4 Small Business Grants to apply for in 2020

When you are starting a new business, one of the biggest obstacles is finding funds to get you up and running. Most likely you are like us and are trying to start completely from scratch including with almost no money. It’s not impossible and it adds a bit of fun to the process, to be honest. 

We have never been too keen to take out a small business loan. Maybe it is fear of not making the money back, or maybe it is out of pride of wanting to make all the money on our own. Either way, not taking out a small business loan limits you on your ability to grow at the pace you want. 

We love our weekly and specialty markets, but we also want to expand our business and grow into something more.

So what do you do? What do we do? Work super hard every single day until the money comes rolling in, of course! And apply for small business grants.

Small business grants are like free money, usually. You apply for them a little bit differently than you would for small business loans. When you are applying for a loan, you need to be able to establish a line of credit with a bank or financial institution, and you need to begin paying back the loan almost immediately.

In contrast, applying for a grant can be like entering a contest (unless you are applying for a federal grant, the government always takes the fun out of it). Each grant listed below has its own application process and its own amount of prize money. They range from $1000-$50000 and also sometimes come with side benefits, such as small business counseling or free marketing supplies. 

After doing research on some of the major grants for small businesses, here are the top ones that we found with a little bit about each one. 

1. FedEx Small Business Grant 

The application for this grant is actually like a contest. The FedEx Small Business Grant picks 10 business each year. They require that your small business is a U.S.-based for-profit business, have less than 99 employees, and have been in operation not less than 6 months. The amount of money awarded changes every year but here are the amounts awarded for the 2019 contest winners:

  • One Grand Prize Winner receives $50,000, plus $7,500 in FedEx Office print and business services
  • One Silver Prize winner receives $30,000 plus $5000 in FedEx Office print and business services.
  • Eight Bronze Prize winners receive $15,000 plus $1000 in FedEx Office print and business services.

The contest usually opens around February of every year. To enter, you must create a profile within the contest portal, upload photos and a logo, and create a short video pitch about your business. Once you have completed those steps you compete for votes. Even if you don’t win this prize, it is such a good experience in writing a sales pitch and seeing how other small businesses are starting out. Everything is a learning experience, and this one seems like a great one. 

2.  National Association for the Self Employed (NASE)

NASE is an organization that focuses exclusively on microbusinesses, or businesses with 10 employees or less.  They have been providing help to entrepreneurs since 1981 by giving them a voice in D.C., small business grants, and other business resources that are usually only available to larger corporations. 

Their annual grant is a developmental grant geared to help address a specific business need and to foster growth within your small business. The grant can be used for marketing, advertising, hiring employees, expanding facilities, and other specific business needs. 

In order to apply for the NASE Growth Grant, you must follow these requirements:

  • Be a member in good standing for 3 months prior to submitting an application 
  • Specify the exact business need that this grant would address. 
  • Give and show a detailed explanation of how the grant money will be used. 
  • Submit a business plan or resume

3. Grants.Gov

Almost every blog post or news article written about the small grants lists Grants.Gov. The website is a database for all federal grants. They have a Grants Learning Center which shows you how to find the grant you need. Their learning center also shows you how to apply for it, and how to implement the money. These grants are mostly for science, technology, health, and other super niche fields.

Even if you aren’t able to find money specifically for your small business or for your idea, Grants.Gov is a huge source of information on how grants typically work and the federal side of receiving funds. They also provide information on what grant fraud looks like, and how to avoid it. This is great for anyone starting out in

4. Women’s Business Centers 

Like Grants.Gov, it is a locator for grant funding. They have an interactive map that points to centers closest to you. Type in your zip code and the nearest location will populate for you to check out their website and see what they have to offer. 

For Tucson, Arizona we found the Women Business Center of Southern Arizona website. It not only has a Microbusiness Advancement Center (MAC) but holds seminars on aspects of small business ownership such as creating and promoting content on social media. They require you to attend an orientation seminar and a one-on-one with a business counselor before they distribute microgrants to you. Instead of just sending out money, they help you with how to efficiently use that money. Additionally, they have created a community of like-minded entrepreneurs to network with and meet.

This list is small. But hopefully, it gives you a good starting place to look for in a grant. 

Have you applied for a small business grant? Have you applied for one of the grants listed here? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments!

-Haley/Daughter