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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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Small-business grants provide free money for startups and existing businesses, including those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
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.
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 grants are great opportunities for small-business owners 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.
To qualify, you must operate a for-profit business, have no more than 500 employees and meet other eligibility requirements.
USDA Rural Business Development Grants: The U.S. Department of Agriculture administers the Rural Business Development Grant program, which provides financing 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 SBA doesn’t typically offer grants directly to small businesses. The Program for Investors in Microentrepreneurs, or 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 the GROW Nebraska Foundation, both of which were awarded funding in 2022
U.S. Small Business Administration. PRIME Grantees. Accessed Apr 4, 2023.
Economic Development Administration: This U.S. Department of Commerce agency provides grants, resources and technical assistance for communities to support economic growth and encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.
Each state’s agency helps 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.
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We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.
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Small Business Development Centers: Your local Small Business Development Center, or 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 updates on this contest on its website.
State Trade Expansion Program: The SBA funds state governments to implement the State Trade Expansion Program, or 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.
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.
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 will open in October 2023.
Oakland Black Business Fund: Black business owners in Oakland, California can apply for small-business grants, as well as get technical assistance through the Oakland Black Business Fund. This organization pairs applicants with local small-business owners in the community so they can build relationships and learn from other business leaders, while also earning income from the grant program.
Founders First Job Creators Quest Grant: This small-business grant program is designed to help Southern Californian 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. Pre-registration for the 2023 cycle is now open.
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 project before they can receive financing. Only businesses within certain industries can qualify.
North Miami Legacy Business Grant: Small businesses in the City of North Miami, Florida can apply for this grant program to access up to $5,000 in funding. Businesses must have been in operation for at least 15 years, can be a for-profit or non-profit organization and cannot be a franchise or part of a national chain, among other eligibility requirements.
Enterprise Florida Trade Grants: Florida export businesses can apply for a variety of business grants through the Florida Export Diversification & 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 state who 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. The Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Economic Development Corporation both run similar grant programs for startup businesses located in those boroughs. Applications for the 2023 cycle closed on March 31.
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.
Kick Start Wayne County: Entrepreneurs in Wayne County, New York can earn grants to fund their startup businesses. Through this program, new entrepreneurs submit a pitch describing their business or potential business idea. Existing businesses must be less than three years old to qualify. To apply, you need to submit a business plan, as well as complete at least one SCORE business class.
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 $10,000 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, on the other hand, 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.
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, 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.
Center for Women Entrepreneurs Veteran Woman Grant: Female veterans in Texas who own or are starting a business can apply for this annual program to receive $5,000 in grant funding. Grants can be used for a variety of business 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. They must also provide documentation of their veteran status. The 2023 grant cycle winners were announced in May.
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 now open to nominations.
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.
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.
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest: The company’s annual grant competition awards over $250,000 to 10 small businesses, including a $30,000 grant and $1,000 in FedEx print credits to its grand prize winners. The 2023 contest winners were announced in May. The contest is for U.S.-based for-profit small businesses that have been operating at least six months, with no more than 99 employees.
National Association for the Self-Employed: 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.
Fast Break for Small Business: LegalZoom, the NBA, WNBA and NBA G League have partnered with Accion Opportunity Fund to offer $10,000 grants and up to $500 in LegalZoom services for small-business owners. This program focuses on helping businesses in underserved and underrepresented communities. Applications are open twice a year.
Visa Everywhere Initiative: The Visa Everywhere Initiative is a grant competition that offers 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 $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 close on June 26, 2023.
Venmo Small Business Grant: The Venmo Small Business Grant program awards 20 eligible small businesses with $10,000 in free funding — plus, public promotion on the Venmo and PayPal websites and social media accounts, business resources, as well as professional consulting services. To qualify, you must have a U.S. Venmo account and valid business profile on Venmo in good standing. You also must have less than $50,000 in annual sales and 10 employees or fewer.
Lenovo Evolve Small 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.
Verizon Small Business Digital Ready Grant Program: 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.
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 business. The deadlines for the 2023 cycles are June 30 and September 30.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Top Small Business Awards: The 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 need to have been in operation for only one year. Applications for the 2023 cycle close on July 7.
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 to 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 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.
Although many federal, state and private grant programs have stopped accepting applications, there are still a handful of options available for small businesses that need relief as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what you need to know:
SBA small-business grants: COVID-19 relief grant programs administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration — including the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund — are closed and no longer accepting new applications. Similarly, the period to apply for the $10,000 Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance, or grant, has also expired.
State and local coronavirus small-business grants: Some state and local governments are still running grant programs that are specific to COVID-19 relief. For example, small businesses in Los Angeles County can access free financing up to $20,000 (up to $25,000 for nonprofits) through the LA County Economic Opportunity Grant Program
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.
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.
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 SBA 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.