Where to Find Free Funding
Federal and state agencies, as well as private companies, offer small-business grants. Here’s a list of resources.
Small-business grants provide free money for startups and existing businesses, including those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic or other hardships.
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.
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 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 12 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 Grant
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 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 once per year through the USDA Rural Development’s local or state offices.
Program for Investors in Microentrepreneurs
The Small Business Administration doesn’t typically offer grants directly to small businesses. The Program for Investors in Microentrepreneurs (PRIME), however, offers federal grants to microenterprise development organizations so that they can provide assistance to disadvantaged microentrepreneurs.
These organizations, such as the Washington Area Community Investment Fund and PeopleFund, both of which were awarded funding in 2023, can be private nonprofits, or run by state, local or tribal governments.
State and regional grants for small businesses
Because federal grants can be particularly competitive — and limited in number — you might also look into government small-business grants at the state and local levels. Start your search with options like these:
Economic Development Administration
The U.S. Economic Development Administration provides business grants, resources and technical assistance for communities to support economic growth and encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.
Each state’s agency helps small 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 Center
Your local Small Business Development Center (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 contest updates on its website.
State Trade Expansion Program
The SBA funds state governments to implement the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) grant, 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.
National Association for the Self-Employed Growth Grant
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.
Verizon Small Business Grant
Verizon’s Digital Ready program gives business owners the opportunity to access free courses and educational materials, as well as apply for grant funding. To be eligible for a $10,000 small-business grant, entrepreneurs must register through the Verizon website and complete at least two of the following: courses, live coaching or community events.
Once these tasks are completed, you can submit a grant application. Verizon is offering a total of $500,000 in grant awards for 2023. The latest round of funding is open from October 12 – December 20, 2023.
Small Business Growth Fund
The Small Business Growth Fund, a partnership between the Global Entrepreneur Fund and Hello Alice — funded by Etsy and Progressive — is an annual program designed to help entrepreneurs grow their operations.
This year, the program will award grants between $5,000 and $25,000 to for-profit U.S.-based businesses that had less than $1 million in gross revenue in 2022. Applications for the latest round are open from September 18 – October 27, 2023. Winners will be announced in November.
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest
The company’s annual grant competition awards over $300,000 to 10 small businesses, including a $30,000 grant and $1,000 in FedEx print credits to its grand prize winners.
The contest is for U.S.-based, for-profit small businesses with fewer than 99 employees. You must also have a valid FedEx business shipping account number and currently ship with FedEx to apply. The next cycle will open in early 2024.
Venmo Small Business Grant
The Venmo Small Business Grant program awards 20 eligible small businesses with $10,000 in free funding. It also offer public promotion on the Venmo website and social media accounts, as well as mentorship from industry leaders.
To qualify, you must have a U.S. Venmo account and a valid business profile on Venmo in good standing. You also must have less than $50,000 in annual sales and 10 employees or fewer. Applications for the 2023 cycle closed in August, and winners were announced in October.
Amazon Small Business Grant
The annual Amazon Small Business Grant program offers free grants to small businesses that have an Amazon Business account and $1 million or less in annual revenue. The program offers grants to 15 businesses, ranging in amounts from $15,000 to $25,000.
Winners can also receive a one-year membership to Business Prime and free products from eero Wifi and Kindle Scribe. Recipients for the 2023 cycle were announced in July.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Top Small Business Awards
America’s Top Small Business 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. Applications for the 2023 cycle closed on July 21. Finalists were announced on October 4, and the grand-prize winner will be announced on October 19 at the America’s Top Small Business Summit.
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 $50,000 small-business grant. Additional grants are awarded to second- and third-place finalists, audience favorites, as well as regional and local winners. Applications for the North America region closed on June 26, 2023, and the global finals were held on Sept. 19 at TechCrunch Disrupt.
Lenovo Evolve small-business grant
The Lenovo Evolve Small initiative is a program designed to support small businesses throughout the U.S. and Canada by offering grants and technology donations. This year, the Lenovo Evolve Grant provided 30 small businesses with $10,000 in funding, a Lenovo laptop and business support. The 2023 cycle winners have been announced.
Grants to start a business
If you’re looking for startup business grants, 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.
Incfile Fresh Start Business Grant
Incfile’s Fresh Start Business Grant offers a grant of $2,500 to help new entrepreneurs cover startup costs. The winning business owner will also receive free formation services in their state, free registered agent services for a year and a free tax consultation from Incfile.
To qualify, you must be planning to start a new business or grow an existing business. Incfile also offers a Young Entrepreneur Grant for students interested in starting their own businesses. The next cycle will be held in 2024.
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 for the grants that are relevant to your business.
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.
SubSummit Pitch Competition
Subscription-based businesses that are less than two years old can apply to participate in the SubSummit Pitch Competition. The winner of this annual event receives a $10,000 small-business grant and $40,000 worth of business services.
To apply, you have to send in a short video describing your business, the inspiration behind your brand — and if you want — what you plan to do with the grant funding. Semi-finalists will compete virtually and finalists will compete for the grand prize at a live event. The 2023 cycle for this competition concluded in May.
Small-business hardship grants
Small-business hardship grants can help you recover after an emergency situation, like a natural disaster or public health crisis. These grants may be available from the government, nonprofits or corporations, among other sources.
Depending on the emergency, certain business hardship grants may only be available within a specific time frame, so it’s particularly important to check funding deadlines.
Here are some options to consider:
State and local small-business recovery grants
Your state and local governments can be great places to find small-business hardship grants, as well as emergency business loans and other options for financial relief and assistance. In the wake of a crisis — like the COVID-19 pandemic, for example — states and cities often create grant programs specifically to help small businesses.
Some states and cities also run ongoing small-business grant programs to assist business owners when they suffer from damages as the result of fires, floods and hurricanes, among other disasters.
Etsy Emergency Relief Fund
Etsy partners with the nonprofit organization, CERF+, to provide its sellers with financial relief after they’re affected by a disaster. To qualify for this small-business hardship grant, you’ll need to have experienced a federally declared natural disaster within the last year, as well as have had an active Etsy seller account in good standing for at least one year.
Etsy Emergency Relief grants are available in amounts of $2,500. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and funds are issued quarterly.
DoorDash Restaurant Disaster Relief Fund
Restaurants that have experienced a natural disaster may be able to get a small-business recovery grant from the DoorDash Restaurant Disaster Relief Fund. This program offers $10,000 business grants to brick-and-mortar restaurants that have been impacted by a federally or state-declared disaster, such as a wildfire, hurricane or earthquake.
To qualify, you’ll also need to have three restaurant locations or fewer, 50 or fewer employees, been in business for at least six months and made $3 million or less per location in the last year.
Applications are accepted on a quarterly basis but they must be submitted within 12 months of the declared disaster. Recipients will be notified within 30 days after the application period closes. The current application cycle runs until December 31, 2023.
Small Business Readiness for Resiliency Program
The Small Business Readiness for Resiliency (R4R) Program is a two-part initiative that strives to help businesses prepare for and recover from unexpected disasters. To participate in the program, you must complete a preparedness checklist (which includes an emergency action plan), register in the R4R database — and then, in the event of a disaster, you can apply for grant eligibility.
Emergency relief funding is issued in amounts of $5,000 and you must be able to show that you incurred disaster-related damages or losses that equal or exceed that amount. You’ll also need to have fewer than 500 employees, among other requirements, to qualify for this small-business hardship grant.
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