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Small-Business Grants: Where to Find Free Money

Federal and state agencies, as well as private companies, offer small-business grants. Here's a list of resources.
Last updated on June 24, 2022

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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.

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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.
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 small businesses with federal grants and contracts from 11 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 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 through the USDA Rural Development’s local or state offices.
Program for Investors in Microentrepreneurs (PRIME): The SBA doesn’t typically offer grants directly to small businesses. The PRIME program, however, offers federal grants to microenterprise development organizations so that they can provide assistance to disadvantaged microentrepreneurs. These organizations, such as the Nebraska Enterprise Fund and the Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon, both of which were awarded funding in 2021, can be private nonprofits, or run by state, local or tribal governments.

State and regional small-business grants

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.
Small Business Development Centers: Your local 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 (STEP): The SBA funds state governments to implement the STEP grant program — 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.

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 $50,000 grant and $4,000 in FedEx print and business services to its three grand prize winners. The 2022 contest is closed and winners were announced on May 4. 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.
Patagonia Corporate Grants Program: Nonprofits striving to preserve and protect the environment can apply for a small-business grant through the Patagonia Corporate Grants Program. The retailer looks for innovative businesses with proposed projects that are quantifiable and have specific goals, objectives and action plans. These nonprofit grants typically fall between $5,000 and $20,000.
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.

Startup business grants

If you’re looking for free money to start a small business, 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.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Dream Big Awards: The annual Dream Big 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.
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.
Comcast RISE: Through the Comcast RISE program, startup businesses can receive free marketing services and technology makeovers. These awards are given quarterly to businesses that have been operational for at least one year. To qualify, you also need to be located within the Comcast or Effectv service area — and your business must be 51% owned by someone who identifies as a woman or person of color.
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.

COVID-19 small-business grants

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 New York can access free financing up to $50,000 through the New York State COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program.
In Sonoma County, California, microbusinesses can apply for grants of $2,500 through the California Microbusiness COVID-19 Relief Grant Program. You can visit your secretary of state, department of economic development or other official government websites in your area to see what options may be available for your business.
Corporate COVID-19 small-business grants: Although some private companies have closed coronavirus relief grant programs, you may be able to find a few options that are still accepting applications.
The nonprofit organization Main Street America, for instance, continues to offer its Inclusive Backing Grant Program in collaboration with American Express. This program is currently awarding COVID-19 relief grants to brick-and-mortar businesses owned by women, nonbinary people and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Specialty small-business grants

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

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.

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