Can you get free money to start a business? You’ve probably heard about business startup grants and wondered if you can get help starting a business. Grants for startups aren’t plentiful, but they do exist. There are other programs you can take advantage of as a new business owner too. Want to know more? These are the top sources of free help for startups.
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Free Resources for Starting a Business
Only 51.4% of entrepreneurs have a bachelor’s degree, many of them in fields that have little to do with running a business. One in five only has a high school diploma. Where did these entrepreneurs learn the ropes of business ownership? While many learned on the job, savvy entrepreneurs utilize resources like these.
Small Business Development Centers
Small Business Development Centers provide counseling, training, and technical assistance to small business owners and prospective entrepreneurs. You can find SBDC offices around the country at universities, community colleges, chambers of commerce, and economic development centers. Connect with a nearby SBDC when you need help assessing the feasibility of your business idea, developing a business plan, or locating resources for minority business owners.
Businesses big and small can find something helpful at SBA.gov. As the official website of the U.S. Small Business Administration, SBA.gov is a great starting point whether you need tips on writing a business plan, information on federal government contracting, or resources for businesses owned by women, veterans, minorities, and other disadvantaged groups. SBA.gov is also the go-to resource for information on COVID-19 relief programs.
SCORE is a nationwide network of volunteer business mentors. As a nonprofit, SCORE delivers most of its services at no cost, including mentoring, local workshops and events, and a wealth of free online resources.
Starting a business requires a lot of technical know-how. When choosing a business entity or writing an operating agreement, a small mistake could have big financial consequences later. The free resources at ZenBusiness dig deep into questions about business filings and compliance, so you understand your responsibilities as a business owner. ZenBusiness also offers company formation services if you’d rather not go it alone.
The Best Business Grants for Startups
Some businesses cost less than $5,000 to launch, while others require a significant investment. No matter your startup budget, you need a way to finance it — and what better way than free money? Explore these business grants to see if you qualify for financial assistance to start a business.
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
The federally-funded SBIR program supports innovative tech startups with research and development funding. After receiving an initial award in Phase I, grantees have the opportunity to commercialize their technology in the second and third phases of the program. The SBIR program is open to for-profit businesses with fewer than 500 employees, at least 50% owned by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE)
NASE Growth Grants provide up to $4,000 for marketing, hiring, growth, and other identifiable business needs. The only requirement to apply for a Growth Grant is to be a NASE member in good standing and submit a business plan and application detailing your business needs and how you will use the grant funds.
Amber Grant Foundation
The Amber Grant awards monthly grants to women entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Canada. The application process for the Amber Grant is simple; rather than a bunch of paperwork, applicants only need to submit a short narrative about their business or business idea and pay a $15 application fee. Each month, the organization selects a $10,000 grant winner. Monthly winners have the opportunity to be selected for an additional $25,000 annual grant.
Starting a Business: Where to Search for Business Grants
These websites and organizations don’t provide grants directly to business owners. Instead, they connect entrepreneurs with funding opportunities to start and grow a business.
Grants.gov is a directory of all federal government grant opportunities. When searching for grants at Grants.gov, use filters to narrow the results to small business grants. Users can also filter results by grant category and issuing agency. To apply, register for Grants.gov and carefully review the eligibility requirements, including the small business size standards established by the SBA.
Economic Development Administration (EDA)
This government agency is the best place to start when looking for state-level funding opportunities. Use the EDA’s database to locate economic development districts and identify the grant-making agencies in your state.
Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)
The MBDA is another program of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The MBDA awards grants to programs that support minority business owners. While MBDA-funded programs typically focus on training and technical assistance, grants may be available through your local Minority Business Center.
USDA Rural Development
USDA Rural Development operates the Rural Business Development Grant program. Rather than issuing funds directly to rural entrepreneurs, USDA Rural Development provides grant monies to local and state agencies, nonprofits, federally recognized tribes, and other rural public entities. If you’re a rural entrepreneur, learn what funding opportunities are available through your state’s rural development office.
How to Apply for Business Grants
Business grants are highly competitive. Here’s what you can do to increase your odds of a successful application:
- Read the eligibility requirements thoroughly to ensure your business qualifies.
- Write a strong business plan with current and accurate financials.
- Explain in detail how you will use the grant funds.
- Craft a compelling proposal narrative.
- Consider hiring a grant writer or proofreader to refine your proposal.
In Conclusion – Starting a Business
Free grant money to start a business does exist, but it’s not easy to come by. However, that doesn’t mean you’re on your own when starting a business. Even if you don’t qualify for one of these startup grants, you can still get help turning your business idea into a profitable reality. Tap into the resources above to learn what it takes to build a successful business.
Elena made the jump from a corporate job she wasn’t entirely happy with, to running her own business that gives her the financial freedom and flexible lifestyle she’s always wanted. As a life coach, she now gets the happiness of helping others get to the places that might seem out of reach.