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Where to Find Free Funding
Federal and state agencies, as well as private companies, offer small-business grants. Here's a list of resources.
Find grants for startupsStartup business grants can help small businesses or true startups grow without debt.
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⏰ Estimated read time: 22 minutes
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.
How much do you need?
We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.
Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.
Federal small-business grants
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 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.
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 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 funding in 2023
U.S. Small Business Administration. PRIME Grantees. Accessed Nov 8, 2023.
State and 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:
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.
Employability Business Grant: This grant offers small- and medium-sized businesses in California an opportunity to grow their operations and create job opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The program is designed to cover new hire costs, including advertising, onboarding, training and first month’s wages. Grants are available in amounts ranging from $20,000 to $200,000. Businesses must qualify with the California Department of Rehabilitation which will create a contract that determines the schedule for funding reimbursement.
Restaurants Care Resilience Fund: Restaurants Care runs an annual grant program to support independently owned restaurants in California. Eligible restaurant owners can receive $5,000 small-business grants to upgrade their kitchen equipment or retain employees. To qualify, restaurants must be located in California and owned by a California resident, have under $3 million in annual revenue and have been open for at least one year. You must also be a customer of SoCalGas, Pacific Gas and Electric or San Diego Gas & Electric. The next cycle runs from October 25 - November 8, 2023.
Founders First Job Creators Quest Grant: This small-business grant program is designed to help Southern California business owners hire or rehire premium wage jobs. A total of $100,000 is available to 25 small businesses in award amounts between $1,500 and $10,000. Each grant recipient will also receive a tuition scholarship to one of Founders First’s business accelerator training programs. To qualify for one of these California small-business grants, you must have between two and 20 employees and annual revenue between $100,000 and $3 million. Business owners must also identify as one of the following: woman, military veteran, Latinx, Black, Asian, LGBTQIA+ or be located in a low-to-moderate income area. Applications for this cycle will be accepted until November 13, 2023.
San Francisco Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund: Women-owned businesses in San Francisco can get grants of up to $5,000 that can be used to help them grow. These grants are distributed by the Mission Economic Development Agency in collaboration with San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. To qualify, you must work with a local nonprofit that provides technical assistance to small businesses. With that organization, you need to complete at least three months and a total of eight hours of consulting. Additional eligibility criteria apply.
Immigrants Rising SEED Grant: The organization Immigrants Rising offers two types of small-business grants to California residents who are looking to start or grow their California-based business that addresses a social problem or community need. The grants are available in amounts of $5,000 and $10,000, and eligibility is based on how much revenue your business made in the last tax year. To qualify for either of these California business grants, you must identify with one of the following: non-U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident or limited English proficiency (regardless of immigration or citizenship status). The latest cycle's application period closed in May 2023.
Florida High Tech Corridor Research Grants: Florida businesses involved in technology and research can access up to $150,000 from Florida High Tech Corridor’s Matching Grants Research Program. To qualify, business owners must work with a university researcher from either the University of Central Florida or the University of South Florida. Businesses should also focus on research projects that support the development and commercialization of new technologies. These grants can be combined with funding from the federal SBIR and STTR programs.
Prospera Business Grants: Prospera is a Florida-based nonprofit organization that focuses on providing bilingual support to Hispanic entrepreneurs who are trying to grow their businesses. Through the Prospera grant program, small-business owners can receive free professional business development services, including legal and accounting assessments, marketing and sales planning, branding development, QuickBooks consulting and more. Prospera ’s consultants meet with applicants and award grants for professional services based on their individual needs.
City of Orlando Business Assistance Program: This matching grant program helps promote expansion and redevelopment in Orlando, Florida. Through the program, the Economic Development Department will match 50% of the fees — up to $20,000 — assessed against a small business for an eligible improvement project. Some eligible improvements include water and sewer line construction; street lighting; sidewalk repairs; and curb, gutter and street improvements. Small-business owners must get city approval and the proper permits for their projects before they can receive financing. Only businesses within certain industries can qualify.
North Miami Community Redevelopment Agency Grants: Small businesses in the city of North Miami, Florida, can apply for a variety of different grants that range in maximum amounts from up to $7,500 to $150,000. These grants are administered by North Miami CRA, an independent government agency, and include the Business Attraction Grant, Beautification and Enhancement Grant, Rehabilitation Grant and Capacity Building/Retention Grant. Each program has unique requirements, but you’ll need to be located in the North Miami regional area to qualify.
Enterprise Florida Trade Grants: Florida export businesses can apply for a variety of government business grants through the Florida Export Diversification and Expansion Program. In order to qualify, businesses must have been in operation for at least two years; must employ between three and 500 workers; and must have at least $250,000 in annual sales in the previous calendar year. Each individual grant has additional eligibility requirements.
Global NY Fund Grant Program: This program offers grants of up to $25,000 to small businesses across New York that are looking to start exporting or trying to increase their global exports. These small-business grants will reimburse up to 50% of total project costs for uses such as participation in trade shows, export workshops and market customization. To qualify, your business must have fewer than 500 employees, be in operation for at least one year and show your intent to begin or expand exporting in global markets. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.
New York Public Library StartUP! Business Plan Competition: The New York Public Library runs an annual small-business grant competition for startup entrepreneurs located in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island. Applicants enter a business plan and then must attend training workshops and meet with a business advisor and business librarian during the competition. Entrepreneurs can win $7,500, $10,000 or $15,000 to start their business. Applications for the 2023 cycle are closed; information about the 2024 competition will be available in the fall. The Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Economic Development Corporation both run similar grant programs for startup businesses located in those boroughs.
City of Rochester Neighborhood Commercial Assistance Program: Both established and startup businesses within the city of Rochester can apply for reimbursement grants for a variety of common business expenditures, including furniture, equipment, advertising, computers, exterior signage and security systems. Existing businesses (with 12 months or more in business) are eligible for grants up to $8,000, and new businesses (with up to 12 months in business) are eligible for grants up to $5,000. Businesses must provide proper cost documentation to receive a reimbursement grant.
Wayne County Microburst Grant Program: Entrepreneurs in Wayne County, New York, can earn grants from $5,000 to $20,000 to fund their startup businesses. Through this program, microbusinesses (with fewer than five employees) submit a potential project and provide a minimum of 10% cash to match the total project cost. With the proposed project, businesses must be able to create one full-time job for an individual from a low-to-moderate-income family. To qualify, small businesses must be in business for less than a year at the time of application. Small-business owners are also required to complete business classes from SCORE, a nonprofit organization of business mentors and SBA resource partner, in order to apply.
CitizensNYC Neighborhood Business Grants: CitizensNYC offers two grant programs to support local businesses and community groups throughout New York City. The Neighborhood Business Grant offers up to $5,000 to fund a variety of small business needs, such as technical upgrades, hiring support, marketing, training and more. This program also prioritizes businesses owned by people of color, immigrants and women. The Community Leader (All In Neighborhood) Grant provides microgrants of up to $3,000 for community-building projects. These grants are awarded to resident-led groups trying to address issues and improve life in their communities.
Texas Workforce Commission Skills for Small Business Program: Small businesses in Texas with newly hired workers can receive grants to cover employee training. The program offers up to $1,800 for each new employee being trained and $900 for existing employees per 12-month period. Training must be provided by a public community or technical college, or the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service. To qualify, your business must have fewer than 100 employees.
Center for Women Entrepreneurs StartHER Grant: Female entrepreneurs in Texas who own or are starting a business can apply for this annual program to receive $5,000 in grant funding. These business grants can be used for a variety of purposes, including purchasing equipment, inventory or technology, property improvements, marketing or advertising campaigns and more. To qualify, small-business owners must provide documentation to show their business is 51% or more woman-owned and controlled. Winners for the 2023 grant cycle were announced on October 30.
Amegy Bank Small Business Boost Program: Through this program, Amegy Bank partners with the Houston Texans to provide $5,000 grants to local small businesses. To qualify, businesses must have under 500 employees, be independently owned and operated and operate primarily in the Houston area. The 2023 cycle is open to nominations until November 15.
Dayton Community Development Corporation Grant Programs: The city of Dayton, Texas, administers several programs that offer grants to small businesses to fund projects that promote the growth and development of downtown Dayton. For example, businesses can receive a 50% grant match — up to $7,500 — for exterior and interior projects such as facade improvements, signage, parking lot improvements and landscaping projects. To qualify for any of these programs, your business must be within city limits and you must receive approval for the proposed project.
Texas State Trade Expansion Program Grant: Texas businesses that want to start exporting or expand their current exporting initiatives can apply for reimbursement grants for expenses such as shipping costs, interpreter fees, compliance testing, travel costs and market analysis fees, among other expenses. To qualify, you must have been in business for at least one year, be in good standing with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, have a product or service created in Texas and meet the SBA’s definition of a small business. Applications for the 2023 cycle closed in February; the next application period is anticipated for late December or early January 2024.
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.
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. Verizon is offering a total of $500,000 in grant awards for 2023. The latest round of funding is open from October 12 - December 20, 2023.
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest
The company’s annual grant competition awards over $300,000 to 10 small businesses, including a $30,000 grant and $1,000 in FedEx print credits to its grand prize winners.
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. The next cycle will open in early 2024.
Small Business Growth Fund Grant
The Small Business Growth Fund, a partnership between the Global Entrepreneur Fund and Hello Alice — funded by Etsy and Progressive — is an annual program designed to help entrepreneurs grow their operations.
This year, the program will award grants between $5,000 and $25,000 to for-profit U.S.-based businesses that had less than $1 million in gross revenue in 2022. Winners for the latest round were announced in November.
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 2023 cycle closed in August, and winners were announced in October.
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. Recipients for the 2023 cycle were announced in July.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Top Small Business Awards
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 gives awards to businesses in a variety of categories, such as emerging business and green/sustainable business, with associated prizes.
Although you must have an existing business to qualify, you only need to have been in operation for one year. Applications for the 2023 cycle closed on July 21. Finalists were announced on October 4, and the grand-prize winner was announced on October 19 at the America's Top Small Business Summit.
Visa Everywhere Initiative
The Visa Everywhere Initiative is a grant competition that offers free funding 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 the top five finalists in each region, and these businesses will move forward to a global finals event. The overall winner of the competition is awarded a $50,000 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 closed on June 26, 2023, and the global finals were held on Sept. 19 at TechCrunch Disrupt.
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. This year, the Lenovo Evolve Grant provided 30 small businesses with $10,000 in funding, a Lenovo laptop and business support. The 2023 cycle winners have been announced.
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.
Incfile Fresh Start Business Grant
Incfile’s Fresh Start Business Grant offers a grant of $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 Incfile.
To qualify, you must be planning to start a new business or grow an existing business. Incfile 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 and awards two $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. You can sign up now to join the waitlist for 2024 applications.
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 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. The current application cycle runs until December 31, 2023.
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 funding is 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.
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.
Fund your dreams with a small-business loan
If grants aren't available for your business right now, check out NerdWallet's picks for the best small-business loans and compare your options.
You can find small-business grants at government agencies, state organizations and private corporations. A few good places to start your search include the government database Grants.gov, your local Small Business Development Center and nonprofits such as the Local Initiatives Support Corp.
Some of the most common types of small-business grants include government grants, such as federal, state and local grants, nonprofit grants, corporate or private grants, as well as hardship and emergency grants.
Business grant qualifications will depend on the awarding organization. Priority may be given to businesses in rural or low-income locations or those run by women or minority groups, for example. Read a grant's complete eligibility criteria before applying to understand if your business qualifies.
The U.S. Small Business Administration doesn’t typically offer grants directly to small businesses. Instead, the agency issues grant funding to state, local and tribal governments, as well as nonprofit organizations, to be used to support small-business initiatives. SBA loans are an available alternative to SBA grants.