Minority business owners face challenges when starting or expanding a small business, including access to affordable small-business loans. Business grants and financial assistance can help bridge the funding gap.
Here are some of the best small-business grants and other useful financing resources for minority-owned businesses. NerdWallet also has compiled a list of the best small-business loans for minorities.
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1. Grants.gov: This government website allows grant seekers to find and apply for federal funding opportunities. It contains information on more than 1,000 grant programs across all 26 federal grant-making agencies, including the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
To apply for federal grants, you must obtain a DUNS number from Dun & Bradstreet (a unique nine-digit identification number) for your business; register to do business with the U.S. government through its System Award Management website; and create an account at Grants.gov.
2. The USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program: This is a grant for the development or expansion of small businesses in rural areas — minority-owned or not. To qualify, you’ll need to have 50 or fewer employees, less than $1 million in revenue and be located in an eligible rural area.
Grants typically range from $10,000 to $500,000, and can be used for a variety of purposes, including training and technical assistance, acquisition or development of land and long-term business planning. Applications are accepted through the USDA’s Rural Development’s state offices once per year.
3. National Association for the Self-Employed: This nonprofit trade association provides educational resources and grants for small businesses and entrepreneurs. To apply for a grant of up to $4,000, you’ll need to become an active member of the association, provide a detailed explanation of how you’ll use the funds, show how the grant will support your business growth, and provide supporting documentation.
4. FedEx Small Business Grant Contest: This annual grant contest by FedEx awards 10 small businesses with grants of up to $25,000. Since 2013, FedEx has awarded more than $375,000 in grants to entrepreneurs. Any for-profit small business that has been operating for at least six months is eligible to enter. Here are the grant contest winners for 2017.
5. Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs: These two programs provide contracts and grants for early-stage small businesses that are looking to commercialize innovative biomedical technologies.
6. Minority Business Development Agency: This agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce promotes the growth of minority-run small businesses by connecting owners to financing resources, federal contracts and market opportunities. You can contact a local MBDA business center for more information.
7. National Minority Supplier Development Council: The council is a corporate member organization focused on increasing business opportunities for certified minority-owned businesses. It operates the Business Consortium Fund, a nonprofit business development program, which offers financing programs and business advisory services for its members.
8. SBA 8(a) Business Development Program: Socially or economically disadvantaged small-business owners are eligible to receive help through this SBA program, which provides business development assistance, training, and management and technical guidance.
To qualify, a small business must be at least 51% owned and controlled by a citizen who has been subjected to cultural bias or prejudice and placed at an economic disadvantage because of race or ethnicity. Here is a list of eligibility requirements.
9. Operation Hope Small-Business Empowerment Program: This program is designed for aspiring entrepreneurs in low-wealth neighborhoods, which often include minority communities. The program combines business training and financial counseling along with access to small-business financing options. Participants complete a 12-week training program, plus workshops on business financing and credit and money management.
Updated Jan. 16, 2018.