How to Land a Small Business Grant

You may be eligible for funding and not even know it.
Female bakery owner
There are many opportunities for small business grants, and securing one may not be as difficult as you think. (Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

There are thousands of available small business grants, but how do you know which grants your small business should target?

Ayanna Osinuga is founder and CEO of Khan Consulting. Osinuga’s firm handles grant writing for various companies, and in 2015 her efforts helped secure more than $270,000 in awarded grant money.

Here is a quick guide to a few of the many small business grants available and some tips to help secure one.

Are you creating new technology that helps the greater good?

If your business has been in operation for more than two years with the goal of advancing high-tech innovation, your business could be eligible for the Small Business Innovation Research grant, or SBIR. The grant is highly competitive and administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), an independent agency in the federal government that helps Americans start, build, and grow businesses.

“I get calls all the time asking about free government money and I just laugh,” Osinuga said. “The first thing you must do for any grant is read the stipulations. Believe it or not, many businesses don’t do that because all they see is dollar signs and their eyes light up. The SBIR is very specific and applies to a tiny fraction of businesses in the country.”

Are you a woman who owns a business?

Women­-owned small businesses have grown by close to 70 percent since 1997. Many small business grants are available to these businesses, and there’s even a website dedicated to helping women­-owners apply for grants. Each grant is different – some stipulate 100 percent of the business must be women­-owned while a simple controlling share might be enough for others – so read eligibility requirements carefully.

“Women want to support other women, and there are hundreds of grants available because of that,” Osinuga said. “Standing out among other businesses can be a challenge, so setting up a face­-to-­face meeting or getting a phone call with the grant organization is a huge advantage. Connecting on a personal level is always a smart move.”

Are you a disabled veteran looking to start a business?

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers some grant programs for service-­disabled veterans looking to get into the business sector. These grants can help with the purchase of equipment or even for marketing funds.

“Make sure to visit the SBA website to get help crafting a business plan as that’s mandatory for anyone who applies for this grant,” Osinuga said. “The good news is if approved, the grant funds for this program do not have to be repaid.”

Are you a minority business owner?

Many grants are available for minority-­owned businesses, including the Miller Lite Tap the Future program, which grants $200,000 to urban entrepreneurs to fund new ideas. The SBA is also an option, as it offers one-­on­-one counseling, training workshops, and management and technical guidance through its 8(a) Business Development Program for disadvantaged businesses. The program doesn’t award grants, but it does award sole­-source contracts up to $4 million for goods and services and $6.5 million for manufacturing.

“I recommend getting good letters of support from members of the minority communities in your area when applying for these grants,” Osinuga said. “That includes other business owners, politicians and any key members of the minority community that support what you’re doing.”

Can you connect with the public?

Chase Bank created Mission Main Street Grants in 2012, which awards 20 businesses with grants of $150,000 each. If you’re based in the U.S., have been in business for at least two years and employ less than 100 full-­time employees, you are eligible to apply. The finalists are chosen via a Facebook vote before the board selects the winners, so connecting with the public is important.

“You need to be active in the social media world because many grants now require it as one aspect of the process,” Osinuga said. “Technology is always advancing and everything is online, and I see more grants choosing this route, especially if it’s backed by a company seeking attention.”

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