To succeed as a small business owner, you need more than theoretical knowledge about finance and marketing. You need to be a business-savvy and resourceful entrepreneur in order to garner interest and support from both customers and financial backers.
Even the best business ideas can be hard to fund if you don’t know how to polish your grant application to make it stand out from the crowd. You need to convey expertise, passion, responsibility—and the list goes on. But before you can start work on honing your application, you need to know which grants you’re interested in applying for.
Quick Tips for Successful Applications
While they are meant to be professional, grant applications shouldn’t come across as emotionless or rote. The more time and effort you put into your grant application, the better your chances of receiving funds to support your company. Next time you’re filling out a business grant application, keep the following in mind:
- Research the grant officer in charge of the funds to see what types of businesses they usually favor.
- Fill out the entire application and not just the mandatory fields.
- Stand out from the sea of applicants by providing solid, compelling answers and a well-researched business plan.
- Ask for help from professionals—for example, if the application requires financial information, bring in an accountant to help you.
- Keep in touch. Add a personal touch to your application by following up with the grant officer, introducing yourself and your business, and mentioning that you have applied.
Additionally, remember that grants are a numbers game. Apply for as many as you can while still retaining application quality and authenticity.
Where to Research Private and Government Grants
There are multiple funding options available to you based on your business’s location, industry, and size. You can always start by looking at the resources offered by the government.
In the U.S., federal, state, and local governments offer grants to small businesses. While these can be limited in number, more local grants also have a smaller applicant pool. You can also seek out grants specifically targeted at your demographic—for example, grants for veteran or minority business owners.
If you’re looking for private grants, you can seek out large corporations and nonprofit organizations that often support businesses in your industry or local area. Because they aren’t federally-run, it may take more extensive research to find details on these grant offers.
Grants Worth Applying for in 2021
If you’re thinking of applying for a grant to help fund your small business, you’ll want to get started on your applications sooner rather than later. There are plenty of grants for small businesses that you can apply to in 2021. Here are some top contenders.
1. Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs- Two government-funded programs aimed at small businesses focused on innovation and technology. Businesses must have no more than 500 employees.
2. Department of Education (DOE) Grants- The DOE offers government-funded grants aimed at supporting small businesses. Your business must be in the education sector to qualify.
3. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Grants- The EDA offers various grant opportunities depending on your state. Your business can be in any sector.
4. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Grants- The main purpose of NOAA’s grants is to drive the economy while promoting research into environmental issues. To qualify, you must offer products or services that have strong commercial and economic potential and align with NOAA’s mission.
5. State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) Grants- You can win a STEP grant through your local government. These grants are for small businesses that need help developing an exportation system.
6. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Grants- These federal grants focus on helping small businesses and projects in the agriculture industry, especially in rural areas.
7. Nation Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Grants– All NIST grants are exclusive to small businesses in the information technology industry.
8. FedEx Small Business Grant- A grant decided by contest, with $50,000 awarded to the winning business. In order to apply, you must have been in business for over six months and have under 100 employees.
9. The Visa Everywhere Initiative- With over $2 billion in funding, this initiative supports small businesses in solving their payment and commerce challenges. It’s a global initiative, allowing businesses from all over the world to apply.
10. Patagonia Corporate Grant Program- Patagonia offers grants between $10,000 and $20,000 to the winning applicant. To qualify, your business must work to preserve and protect the environment through green products or services.
11. Comcast Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs Grant- This grant by Comcast aims to support small businesses developing new technology. The winner receives $20,000, along with a trip to Philadelphia to meet with tech experts.
12. Kuvio Creative Grant- Instead of a cash reward, this grant offers the winning business 100 hours of web development and design services for free. This grant is limited to nonprofits, women, veterans, and minority-owned businesses.
13. National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Grant- NASE offers its members the opportunity to apply for $4,000 grants year-round.
14. Jack Daniel’s Pitch Distilled- Jack Daniel’s annual idea-pitching competition for business concepts in the spirits industry. The winner receives $5,000 in addition to advice from other successful business owners.
15. The Amber Grant- A grant specifically for female entrepreneurs that gives away at least $10,000 in various grants each month, as well as a year-end grant of $25,000.
More Is More
There’s always a way to fund your business if you look hard enough. Most grants have low or non-existent application fees, allowing you to apply to dozens simultaneously, increasing your chance of winning. Just make sure you study each grant’s requirements and take care with your application to help demonstrate to those behind the money why your idea is the best choice for their funds.