A loan isn't your only option: Many government organizations offer grants to local businesses that meet certain eligibility requirements and qualifications. You can also find small business grants sponsored by corporations, nonprofits and independent organizations. [Looking for more information on how to apply? Check out this related article on securing a business grant.]
Because grants are generally not expected to be repaid, they aren't given to just anyone. Most organizations have strict guidelines and reporting measures to ensure that grant recipients use the money wisely. Many grants require you to match or combine the grant with other forms of financing.
To successfully navigate the often-complicated process of applying for a small business grant, seek help from a financial professional.
Independent grants for small businesses
1. The Awesome Foundation
This independent organization offers micro-grants of $1,000 each to small organizations or independent creators that are "advancing the interest of awesome." Grants are awarded by independent local chapters around the world. The majority of awards go to projects that focus on community development, technology and the arts.
2. National Association for the Self-Employed Growth Grant
Micro-business owners who are also NASE members can apply for small business grants of up to $4,000. Grants are usually approved to finance a specific business need, such as buying equipment, hiring part-time help, creating a website, or investing in specific training and education. Grant winners are chosen monthly.
3. Idea Cafe Small Business Grant
Business Owners' Idea Cafe awards a $1,000 micro-grant to "the most inspirational business owner" in order to start or grow a business. Semifinalists are chosen by panel; finalists and the ultimate winner are chosen by open voting. The winner also receives a total of $1,500 in advertising credits, as well as free hosting for two years from Liquid Web, the award's sponsor.
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State grants for small businesses
4. Economic Development Administration
The EDA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, works with local, state and tribal agencies to provide small businesses with grant money, as well as access to resources and training. These grants usually aim to support technology and innovation, as well as small businesses that create economic growth in underserved areas.
5. Arizona STEP Grant
Businesses in Arizona are eligible for the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) Grant. This provides funding and support for Arizona small businesses entering export markets for the first time or expanding to new international markets.
6. Arkansas Infrastructure Grants
Businesses that create jobs through infrastructure, facility and site improvements in Arkansas are eligible for an Infrastructure Grant. The amount of the grant awarded depends on the number of jobs created and their average wage, as well as the company's strength and the project's costs.
7. Colorado Grants for Startups & Small Business
Colorado is a friendly place for startups, and the state government offers a variety of incentives for small businesses. There are grants available for many kinds of businesses, particularly in the areas of technology and research innovation. There are also grants for businesses that benefit Colorado, such as by creating products that can be manufactured in-state and exported, as well as for businesses that create consistent job growth over a certain period of time.
8. State Trade Expansion Programs
Many states offer STEP grants through partnership with the Small Business Administration (SBA). These grants are usually aimed at local small businesses that are trying to expand to trade markets overseas, but each state has different qualifications and eligibility requirements.
9. Illinois Recycling Expansion and Modernization
The REM program in Illinois (some other states have similar programs) gives grants to small businesses and startups to help them accomplish waste management and recycling expansion initiatives. The goal of the grants is to divert waste from landfills, grow the local economy and demonstrate public economic benefit.
10. Iowa Small Business Grants
There are many agencies in Iowa that offer grants to small businesses. These grants usually focus on businesses that offer economic expansion and job growth in the state, including energy research and development, downtown revitalization, and rural infrastructure improvement. Eligibility requirements vary, but the state provides a fairly comprehensive list with information on each grant.
11. Kansas Job Creation Fund
Businesses that are starting in or expanding to Kansas can apply for grants from the Kansas Job Creation Fund. Payments from this program are usually given to companies over the course of several years as they demonstrate growth and reach specific benchmarks, including job creation or capital investment in their local economy.
12. Maryland Child Care Quality Incentive Grant Program
Child care businesses in Maryland can apply for grants to support improvements to the professionalism and quality of their programs. These grants are awarded quarterly and can be used to support staff training, facility expansion and other quality improvements in child care. Businesses must meet specific eligibility requirements for their curriculum, location and credentialing.
13. Minnesota Agricultural Grants
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture offers a variety of grants for agricultural businesses, covering research, improvements, sustainability initiatives, business planning and more. Eligibility requirements vary by grant.
14. Child Care Aware of Minnesota Grants
Like Maryland, Minnesota offers grants for child care providers who want to continue their staff's education or improve the quality of their program. The state also sponsors Retaining Early Educators Through Attaining Incentives Now (REETAIN) bonuses, which are small grants to child care professionals to help with continuing education and professional development.
15. Minnesota Job Creation Fund
New or expanding businesses that meet certain benchmarks for local economic investment or job creation may be eligible for grants from the Minnesota Job Creation Fund. Businesses must be in eligible industries, such as warehousing, manufacturing, distribution or technology.
16. North Carolina IDEA grants
North Carolina startups and new tech companies can apply for NC IDEA grants of up to $50,000, which are intended to serve as seed capital for businesses with high growth potential. These grants aren't administered by the state, but they are only available to businesses in North Carolina.
17. Tennessee FastTrack grants
New and expanding small businesses in Tennessee can apply for one of several FastTrack business grants, which support infrastructure expansion, job training and local economic development. Eligibility is based on a business's job creation, wages, and level of skill for new jobs, local investment, and location.
18. D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development
Small businesses in Washington, D.C., can apply for one of several grant opportunities based on the ward where they are located. The available grants change regularly, based on funding and open deadlines, but many of them focus on businesses that are revitalizing downtown areas or expanding infrastructure and services.
Small business grants from federal agencies
19. U.S. Small Business Administration grants
Grants from the SBA often target regional tech companies and small businesses owned by veterans, minorities or women. The SBA also offers funding for training programs for small businesses or regional organizations. Eligibility for these grants may be based on participation in certain federal or state programs, and the grants the SBA offers can change yearly. Check the SBA's grant page regularly to see if you are eligible for any available grant programs.
20. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)
Known as America's Seed Fund, these programs connect small businesses in the field of scientific research and innovative technology with grants and contracts from government agencies. Participating agencies include the following:
- Department of Defense – grants for small businesses focusing on military technology
- Department of Education – grants for small businesses developing technology for literacy, STEM education, language learning, education administration and services for students with disabilities
- Department of Energy – grants for small businesses focusing on material and environmental science research and technology, as well as renewable energy
- Department of Transportation – grants for small businesses developing new or innovative technology for aviation and infrastructure engineering
- Environmental Protection Agency – grants for small businesses developing eco-friendly technology and environmentally sustainable innovation
- Homeland Security – grants for small businesses focusing on cybersecurity, first responders, explosives, border security, and chemical or biological defense technology
- National Science Foundation – grants for small businesses focusing on engineering, medicine and other scientific research
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration – grants for small businesses focusing on alternative, renewable and efficient energy, as well as engineering and building spacecraft
- National Institute of Food and Agriculture – grants for small businesses doing agricultural research on food science, nutrition, forestry, animal protection and biofuel
- National Institutes of Health – grants for small businesses researching or developing innovative biomedical technology
- National Institute of Standards and Technology – grants for small businesses developing technology for cybersecurity, trade, manufacturing and software
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – grants for small businesses focusing on research and development in coastal communities, climate mitigation/adaptation and ocean monitoring
The SBIR program aims at businesses doing research and tech development with commercial potential. The STTR program requires that businesses collaborate with a research institution. There are multiple eligibility requirements, such as being a for-profit business with 500 or fewer employees. These grants range in size from $150,000 to $1 million.
21. Rural Energy for America
The Department of Agriculture offers grants for businesses in eligible rural areas. Eligible businesses should be working to construct, improve, or otherwise develop renewable energy systems and energy-efficient technologies. These grants can be combined with a USDA loan.
22. Minerals and Mining on Indian Lands
Tribes and individual tribe members who own land or mineral rights can apply for one of these grants from the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs. These grants are intended to allow tribes to develop and make use of mineral and energy resources on tribal land.
23. USDA grants
The United States Department of Agriculture offers a variety of grants for agricultural and rural businesses. Eligibility varies, and for some grants your business must be partnered with a local state agency or utility.
- Community Connect Grants – grants to fund broadband expansion initiatives and infrastructure in rural areas
- Distance Learning & Telemedicine Grants – grants for businesses implementing telecommunications programs in rural areas that connect patients to medical care and students to instructors
- Rural Business Development Grants – grants given to local utilities that are then passed on to job-creating small businesses partnered with those utilities
- Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Grants – grant funding to rural small businesses and agricultural producers that are using or developing renewable energy systems or making improvements in energy efficiency
- Socially Disadvantaged Groups Grant – grants that provide technical assistance (such as business plan development, feasibility studies or leadership training) to socially disadvantaged groups through local cooperatives
- Value-Added Producer Grants – grants that aim to help agricultural producers generate new products, expand their business, increase producer income, or create and expand marketing opportunities; priority given to small and midsize farms and ranches that are new, socially disadvantaged, cooperatives, family farms, or proposing a mid-tier value chain
24. CyberTipline Grant
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency offers this grant to businesses that provide programs or services aimed at preventing human trafficking or exploitation of children.
25. Recovery Challenge Grant
Conservation-oriented businesses and researchers can apply for Recovery Challenge Grants from the Department of the Interior. Eligible businesses should be working toward preventing endangerment or reintroducing endangered species, as well as supporting conservation programs for fish, wildlife and plants.
Corporate small business grants
26. Halstead Grant
Emerging silver jewelry artists in the U.S. can apply for the Halstead Grant, which offers $7,500 plus other business-development benefits. The application process involves answering 15 questions about your business and submitting a design portfolio.
27. Visa Everywhere Initiative
Tech startups can participate in the Visa Everywhere Initiative contest, which involves solving different payment and commerce challenges each year. Finalists are invited to present their solutions to a panel of judges, and the winners receive $50,000 each.
28. Maker Cities Grant Program by Etsy
Entrepreneurs who sell on Etsy can partner with local nonprofits or research institutions to receive grants from Etsy's Maker Cities. The program is designed to support local creative economies, and the institutions that receive the grants must have one or more Etsy sellers involved in the application process and project.
29. AT&T Grant for Greatness
Hosted by AT&T, this content awards grants to small businesses and entrepreneurs with unique or creative ideas and a particular business need. Awards are $1,000 each, and businesses must submit a two-minute video to apply.
30. ActivityHero Business Grant Contest
Owners of children's camp or class businesses can enter the ActivityHero Business Grant Contest. One grand-prize winner receives a $5,000 cash prize, as well as $5,000 worth of services. Seven finalists are awarded $500 each in services. To qualify, businesses must be listed in the ActivityHero directory and have at least three reviews.
31. FedEx Small Business Grant
FedEx awards annual grants to 10 small businesses or startups that impress the judges with their elevator pitch, business operations and plan for how they will use funding. The grand prize is $50,000. One second-prize winner is awarded $30,000, and eight additional winners are awarded $15,000 each.
Small business grants for women
32. Cartier Women's Initiative
This international competition identifies and supports women entrepreneurs and women-led startups in various industries, including e-commerce, technology, environment, consumer goods, agriculture and finance. The grant consists of a $100,000 first prize and a $30,000 second prize.
33. Tory Burch Fellows Program
The Fellows Program from the Tory Burch Foundation provides ongoing support for women entrepreneurs over the course of a year. It includes networking, workshops and peer-to-peer mentoring, as well as a $5,000 grant to advance your business education. It culminates in an industry pitch day with the opportunity to receive additional grant money or investment in your business idea.
34. The Girlboss Foundation Grant
The Girlboss Foundation awards biannual grants to women-identifying entrepreneurs to help develop businesses in the fields of music, design, fashion and the arts. Each recipient receives $15,000 in funding, as well as press exposure and community networking opportunities.
35. WomensNet Amber Grants
WomensNet awards monthly micro-grants of $2,000 each to women-led small businesses and women entrepreneurs. At the end of each year, one of the 12 annual winners is selected to receive an additional $25,000 grant.
Small business grants for veterans
36. StreetShares Foundation Business Awards
Veterans or veterans' spouses who want to create or expand a small business can apply for up to $15,000 in grant money from the StreetShares Foundation. Applications are judged by the social impact a business will have on the military community, the business idea, the team and company history, product-market fit, and how the award will be used.
37. Warrior Rising
Founded by veterans, Warrior Rising provides grants to veterans and their immediate families to help them create sustainable businesses and hire fellow veterans. Businesses at all different stages can apply, and grants can be used to cover initial startup costs such as tools, equipment, licensing and marketing.
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon.