Small Business Grants: Where to Find Free Money in 2021

Updated Aug 3, 2022.
small-business-grants

Do you need money to start your small business or is your small business struggling with financial needs? One option is to get a business loan.

This option requires you to pay back your business loan with interest, and many financial institutions will not lend to small businesses unless you have a good credit score. Before you can be granted a business loan, you have to assure the creditor that the loan can generate a good ROI.

Luckily, there is a way you can get free money to start a small business. This is through small business grants.

However, while these grants to start a business are free money, there are some hidden costs attached to them. They include the time it takes to apply and qualify for the grant, the waiting process to get selected, and the restrictions imposed on what and how to use the grant.

In this article, you will learn how to get a small business grant. To help you start, there are several startup business grants, federal funding for startups, state grants, and private small-business grants discussed.

Let’s get started.

What is a Business Grant?

A business grant is a form of financial assistance given to small businesses, organizations, and corporations from generous donors such as the government as a whole, private organizations, and corporations.

Grants for businesses are specially formed and designed for specific business targets based on a variety of factors such as minority-owned businesses, non-profit organizations, grants for women, and much more.

Business grants are available to organizations during their startup phase and majorly for important projects. Grants differ entirely from loans as they do not carry a pay-back clause. They are completely free except for the terms and conditions guiding their application usually outlined by the grant provider.

Grant Awards Non-Government vs. Government
Source: Instrumentl

Types of Small Business Grants

1. Coronavirus Small Business Grants

The U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) as well as private individuals and corporations introduced several grants in a bid to cushion the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on various small businesses. These Coronavirus small business grants targeted small businesses affected by the pandemic.

1. Shuttered Venue Operators Grant

SVO Grant program for businesses with closed venues and structures such as malls and cinemas

The SVO Grant program gives out grants up to $15 billion majorly for businesses with closed venues and structures, such as malls and cinemas.

2. Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance

SBA provides Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advances reaching up for small business enterprises

The SBA provides Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advances reaching up to $10,000 majorly for small business enterprises. No payback is required.

3. Restaurant Revitalization Fund

Restaurant Revitalization Fund give grants for Restaurants and food vendors

Restaurants and food vendors got grants up to $10 million in funding from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

4. The Barstool Fund

The Barstool Fund for all businesses affected by the Coronavirus pandemic

The Barstool fund provides grants by organizing campaigns to raise funds for all businesses affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. The amount for this grant varies for respective businesses.

5. Fiserv Back2Business Grant

Fiserv Back2Business Grant is eligible to black and minority owned small businesses grossly

This grant of $10,000 is eligible to black and minority-owned small businesses grossly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

6. New York State COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program

New York State COVID 19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program is mainly open to New York state business residents

This grant is mainly open to New York state business residents and the grants' amounts are calculated based on your annual gross spending proof from the previous year before the pandemic.

The grant can be as low as $5,000 to as much as 10% of gross spendings from the previous year, but accumulating up to $50,000.

2. Federal Small Business Grants

The biggest business grant distributor remains government agencies. Despite their tasking processes and requirements, federal small business grants provide lots of opportunities for small businesses in the form of grants. There is also federal funding for startups.

1. Small Business Innovation Research Program

Small Business Innovation Research Program is mainly focused on technological small companies

This grant is mainly focused on technological small companies. They target small entrepreneurs vast in the technology innovation sector aiming to be more commercialized.

2. Small Business Technology Transfer Program

Small Business Technology Transfer Program grant is specially designed for energy research and utilization based businesses

The small business technology transfer program grant is specially designed for energy research and utilization-based businesses. This program sponsors research and grants funding for technological innovations and development.

3. Department of Defense Grants

Department of Defense Grants is the Small Business Technology Transfer grant based programs and initiatives

The Department of Defense offers grants to small businesses through the Small Business Technology Transfer grant-based programs and initiatives. One of such is the Defense Enterprise Science Initiative.

4. Department of Energy Grants

Department of Energy Grants for the Small Business Innovative Research and Small Technology Transfer Research programs

The Department of Energy offers grants through the Small Business Innovative Research and Small Technology Transfer Research programs aimed at the utilization of research in the energy-based technology field.

5. National Institute of Health (NIH) Grants

NIH offers grants to small businesses developing and conducting research on various technologies across the medical sphere

The NIH offers grants to small businesses developing and conducting research on various technologies across the medical sphere.

6. Department of Justice (DOJ) Grants

DOJ offers grants in support of programs aimed at improving the justice system and law enforcement

The Department of Justice (DOJ) offers grants in support of programs aimed at improving the justice system and law enforcement.

7. USDA Rural Development Business Grants

USDA Rural Development Business Grants to support businesses in rural and less developed areas

This grant is offered by the Department of Agriculture in the form of loans and grants to support businesses in rural and less developed areas that major mainly in farming and creating quality jobs for their immediate locality.

3. State Government Grants for Small Businesses

State governments at various levels provide small business grants geared toward the particular state’s residents' needs. They usually work hand-in-hand with the federal government.

These grants are more accessible than federal government grants and this is due to lesser competition. Here is a list of the various state government grants afforded by different state governments.

  • Maryland Child Care Quality Incentive Grant Program
  • Southeast Michigan Resilience Fund
  • Idaho State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) Grant
  • New Mexico True Coop Program
  • Arkansas Infrastructure Grant Program
  • Louisiana Community Development Block Grant
  • Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund
  • Colorado Export Development Grant
  • Orlando Downtown Commercial and Residential Building Improvement Program
  • Minnesota Dairy Business Planning Grant
  • Iowa Business Development Grant Recycling
  • Kansas Job Creation Fund
  • Nebraska Child Care Grant
  • Minnesota Crop Research Grant Program
  • Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
  • Chicago Small Business Improvement Fund
  • New York City Fashion Manufacturing Initiative
  • Minnesota Innovation Voucher Award Program
  • Texas Young Farmer Grant
  • Minnesota Job Creation Fund
  • North Carolina IDEA
  • Cleveland Department of Economic Development
  • Miami Mom and Pop Small Business Grant
  • North Carolina Recycling Business Development Grants

4. Local Small Business Grants

Local small business grants are issued by the local government. This is the easiest of all the grant types because they are directly next door to you.

They are usually advertised through local means of communication such as local news, radio, adverts on local papers, and posters. Local governments also offer grants to start a business in their localities.

1. Salt Lake City River District Gardens Facade Improvement Grant

Salt Lake City River District Gardens Facade Improvement Grant is only available for the Salt Lake City River district

This grant is only available for the Salt Lake City River district and it is relatively uncompetitive and easy to apply.

2. Orlando Downtown Commercial and Residential Building Improvement Program

Orlando Downtown Commercial and Residential Building Improvement Program for Orlando area

This program gives out business grants worth between $15,000 and $120,000. The single criteria for getting this grant is that the organization makes significant improvements to the structures of buildings within the downtown Orlando area.

3. Land and Health Community Grant

Land and Health Community grant  offers small business and startup business grants in East Central Illinois

The Land and Health Community grant is a private foundation that offers small business and startup business grants in East Central Illinois.

5. Small Business Grants for Startups

Small business grants are usually open for consideration to businesses with only a few years of operation experience under their belt. Startup business grants aim to cover new and upcoming businesses as it is usually these categories of businesses that are often in the most need of grant assistance.

1. 4.0 Schools Fellowships

4.0 Schools are Structured to Assist Business Owners With a Background in Education

Fellowships under the 4.0 Schools are structured to assist business owners with a background in education who can provide innovative ideas on how to improve the education sector in the United States.

Grants are approved ranging mini-grants of $600 for new intenders, and businesses that are further qualified can be eligible for up to $10,000. The deadline for application usually closes every September yearly.

2. Jack Daniel’s Pitch Distilled Contest

Jack Daniels Hosts an Annual Pitch Competition Aimed at Inspiring Young Entrepreneurs to Pick up Their Thinking Hats

Jack Daniels hosts an annual pitch competition aimed at inspiring young entrepreneurs to pick up their thinking hats and bring forth new innovative ideas. This competition is open to small business startups and if their idea is bought into, they are allowed to present it to a large gathering of business owners.

The winner of this competition would be awarded a prize of $5,000, plus free counseling and guidance from the panel of judges in bringing their idea to the limelight.

6. Corporate Small Business Grants

Many large corporations and companies have a gracious philanthropic network which includes providing grants to small businesses as well as advice to others.

1. National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Grant

NASE Gives Out Grants for Ensuring Small Businesses Take on The Next Big Step in Their Respective Industries

NASE gives out grants to small businesses to the tune of $4,000. This grant is aimed at ensuring small businesses take on the next big step in their respective industries. The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) grant is given annually.

2. FedEx Small Business Grant

FedEx Gives Out Grants Annually Nationwide Through Its Small Business Grant Contest

FedEx gives out grants annually to the tune of over $230,000 to a total of 12 small businesses nationwide through its small business grant contest.

3. Visa Everywhere Initiative

Visa Everywhere Initiative offers grants for small business startups with smart and efficient solutions to modern problems

Visa Everywhere Initiative offers grants for small business startups with smart and efficient solutions to modern problems. The grants are usually awarded to the top 3 winners and total to about $50,000 every year.

4. Wells Fargo Community Investment

Wells Fargo offers business grants across almost all states and their primary focus is non profits organizations

Wells Fargo offers business grants across almost all states and their primary focus is non-profits organizations. Oftentimes, small businesses with the right criteria get selected.

5. Kuvio Creative

Kuvio Creative provide small business grants and access to services on their site for free

Kuvio Creative provides special access to young entrepreneurs leaving their mark on the web design industry by providing them with small business grants and access to services on their site for free. The application opens 3 times yearly and winners get access to about 100 hours of free access.

7. Small Business Grants for Women

These are special grants aimed at assisting women in various strata of the economy to combat the effect the Coronavirus pandemic has had on their businesses. As was the case for a majority of businesses, women were also affected by this new normal.

Various private stakeholders and corporations took it upon themselves to assist in reducing the negative impacts on women by providing various grants only available to women.

1. The Amber Grant Program

The Amber Grant Program awarded to the most qualified female entrepreneurs every month across various sectors of the economy

This grant program is a grant worth $10,000 in cash and awarded to the most qualified female entrepreneurs every month across various sectors of the economy.

The Amber Grant program is not only limited to end-of-the-month awards as there are also end-of-the-year packages where grant beneficiaries stand the chance to win an additional $25,000 in the grant.

2. Boston Women’s Fund

Boston Women’s Fund provides startup money for female entrepreneurs across various facets of society

The Boston Women’s Fund provides startup money for female entrepreneurs across various facets of society in the form of grants. They also reach out to women-led grassroots community efforts by offering financial support for programs as well as time to time operational funding.

How to Find a Grant for a Small Business

Locating a grant for small businesses can be as simple as a Google search but the coverage would be wider than expected. In a bid to narrow the search and ensure the right grants make their way to the best businesses, the following grant resources offer a helping hand.

1. Grants.gov

Grants.gov is the official federal government agency’s go to site for all federal government grants

Grants.gov is the official federal government agency’s go-to site for all federal government grants across various agencies of government. This is an efficient monitoring and information dissemination site for federal grants for small businesses.

The grants portrayed on the site vary from local government to private corporations to nonprofit organizations. There is always an availability of offers for intending grants seekers across all categories on the website.

2. GrantWatch

GrantWatch contains grants from various agencies from the government to private and non governmental organizations

GrantWatch contains grants from various agencies from the government to private and non-governmental organizations. This type of database is only open to their already paid subscribers.

The GrantWatch site is constantly being updated and intending subscribers need to regularly check in on the site in order not to miss out on grants opportunities. This site also provides the means for you to streamline your grants searches based on your business type to rule out the long list of unnecessary grants.

3. Small Business Development Centers

Small Business Development Centers are the close link between local and national business development centers as they provide mentorship to small business owners and link with other rising small business owners.

They also have the largest oversight over various grant programs as they are usually indirectly involved in the local business grant process.

4. SCORE.org

SCORE is an organization that provides free mentoring services for small business owners in the United States

SCORE is an organization that provides free mentoring services for small business owners in the United States. They are legally backed by the U.S Small Business Administration.

Their services are free and they provide the option of connecting you with online personnel to help you identify the nearest and most suitable grant opportunities open to you.

5. Local Librarian

With the way library databases are designed, the trained researchers behind the desk who take up roles as librarians are your best bet to get access to up-to-date grants. And all these services are free.

How to Apply for a Business Grant (and WIN)

Various business grants come with stringent processes and requirements. You need to consider a few things when planning to apply and win a business grant ahead of other competitors.

1. Do Your Separate Research

Many grants usually come with competition as there is usually a long queue of people interested in the grant. You must be smart and efficient in your thinking in a bid to get the best out of the grant opportunities.

Oftentimes, there are lowly populated grants opportunities usually due to not enough awareness or stringent requirements processes. These are the type of opportunities you should be looking out for as they help to increase your chance of getting accepted.

2. Double Check On the Requirements

Specific grants come with special requirements. To be eligible to receive the grant, you have to ensure you are not found wanting in any of the requirements before applying.

3. An Up-To-Date Business Plan

Most business grants usually require you to present a concrete business plan. The aim is to ensure you are properly qualified and your business meets the required grants standard.

Ensuring your business plan is up-to-date on submission is essential. It serves as a boost to your grant application.

One Page Business Plan
Source: Hubspot

4. Timely Turn in of Application

All grants usually come with a pre-set deadline and it is important you stick to this timeline. The deadline is the first point of screening for grant applicants.

Many applicants do not make it past this phase due to late submissions. Ensure your application has been submitted before the due date to avoid disqualification on the ground of late submission.

5. Regular and Periodic Follow-up

Regularly checking and following up on your grant application is a customary and good practice. Most grants come with contact info to reach out to for queries and questions. You need to utilize this window of opportunity to track the progress of your grant as well as regularly keep in touch.

The expected time for the announcement of grants winners should also be cross-checked while in contact so that you do not miss out on the acceptance window.

6. Do Smart Work

When filing your grant application, ensure you are adequately prepared for whatever is likely to be thrown at you. You should create an application profile for your business that points out your response to likely to be asked questions. The fact that grants are free does not take away the fact that it requires rigorous conviction in its pursuit.

7. Get All Necessary Documentations Ready

The necessary document for every grant application varies. Some of the documentation the grant provider will likely ask you to provide during the application stage include:

  • Nature of  business
  • Total number of employees
  • Monthly or annual revenue generated
  • How do you intend to utilize funds granted
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Means of communication usually include your email address, phone number, and social media handles.
  • A professional passport photograph

Business Grants vs Business Loans

Business grants and loans both serve the same purpose of helping source capital for your business but are completely different in their specialty. The major and easily observable difference between a grant and a loan is on the issue of the payback clause.

Loans always come with a compulsory payback of the money borrowed to you, while grants do not. The process of securing a grant is very rigorous and tasking and it differs entirely from business loans.

1. Grants Are Taxable Income

Unlike business loans, business grants are considered as income incurred by business organizations and are liable to taxation. The structure of your business and your quarterly business report has a big say on the impact to be encountered during taxation.

You should estimate and set aside owed taxes funds to reduce the occurrence of paying extravagant task bills at once.

2. Loans Generate Income

Loans can be referred to as other people's money (OPM) that generate interest during the lending period. Grants are free and with no dime of interest or refund made.

Factors such as personal and business credit scores, cash flow, time of stay in business, and collaterals that directly influence loan applications carry no weight as regards grant applications. Loans require you to build your business credit to access good loan offers while grants do not have such requirements.

3. Grants Breed Direct Competition

Most times with business grants, it is a hustle to meet set requirements and fend off competition for a long list of aspiring grantees. Just like loans, there is no guarantee upon successful application that you will win the grant. However, the process is relatively easier with loans when compared with grants.

4. Loans Often Come with Strong Consequences

Failure to meet the set requirements for loans comes with steep consequences such as damaged business credit score or in extreme cases bankruptcy. Although some specific grants come with special supervisory requirements, the consequences are not as stringent as they are for loans.

Martin Luenendonk

Editor at FounderJar

Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.

This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.