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Small-Business Grants:

Where to Find Free Funding

Federal and state agencies, as well as private companies, offer small-business grants. Here's a list of resources.
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By Randa Kriss
Last updated on July 3, 2024
Edited bySally Lauckner

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Small-business grants provide free money for startups and existing businesses, including those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic or other hardships. Unlike small-business loans, grants offer access to capital that doesn’t need to be repaid.
It takes time and effort to research and apply for funding, but the payoff can be worth it if you secure a grant for your small business. To help you get started, here’s a list of federal, state and private small-business grants and resources.

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Federal government grants for small businesses

Government agencies are among the biggest distributors of business grants, supporting a range of enterprises from environmental conservation to child care services. Applying may seem intimidating, but federal business grants are great opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to grow.

Grants.gov

Grants.gov is a comprehensive database of government small-business grants administered by various federal agencies, such as the departments of Education and Veterans Affairs.

Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs

The SBIR and the STTR grant programs focus on research and development for technology innovation and scientific research. The programs help connect entrepreneurs with federal business grants and contracts from 12 government agencies.
To qualify, you must operate a for-profit business, have no more than 500 employees and meet other eligibility requirements.

USDA Rural Business Development Grant

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the Rural Business Development Grant program, which provides funding to strengthen and grow small businesses in rural communities.
Businesses must have fewer than 50 new employees, less than $1 million in gross revenue and be located in an eligible rural area to qualify. Applications are accepted once per year through the USDA Rural Development’s local or state offices.

Program for Investors in Microentrepreneurs

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) doesn’t typically offer grants directly to small businesses. The Program for Investors in Microentrepreneurs (PRIME), however, offers federal grants to microenterprise development organizations so that they can provide assistance to disadvantaged microentrepreneurs.
These organizations, such as the Washington Area Community Investment Fund and PeopleFund, both of which were awarded grants in 2023, can be private nonprofits, or run by state, local or tribal governments.

We update this list of small-business grants on a regular basis. Check back often for deadline updates and new funding opportunities.
📣 Want to see your grant program listed? Email us the details at rkriss@nerdwallet.com.

Regional government grants for small businesses

Because federal grants can be particularly competitive — and limited in number — you might also look into government small-business grants at the state and local levels. Start your search with options like these:

Economic Development Administration

The U.S. Economic Development Administration provides business grants, resources and technical assistance for communities to support economic growth and encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.
Each state’s agency helps small businesses find financing (including state or regional grants), secure locations and recruit employees. You can search the economic development directory for regional offices and local resources.

Small Business Development Center

Your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) provides support for small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. They’re often associated with local universities or a state’s economic development agency, and many can help connect you with small-business grants, as well as other business financing opportunities — plus, counseling, training and technical assistance.

Minority Business Development Agency centers

The MBDA runs a national network of business centers dedicated to growing and promoting minority-owned small businesses. These centers help business owners access capital, secure contracts and compete in emerging markets.
Your local MBDA center can help you apply for debt-based financing as well as federal, state and local business grants. The agency usually holds an annual small-business grant competition and provides contest updates on its website.

State Trade Expansion Program

The SBA funds state governments to implement the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) grant, which helps small businesses cover costs to start or expand into international markets.
The available funding amounts and eligibility criteria of these government small-business grants vary based on your state, but capital can be used to participate in export trade shows, design international marketing products, support website globalization and more.

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Corporate small-business grants

Many corporations and large companies have a philanthropic component that includes small-business grants. While some provide grants to nonprofits servicing specific industries only, some also give to for-profit companies.

National Association for the Self-Employed Growth Grant

NASE members can apply for monthly small-business grants worth up to $4,000, as well as an annual $3,000 college scholarship for members’ dependents. Grants are awarded year-round, with completed applications reviewed quarterly in January, April, July and October.

Freed Fellowship Grant

The Freed Fellowship awards a $500 microgrant to one U.S. small-business owner on a monthly basis. Grant recipients are then eligible to receive a $2,500 end-of-year grant. The organization also offers grant winners a one-on-one strategy with a business expert, as well as a year of membership to the Freed Studio, a virtual community of entrepreneurs.
To qualify, you must be a micro- or small-business owner in the U.S. The Freed Fellowship particularly encourages underrepresented businesses to apply. Applications are accepted online on a rolling basis. To be considered for the grant in any given month, you must submit your application by 12:00 a.m. on the last day of that month.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce CO-100

The CO-100, formerly known as America’s Top Small Business Awards, recognizes a small business for its contributions to the U.S. economy and offers a grant of $25,000. The competition also awards smaller $2,000 grants to 10 additional businesses.
Although you must have an existing business to qualify, you only need to have been in operation for one year. Applications for the 2024 cycle are open and will be accepted until July 22, 2024.

SCORE 60th Anniversary Pitch Competition

In honor of its 60th anniversary, SCORE is running a pitch competition that allows small-business owners to improve their presentation and selling skills — and possibly win funding. To participate in this program, you must watch SCORE’s pitch training webinars and submit your pitch by July 31, 2024.
If your pitch is approved, you’ll work with a SCORE expert who will offer tips and advice to help you prepare your pitch video. Judges will review these videos and choose finalists to present their pitches in front of a live audience. The top three presentations will receive grant funding: $20,000 for first place, $10,000 for second and $5,000 for third.

Verizon Small Business Grant

Verizon’s Digital Ready program gives business owners the opportunity to access free courses and educational materials, as well as apply for grant funding. To be eligible for a $10,000 small-business grant, entrepreneurs must register through the Verizon website and complete at least two of the following: courses, live coaching or community events.
Once these tasks are completed, you can submit a grant application. Applications for the latest round of financing closed on June 28, 2024.

Amazon Small Business Grant

The annual Amazon Small Business Grant program offers free grants to small businesses that have an Amazon Business account and $1 million or less in annual revenue. The program offers grants to 15 businesses, ranging in amounts from $15,000 to $25,000.
Winners can also receive a one-year membership to Business Prime and free products from eero Wifi and Kindle Scribe. Applications for the latest round of funding closed in May. Recipients will be announced in late July.

Visa Everywhere Initiative

The Visa Everywhere Initiative is a grant competition that offers free capital to tech-forward startups across five different regions around the globe. Applicants must show how they’ve developed a product or service that creatively involves Visa’s products.
Visa will select a top finalist in each region, and these businesses will move forward to a global finals event. The overall winner of the competition is awarded a $100,000 small-business grant. Additional grants are awarded to second- and third-place finalists, audience favorites, as well as regional and local winners. Applications for the North America region are currently closed. The 2024 finalists will present their businesses at a live event in October.

FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

In 2024, FedEx’s annual grant competition awarded one $50,000 grand prize and nine additional $20,000 grants. Winners were announced in May.
The contest is for U.S.-based, for-profit small businesses with fewer than 99 employees. You must also have a valid FedEx business shipping account number and currently ship with FedEx to apply. If you’re interested in next year’s competition, you can sign up on the FedEx website to be notified when applications open.

American Express Backing Small Businesses

The Backing Small Businesses grant program is a collaboration between American Express and Main Street America. Now in its third year, the program awarded $10,000 grants to 500 small businesses. Of those, 25 businesses will receive $30,000 Enhancement Grants, which have limited use cases. Grantees will be able to apply for Enhancement Grants later this year.
To be eligible for this business grant program, your company must be located in historic main street, downtown or commercial district. Applications are currently closed.

Venmo Small Business Grant

The Venmo Small Business Grant program awards 20 eligible entrepreneurs with $10,000 grants for their small businesses. It also offers public promotion on the Venmo website and social media accounts, as well as mentorship from industry leaders.
To qualify, you must have a U.S. Venmo account and a valid business profile on Venmo in good standing. You also must have less than $50,000 in annual sales and 10 employees or fewer. Applications for the 2024 cycle are now closed and winners will be announced mid-July.

Lenovo Evolve small-business grant

The Lenovo Evolve Small initiative is a program designed to support small businesses throughout the U.S. and Canada by offering grants and technology donations. In 2023, the Lenovo Evolve program provided 30 small businesses with $10,000, a Lenovo laptop and business support. You can sign up on the Lenovo website to receive notifications about upcoming Evolve Small opportunities.

Grants to start a business

If you’re looking for startup business grants, you may have more difficulty finding available federal grants. Some state and local governments, as well as private companies, however, offer startup grants for small businesses.

HoneyBook Breakthrough Grant

HoneyBook, a clientflow management platform, offers a business grant designed specifically for early-stage marketing and creative consultants. To qualify, you must be an independent business owner selling your skills and expertise as a consultative service — and you must have been in business for less than three years.
Winners of the Breakthrough Grant will receive a $18,000 cash award, a three-year HoneyBook Premium membership and $4,600 worth of expert support from the HoneyBook Pros. Applications are currently open and will be accepted until July 16, 2024.

Fast Break for Small Business

LegalZoom, the NBA, WNBA and NBA G-League partner with Accion Opportunity Fund to offer $10,000 grants and up to $500 in LegalZoom services to small-business owners. The Fast Break for Small Business program is available to entrepreneurs with at least three months in business.
If you have less than three months in operation or haven't started your business yet, you can also apply to receive a LegalZoom product of your choosing (up to $500). Applications for the 2024 cycle of this grant program are open until Sept. 13, 2024.

The UPS Store Small Biz Challenge

The UPS Store Small Biz Challenge offers a grand prize grant of $25,000 to one U.S. small business with nine or fewer full-time employees. The winning company will also receive a feature in Inc. Magazine. Two additional finalists will be awarded $5,000 each. Winners for the 2024 application cycle were announced in May.

Bizee Fresh Start Business Grant

Bizee's Fresh Start Business Grant (previously known as the Incfile Fresh Start grant) offers $2,500 to help new entrepreneurs cover startup costs. The winning business owner will also receive free formation services in their state, free registered agent services for a year and a free tax consultation from Bizee.
To qualify, you must be planning to start a new business or grow an existing business. Bizee also offers a Young Entrepreneur Grant for students interested in starting their own businesses. The next cycle will be held in 2024.

Hello Alice grant platform

Hello Alice partners with a variety of companies, such as Progressive and DoorDash, to offer different grants for small businesses, including startups. You can create an account to receive notifications about new opportunities and apply for the grants that are relevant to your business.

Amber Grant for women

WomensNet offers the $10,000 monthly Amber Grant, the $10,000 monthly startup grant and awards three $25,000 grants on an annual basis. The foundation also gives additional free funding throughout the year. To qualify for any of the grants offered by WomensNet, businesses only have to fill out a single application. Startups and existing women-owned businesses are eligible.

SubSummit Pitch Competition

Subscription-based businesses that are less than two years old can apply to participate in the SubSummit Pitch Competition. The winner of this annual event receives a $10,000 small-business grant and $40,000 worth of business services.
To apply, you have to send in a short video describing your business, the inspiration behind your brand — and if you want — what you plan to do with the grant funding. Semi-finalists will compete virtually and finalists will compete for the grand prize at a live event. The 2024 winner was announced in May. You can sign up for the 2025 waitlist on the SubSummit website.

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Small-business hardship grants

Small-business hardship grants can help you recover after an emergency situation, like a natural disaster or public health crisis. These grants may be available from the government, nonprofits or corporations, among other sources.
Depending on the emergency, certain business hardship grants may only be available within a specific time frame, so it’s particularly important to check their funding deadlines.
Here are some options to consider:

State and local small-business recovery grants

Your state and local governments can be great places to find small-business hardship grants, as well as emergency business loans and other options for financial relief and assistance. In the wake of a crisis — like the COVID-19 pandemic, for example — states and cities often create grant programs specifically to help small businesses.
Some states and cities also run ongoing small-business grant programs to assist business owners when they suffer from damages as the result of fires, floods and hurricanes, among other disasters.

Etsy Emergency Relief Fund

Etsy partners with the nonprofit organization, CERF+, to provide its sellers with financial relief after they’re affected by a disaster. To qualify for this small-business hardship grant, you’ll need to have experienced a federally declared natural disaster within the last year, as well as have had an active Etsy seller account in good standing for at least one year.
Etsy Emergency Relief grants are available in amounts of $2,000. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and funds are issued quarterly.

DoorDash Restaurant Disaster Relief Fund

Restaurants that have experienced a natural disaster may be able to get a small-business recovery grant from the DoorDash Restaurant Disaster Relief Fund. This program offers $10,000 business grants to brick-and-mortar restaurants that have been impacted by a federally or state-declared disaster, such as a wildfire, hurricane or earthquake.
To qualify, you’ll also need to have three restaurant locations or fewer, 50 or fewer employees, been in business for at least six months and made $3 million or less per location in the last year.
Applications are accepted on a quarterly basis but they must be submitted within 12 months of the declared disaster. Recipients will be notified within 30 days after the application period closes. You can apply for the latest cycle of funding until Sept. 3, 2024.

Small Business Readiness for Resiliency Program

The Small Business Readiness for Resiliency (R4R) Program is a two-part initiative that strives to help businesses prepare for and recover from unexpected disasters. To participate in the program, you must complete a preparedness checklist (which includes an emergency action plan), register in the R4R database — and then, in the event of a disaster, you can apply for grant eligibility.
Emergency relief grants are issued in amounts of $5,000 and you must be able to show that you incurred disaster-related damages or losses that equal or exceed that amount. You’ll also need to have fewer than 500 employees, among other requirements, to qualify for this small-business hardship grant.

Binc Foundation emergency financial assistance grants

The Binc Foundation awards small-business hardship grants to bookstore owners, booksellers and comic store owners who have unforeseen emergency financial needs. To qualify, you must be located in the U.S. or one of its territories and have experienced a qualifying event, such as a natural disaster, man-made disaster, serious medical expense or domestic violence, among others.
You can fill out an inquiry form on the Binc Foundation website at any time to connect with the organization and apply for emergency assistance.

State grants for small businesses

Some state and local governments, nonprofits and private companies offer business grants that are unique to their communities. Click on your state below to find small-business grants in your area.

Specialty small-business grants

To help spread entrepreneurial success across demographics, many organizations focus their free business funding efforts on specific communities.
We’ve put together lists of:

How to get a small-business grant

Couple of hands typing on a laptop.
1. Research and identify the right grants.Narrow down online search results by using keywords that are specific to your business or searching by location.
Storefront with a door and window.
2. Prepare your grant applications.Verify that you meet all eligibility requirements and gather the necessary paperwork.
Paper documents wrapped with a ribbon that has a checkmark on it.
3. Submit and track your applications.Make sure you submit your applications by the appropriate deadline. Set up a tracking document to monitor different grant timelines.
A person looking at a mobile phone.
4. Consider hiring a grant writer.Professional grant writers can provide expertise to help you get funding. They can draft proposals, track eligibility requirements and manage deadlines.

Alternatives to small-business grants

Finding and applying for the right grants for your small business can be difficult, as well as time-consuming. If you don't qualify for certain grants, there are other ways to fund your business. Here are some avenues to explore:
  • Small-business loans. Compare loan options — including bank loans, SBA loans, business lines of credit, term loans and equipment financing — plus, learn how to choose the right financing for your needs.
  • Small-business credit cards. Explore dozens of cards and find the best choice for funding your everyday business purchases — and earn rewards in the process.
  • Crowdfunding for business. Raise money for your small business by tapping into the power of the internet and promoting your product or service through a crowdfunding campaign.
Former NerdWallet writer Steve Nicastro contributed to this article.

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