Finding small business grant funding to start a business can be challenging. Most grant programs prioritize established businesses - these businesses are less risky and more likely to achieve the desired outcomes and goals of the granting organization. Don't despair, as a newer business, there are a few avenues and pathways for tapping into small business grant funding that often go unexplored - government grant options. Securing a government small business grant can be a greater challenge due to the amount of documentation and paperwork required, so suit up. We've presented a few options that work for newer and more established businesses below:
Tap Into Direct and Non-Direct Government Funding and Resources
Take advantage of free advice, mentorship and sometimes funding offered by organizations that secure government grant funding to support small businesses. When you are just getting started, sound advice and direction can be as valuable as cash. Choose wisely, because some of these resources are more valuable than others and there can be challenges tapping into those that are culturally attuned to the needs of diverse and women business owners. Some of the resources to access indirect and direct grants include:
- Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants (primarily tech and science)
- Small Business Administration (SBA) Women's Business Centers (free services)
- Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) (tech startup or larger established)
- SBA Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (environmental justice, cleanup and research)
- State and local economic development offices
- Community Development Financial Institutions
- Public state and local college entrepreneurship programs
Insider Tips To Improve Your Odds Of Success
Keena Smith, CEO of The Women's Center For Economic Opportunity and a former government executive, shared her knowledge with Get The Bag via an Instagram Live Grant Chat. Some of our takeaways from that chat:
- Get to know your public officials and make sure they know you
- Attend public meetings at the local and statel level and make your presence known - win friends by acknowledging what is working well locally. Out of sight, out of mind is real.
- Get involved in your local and state elections and support candidates who commit to getting more grant dollars directly into the bank accounts of small business owners (i.e. SBIR, Restaurant Recovery, Shuttered Venue, Black Farmer Relief grants)
- Read the annual budget of local government entities to familiarize yourself with hidden funding and contract opportunities
- Set up Google Alerts for "government business grant funding", "American Rescue Plan", "local government small business grants"
Invite your public officials to attend your community gatherings and meet with groups of your fellow business owners to share your needs and challenges. You also want to learn more about their plans for the community, small businesses and the economy. These officials welcome the opportunity to meet and learn from as many community stakeholders as possible. Be sure to follow-up and stay in touch.
Join your local chamber of commerce and your Black, Latinx/Hispanic, Asian, LGBTQ or Women's business groups to benefit from the insider information they often possess. Many chambers of commerce employ government relations officials whose role is to ensure that government officials understand and advocate for the needs and priorities of the chamber members and to keep businesse needs top of mind and understand what policy changes, funding opportunities and business opportunities may be in the works. You want to be sure that your industry or demographic group is well represented in these matters. Get The Bag is a member of our local Black Chamber, the U.S. Black Chamber and the Green Business Network.
As is the case with almost anything related to starting and running a business, securing free grant money is a competitive and challenging process, but if you create a system that allows you to efficiently apply for grants in a consistent manner, you will win! Get The Bag offers resources to help you with your small business grant and business funding search. These include a monthly business grant calendar, articles, workshops and social media events to keep you informed and inspired.