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Updated: Feb 6, 2020
Is there such a thing as free money for small business growth? While the application process usually requires some effort, there are hundreds of small business grants available from private companies, nonprofits, and governmental agencies.
Below is a carefully curated, up-to-date list of grants for any small business, micro-businesses, and women-owned businesses, followed by the best resources to find an appropriate grant for your industry and location.
The following grant programs have boosted dozens of small business in recent years and continue to be a strong force in the small business owner community. The biggest difference between them is how long entrants’ businesses must have been operating.
The application period for Miller Lite’s grant program is open in the spring of each year, with the National Finals taking place in the fall. The winner takes home a $200K prize.
Eligibility: Small business owners in the U.S. between 21 and 35 whose businesses are less than five years old.
Previous winners include: Swyft Media, an app for branded emoji, and Edovo, a business that rents tablets and software to correctional facilities.
Every year, FedEx awards 10 small businesses between $5K and $25K. Applications require an explanation of the business, how the money would be spent, and photos. The next contest will open in May 2016.
Eligibility: Any for-profit small business in good standing and operating for at least six months.
Previous winners include: In Blue Handmade, a custom leather shop, and Fat Toad Farm, which produces goat’s milk caramel.
The following grants are specific to micro-business owners and women business owners.
The National Association for the Self-Employed awards one $4K award to its members each month. (Membership is $120 per year and includes other benefits.) The NASE has awarded over $600K in grants so far.
Eligibility: NASE micro-business members in need of financing for a particular business need
Previous winners include: Clairvoyance, a strategic development firm in Virginia, and Bleu & Fig, a catering and design company in Ohio.
Since 1998, the Amber Grant Foundation by WomenNet has been awarding $500 to a woman-owned business each month. At the end of the year, the foundation awards an extra $2,000 to one of the monthly grant winners. Entry is simple and requires a $7 fee.
Eligibility: Women with new or small businesses.
Previous winners include: Lauren Foster of Stretch Recipes in Texas and Hannah Rivard of Cambria Equine in Minnesota.
Eileen Fisher awards $100K to between five and ten women-owned small businesses each year that are doing amazing things for the environment or specific communities.
Eligibility: Innovative, women-owned (at least 51%) businesses that have been operating for at least three years and are focused on social or environmental impact.
Previous winners include: Isidore Electronics Recycling, a recycling and job training center in Los Angeles, and Upohar, a catering company in Pennsylvania that employs refugee and homeless women.
Specialized grants are harder to find but often easier to obtain than broad ones. The U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) and other government agencies are especially good at providing resources on a state and local level, including small business grants. The following websites and databases will help you find and filter grants anywhere in the U.S.
Grants.gov lists all federally sponsored grants. You can search the database by category, agency, and eligibility (including small business).
The Small Business Association has an easy-to-use online tool, Access Financing, that will direct you to loans and grants according to your business’ information.
States and some cities have economic development agencies whose mission is promoting a strong local economy. These agencies’ websites and representatives are full of information about locale-specific grants and programs.
Local SBDC advisors will be able to inform you of relevant small business grants, loans, and resources in your area.
The SBA sponsors about 100 women’s business centers nationwide. Search the SBA’s database by state to connect with experts who know about local grants and other resources for women business owners.
The SBA facilitates two programs (SBIR and SBTT) that aim to contribute to federal research and development by awarding billions in grants and government contracts to businesses involved in innovation and technology. You can search all grant opportunities on the SBIR website or search according to the specific government agency involved below.
Paige Smith is a Content Marketing Writer and Senior Contributing Writer at Funding Circle. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and specializes in writing about the intersection of business, finance, and tech. Paige has written for a number of B2B industry leaders, including fintech companies, small business lenders, and business credit resource sites.