

Male and female persons of color working together

 

Black Founder Startup Grant

In partnership with the SoGal Foundation and other sponsors, the Black Founder Startup Grant program understands that Black founders are the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs. The program provides grants of up to $10,000 to Black, multiracial Black, and Black nonbinary entrepreneurs.

To qualify, you must:

  • Self-identify as a Black woman or Black nonbinary entrepreneur (inclusive of multiracial Black women and multiracial, Black nonbinary folks)
  • Plan to seek investor financing in order to scale (now or in the future)
  • Have a scalable, high-impact solution or idea with the ambition to be the next billion-dollar business

Asian Women Giving Circle Grants

The Asian Women Giving Circle (AWGC) is an all-volunteer network that raises funds for Asian American women. The grant committee awards grants of up to $15,000 per project, but the total number of awarded grants does vary.

To qualify, you must:

  • Self-identify as an Asian woman in New York City
  • Represent a women-led organization
  • Desire to bring about progressive social transformation
  • Desire to raise awareness and catalyze action around critical issues that affect Asian American women, girls and families, and
  • Highlight and promote women’s central role as leaders, creators, developers, and managers of these projects

United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

In the last few years, Hispanic-owned businesses have grown rapidly. A recent United States Census Report showed that in 2019, Hispanic-owned businesses made up about 6.0% (346,836) of all American businesses, with an estimated $463.3 billion in annual receipts, 2.9 million employees, and about $108.4 billion in annual payroll.

The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) in partnership with Wells Fargo provides multiple grants for qualified, Hispanic-owned small businesses – ranging from $5,000 to $15,000. To learn more about eligibility, select your state on the USHCC Cares page.

Federal & State Grants

Up until now, the grant types discussed were those established by private grantors, meaning that they come from sources that have no public or government affiliation.But, the United States government also offers a variety of grants at both state and federal levels.The nature and number of federal and state grants are endless, so rather than list out specific grants for this type, we will highlight a few robust resources that can be utilized to help drill down to grants relevant to your business.

The U.S. Capitol building

 

Grants.gov

If you’re looking for government funding for your small business, Grants.gov is the go-to resource. Their database houses thousands of state and federal grant opportunities which are easily searchable via detailed filters for grant type, eligibility, agency, and more. You will find grant writing tips, application forms and updates, and can even apply for grants as a team through the Grants.gov website. If you are planning to access this site on a mobile device, be sure to download the app for a more user-friendly experience.

Department of Agriculture Grants

If you lead an agricultural or food service business, you may want to consider one of the many grant programs offered by the Department of Agriculture. Like all government grant sources, you can find Department of Agriculture or USDA through Grants.gov, but it is an expansive resource of its own right. Some grants require you to own a rural business, but eligibility varies. Some of the largest USDA grant categories are listed below.

  • Farm Agency Loans
  • Housing Assistance
  • Beginning Farmers and Ranchers
  • Crop and Livestock Insurance
  • Federal State Marketing Improvement Program
  • Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
  • The Farmers Market Promotion Program
  • Organic Cost Share Program

Small Business Administration (SBA) Grants

While the SBA mainly helps small businesses find traditional funding through loans or investment capital, they also offer a few grant programs for small businesses devoted to scientific research or exporting. The primary grant programs they support include:

  1. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR). The SBIR is a funding program which awards grants to help small businesses with their research and development processes. To qualify, the small business must have the potential for commercialization and must meet specific U.S. government research and development needs. These needs depend on which of the 12 main federal agencies the SBIR grant coordinates with.
  2. Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR). The STTR program is similar to the SBIR program, but is only available to small businesses that work within a formal research institution. This grant currently only works with five federal agencies.
  3. State Trade Expansion Program (STEP). STEP provides financial awards to state and territory governments and provides specific assistance to small businesses with export development. Since 2011, it’s awarded over $200 million to help small businesses learn how to export, participate in foreign trade missions, design international marketing products and campaigns, and more.

EZ Texting for the Win

Grants are just one way to secure funding to grow your business, but don’t forget to market your business - with or without a grant! If you’re looking for an affordable, easy-to-use marketing solution, you can’t go wrong with our EZ Texting platform. Contact us today to learn more or sign up for our free trial to experience it for yourself.

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