For some reason, a lot of business owners seem to be under the impression that the government has truckloads of grant money available for business startups.
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They don't. In fact, the federal government offers no grants for startup companies.
Small business grants are available through state programs and other organizations. However, most grants have very specific eligibility requirements and grant criteria. The average small business owner may find it difficult to locate and qualify for grant funding.
Minority-owned businesses are an exception. Many business grants are targeted toward minority entrepreneurs. For minority business owners, the tricky part is identifying the right grants and successfully navigating the application process.
- Identify grants. The best place to start your search for business grants is the CFDA (Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance) website. Although you won't find startup grants here, you will find grants for existing small businesses. From there, you can visit your state website and Chamber of Commerce to learn about other minority-based grant opportunities.
- Have a business plan. You need a solid business plan if you are going to pursue minority grant funding. A carefully constructed business plan shows that you understand your business and demonstrates how grant funding will result in the grant agency's desired outcomes.
- Make the application count. Grant applications can be tiresome, beastly documents. But it's important to make sure you complete the application accurately and completely. If you fail to provide the information the agency is looking for, you'll make it easy for them to turn down your request.
- Reach out. A lot of entrepreneurs don't realize they can reach out to grant officers. It's normal practice for grant applicants to communicate with the person(s) who are responsible for administrating the grant program. Feel free to ask them about eligibility requirements and to periodically communicate with them about the progress of your application.
- Get help. Some people make a living by helping business owners secure grants. If you feel like you're in over your head, or if you get the sense that your inexperience is going to cost you grant approvals, don't hesitate to bring in a professional.