Finding and applying for grants can be a long and tedious process for both new and experienced entrepreneurs. Endless lists, a ton of rules, and long application processes can make for a stressful time when you just want to get your business off the ground.
Anything can feel a lot less overwhelming when someone's started the groundwork for you.
Instead of sifting through every available grant in the U.S., take a look at our top 10 startup and small business grants to get an idea of what you might qualify for.
5 Startup Grants From Organizations
Kind of like universities giving out scholarships to ideal students, some companies and organizations are generous enough to offer grants to smaller businesses in order to give them a boost.
Many may come with certain stipulations, but might be able to find a donor in the form of a larger corporation.
Here are five of the biggest grants from organizations:
1. Street Shares Foundation
With an exclusive focus on veteran-owned small businesses, Street Shares Foundation awards three grants every month. First place gets $15,000, second gets $6,000, and third receives $4,000.
Not bad, right?
In order to apply, you have to be at least 21 years old and either be a veteran or an active-duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces. Applicants must submit a two minute video explaining their business and what they sell, along with a description of how the grant will help them.
2. National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE)
The NASE growth grant offers an amount of $4,000 that can be used to cover the cost of any need your business may have. A welcome break from the regulated use of funds that most grants come with.
The only catch is that you have to be a member of the NASE.
The association offers a ton of advice and networking opportunities, so it may be worth looking into joining.
To apply for the grant (once you're a member), you'll need to explain why you need the grant for your business and demonstrate how it will help in the form of supporting documents.
3. Amber Grant
Established in 1998, the Amber Grant is awarded to women-owned businesses by the WomensNet each month.
A business can win a small grant of $1,000 and then become eligible for an even larger grant of $10,000 later. The grand prize is awarded by online vote at the end of the year to one of the monthly winners.
All you have to do is provide some contact information and an explanation of your business and how the grant will help. Just don't forget the $15 application fee.
Even though the selection process is kind of a popularity contest, it's probably one of the easiest grants to apply for.
4. Visa Everywhere Initiative
Visa's Everywhere Initiative requires small businesses and startups to meet the needs and expectations of Visa and its partners.
Application questions typically revolve around the relationship between merchants and customers, digital payment systems, and leveraging new technologies to help manage finances.
Winners are able to work with Visa to create innovative technology and new ways of conducting business and win up to $100,000 in prizes. It's a great opportunity for startups in the fintech industry.
5. FedEx Small Business Grant Contest
That's right. FedEx.
The delivery company has a contest that offers grants to 10 small businesses a year. Split into a tier system, winners are awarded prizes in this order:
- First place (one winner): $25,000 in grant money and $7,500 in FedEx business services
- Second place (one winner): $15,000 in grant money and $5,000 in business services
- Third place (eight winners): $7,500 in grant money and $1,000 in business services
To apply, you have to answer a series of short answer questions. These can range anywhere from unique elevator pitches to proposals of how the grant will be used.
Your responses go through a voting period, then top-ranking startups go through a second round of applications.
5 Federal Small Business Grants
The government also believes in helping out startups, as new businesses means new jobs and a stimulation of the economy. Here are some of the more popular federal grants available:
1. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
For businesses that specialize in research and development, a grant from the SBIR might be the perfect fit for you.
It's managed by the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Technology and highlights small businesses that are looking to work directly with the government to create new technology.
All you need is a proposal consisting of a business plan, executive summary, and cost estimations to apply.
2. Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)
SBIR's sibling, the Small Business Technology Transfer helps startups that aim to collaborate with nonprofit research institutions and universities. It's incredibly competitive, but well worth it for businesses looking to help their communities.
The STTR program has similar application requirements to the SBIR program, since they're both run by the Small Business Administration.
3. National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Operating within the USDA, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture works on building programs to aid in funding and leadership. Their grants are available year-round.
You'll have to check which grants are available currently on Grants.gov and read up on application requirements to see what's going on.
And we highly recommend you read through them. Some grants are only available to nonprofits or businesses that are of a certain size.
4. National Institute of Health (NIH)
For small businesses specializing in the development and research of biomedical technology, the NIH has grants available.
A federal agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, the NIH is one of the largest public funders of biomedical research in the world.
Depending on the grant you're applying for, there are different application instructions to follow, so be sure to look through the right resources on their website.
5. USDA Rural Development Business Grants
The USDA has both loans and grants available for businesses that can create quality, sustainable jobs in rural areas.
If your startup prioritizes community projects, like housing development, you likely qualify for government funding.
Application deadlines vary by state and there's no cap on how much grant money you can receive, although smaller requests get higher priority.
Where to Find State and Regional Small Business Grants
You can also receive assistance on a more local level through state and regional grants. As these (obviously) vary state by state and region to region, you'll need to find ones that are most relevant to your business.
Here are a couple of ways you can learn more about the grants in your local area:
Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)
Local SBDCs provide support for small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs in a variety of ways via mentors, networking opportunities, and skills training.
They also can help connect you to financing opportunities.
Finding your local SBDC shouldn't be any harder than a quick Google search. They're typically associated with local universities or your state's economic development agency.
Economic Development Administration (EDA)
Run by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the EDA provides resources, tech assistance, and funding to communities in an effort to promote economic growth and innovation.
Depending on your state or region, you can find different financing opportunities and recruitment help from the EDA.
Even if some of these grants are the best fit for your small business, hopefully it sparked some ideas on where to look based on your industry, region, or unique ownership.
Nothing can really make getting a grant a faster process, but the extra funding will definitely help your startup grow fast.