When you think about grants, you assume they go to public entities and nonprofits. For the most part, that’s 100% accurate.
Some grants are designed for small businesses. These grants usually have precise requirements. You’ll rarely find funding programs that offer generalized seed money or capital funds to fund any business. But if your business fits into the parameters of a grant program, you may qualify for funding.
Federal, state and private entities provide grants for small businesses. Here’s a broad look at some types of funding available and links to specific programs.
Federal money is often given as Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants. These grants are awarded through a highly competitive process and fund small businesses that want to “engage in Federal Research/Research and Development that has the potential for commercialization.” In other words, qualified small businesses can get federal money to fund R&D efforts for technology or products that might fill a void in the current commercial landscape. The goal is to use federal dollars to encourage high-tech innovation.
Currently, 11 federal agencies participate. These include:
- National Science Foundation
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Commerce – both National Institutes of Standards and Technology and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Department of Defense
- Department of Education
- Department of Energy
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Department of Homeland Security
- Department of Transportation
The Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program funds public/private partnerships between small businesses and nonprofit research organizations (think large research universities). There’s a lot of oversight with this program. For example, the small business must perform at least 40 of the work and the partnering organization must perform at least 30% of the work. It also requires intellectual property agreements that detail how ongoing research and commercialization efforts will be conducted.
These programs are phased, with Phase I generally getting less than $150K to fund a one-year project. Phase II funding is based on results from Phase I. It doesn’t exceed $1 million. Phase III is when a small business commercializes the product that resulted from prior phases. STTR does not fund this phase, but some federal programs may if the product, processes or services are to be used by the federal government.
The National Institutes of Health offer a variety of opportunities for small businesses to get federal dollars for research and innovation. The Small Business Transition Grant for Early Career Scientists helps transition technology and products from academic labs to small business settings. The gran funds resources to ensure the transition flows smoothly.
The Department of Commerce sponsors Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms (TAAF) to help manufacturers affected by import competition. Businesses can qualify for up to $75,0000 in matching funds. The program is coordinated by 11 regional organizations called Trade Adjustment Assistance Centers.
The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) offers grants and loans to minority-owned businesses looking to enter new markets, grow and scale. Seek grant opportunities by contacting a MBDA Business Center.
Private and Nonprofit Small Business Grants
Some corporations and not-for-profit entities grant money to entrepreneurs. These grants are generally lower in dollar value but can go a long way to getting a business off the ground or paying for training, technology or equipment. They’re also much less cumbersome to administer than federal programs.
Amber Grant Foundation. With a simple goal of supporting women entrepreneurs, the Amber Grant Foundation awards a $10,000 grant each month and an additional $25,000 grant each December to women entrepreneurs with a compelling story.
Black Founder Startup Grant. The Black Founder Startup Grant program from the SoGal Foundation grants up to $10,000 to Black and multiracial women and nonbinary entrepreneurs. The program accepts applications on a rolling basis and is open to entrepreneurs who plan to seek investor financing to scale.
Build Your Legacy. Sponsored by PineSol and Essence, the grant program gives $100K to a black women entrepreneur. The grant also comes with six months of mentorship programming.
Coalition to Back Black Businesses. The organization gives $5,000 grants to small businesses in economically vulnerable communities. After several months of mentorship and guidance, some businesses receive an additional $25K.
Comcast Rise Investment Fund. The investment fund awards $10,000 grants to small businesses in specific geographic locations. The business must be operated by a person of color or a woman.
EnrichHER Grant. The EnrichHER small business grant gives eligible entrepreneurs — especially women and people of color — and businesses $5,000 to pay for minor expenses. There is a $37 application fee, and this application round is rolling.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit Award by SIA Scotch. The Entrepreneurial Spirit Award will provide 11 small business owners of color in the food and beverage industry with $10,000 plus mentorship with Carin Luna-Ostaseski, one of the first Hispanic entrepreneurs to create a scotch whiskey brand.
Fast Break for Small Business. Sponsored by LegalZoom, the NBA, WNBA and NBA G League, the organizatio supports small businesses with $10,000 grants and support from LegalZoom.
FedEx Entrepreneur Fund. In collaboration with Hello Alice and the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), the FedEx Entrepreneur Fund supports 30 small businesses owned by U.S. military-connected entrepreneurs and people with disabilities. Chosen applicants receive $10,000 grants and are eligible to receive an additional $5,000 after the completion of a post-grant report.
Female Founders Fund. The organization invests in business-to-business, consumer, fintech and health care businesses that have at least one female founding member and primarily focuses on investing in seed-stage businesses.
Fresh Start Business Grant. New or aspiring entrepreneurs can seek funding from the Fresh Start Business Grant. Recipients are high school, trade school or college students who will receive $2,500 to further their education.
HerRise Microgrants. This program gives $500 per month to women of color to create innovative solutions that impact communities.
iFundWomen. Sixty small business owners receive $10,000 grants in the program sponsored by VISA.
Live Your Dream Education and Training Awards. The Live Your Dream Awards is a fund created for women who are the primary source of income for their families. The organization provides women with grants to further their education or training. Applicants are eligible for awards between $1,000 and $10,000.
National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants. NASE provides up to $4,000 to assist with training, marketing and more. You must be a member for 90 days before you can apply.
National Black MBA Assocation. The organization's Scale-Up Pitch Challenge offers members a chance to win up to $50,000. In 2020, all winners were black female entrepreneurs.
Power Forward Small Business Grant. Black-owned small businesses in New England are eligible for the Power Forward Small Business Grant program. Sponsored by the NAACP, Vistaprint and the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation, businesses with no more than 25 employees are eligible to apply for grants of $25,000.
RTC Women in Tech Fund: Rewriting The Code (RTC). The program supports college and early career women in tech with financial resources to help cover education costs. Three grant levels are available.
Small Business Digital Ready Program. National ACE offers a free digital readiness program for Asian and Pacific Islander small business owners. Those who register and take two courses are eligible for a $10,000 grant.
Venmo Small Business Grant. The Venmo Small Business Grant gives 20 new and existing Venmo Business Profile customers $10,000 for expenses like rent or digital marketing. You must set up a Venmo Business Profile to apply.
Grant Writing Assistance for Small Businesses
Whether you’re a nonprofit or a small business, the grant writing process is essentially the same. Federal grants are cumbersome and require a lot of information; private grant applications tend to be a little easier to navigate. Even so, if you’re not an experienced grant writer, professional grant writing training could help your efforts to secure funding. Check out our self-paced grant writing course to learn the in’s and out’s before you start writing your application. The information is invaluable to helping your nonprofit – or small business – do more, better.