24 Small Business Grants to Apply for in 2021 [A Full Guide] by LegalZoom Staff

24 Small Business Grants to Apply for in 2021 [A Full Guide]

No matter what kind of small business you have there is a grant that can help your business grow.

by LegalZoom Staff
updated July 15, 2021 ·  14min read

From new businesses to veteran-owned shops, there are many small business grants available. Find out which ones you may be eligible for so that you can start applying and, hopefully, start earning.

Small business grants offer funds to grow your business in a variety of ways. In many cases, grants can be used for things like operations, marketing, or expanding your team.

Grants are awarded by both public and private entities to businesses. While grants don't have to be paid back, they do take time to apply. To secure the grant, you may have to meet eligibility requirements, submit applications, and go through interviews. In exchange, you could be awarded financial resources to build your brand, team, and network.

hero-small-business-grants 2 women standing in their studio

Before you review potential grants, create a business plan. A solid plan will give you clarity around your business's direction and how it will benefit your community. Once you have your business plan ready, start showcasing your hard work to programs, non-profits, and organizations that'll consider financially supporting you.

Table of Contents:

  • What Are Small Business Grants?
  • Different Types of Business Grants
  • For New Entrepreneurs
  • For Women
  • For Veterans
  • For Minorities
  • For Startups
  • Tips for Securing a Small Business Grant

What Are Small Business Grants?

Small business grants are minimal amounts of seed money given to entrepreneurs to build upon their business. Grant money is considered “gifted" and is not required to be paid back.

Most grant programs are established by government entities or private businesses wanting to help others succeed. Grant programs are typically given by federal, state, corporate, or nonprofit organizations.

Different Types of Business Grants

Your eligibility for these grants will depend on your business's products and services, ownership, and mission. The main business grant options are broken into four sections: federal, state, local, and corporate.

Federal Grants

Federal grants are given from the United States government's general federal revenue. The government gives grants to stimulate the economy and help those in need. As a result, they often go to non-commercial businesses, like tech, health, science, or education companies.

State Grants

Unlike a federal grant, a state small business grant is offered by a specific state. These can be smaller than federal grants, but because of their state-specific requirements, the competition is often slimmer. This makes them more attainable for many organizations, and even if smaller than a federal grant, they can still be a much-needed financial boost.

Local Grants

Local grants are gifted to small businesses to expand or maintain their operations. These grants are focused on small establishments that directly stimulate the community around them.

Corporate Grants

Corporate small business grants are given out by select corporations. These grants can have various requirements, come in different amounts, and be suited for very specific or broad types of businesses. In most cases, companies set aside money at the beginning of the fiscal year and host competitions to distribute funds.

Learning about the different grant options is the first step. The second step is to find and apply for grants that suit your small business. Skip through each section that applies to you for further grant opportunities.

Business Grants for New Entrepreneurs

Just getting started? Seek out additional funding from the following sources to get your new business off the ground.

1. Grants.gov

Grants.gov was created by the Department of Health and Human Resources in 2002. It's an e-government program operated by the Office of Management and Budget. This online team helps provide resources and assistance for grant seekers to find and receive funding.

  • Award amount: Varies
  • Where to apply: For more details, visit their website.

2. Local Chamber of Commerce

Start by researching grants within your community — your local Chamber of Commerce is a great place to start. Although some grants have stipulations like industry, business type, size, and location, your local Chamber of Commerce will be able to connect you with grants that fit your situation. Their team can also set you up with funding services, tips, and resources for your small business.

3. Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR)

The Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) is a competitive grant program for small businesses. This program helps fund entrepreneurs in the research and development industry to support scientific and technological innovation. These grants are used to build a strong national economy through business models.

  • Award amount: Funding for a phase one award is up to $259,613 and phase two up to $1,730,751.
  • Where to apply: If you fit industry requirements, you must apply to a specific solicitation on their website.

4. Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR)

Small Business Technology Transfer Programs are similar to SBIRs but focused on the technology industry. This grant is issued to businesses in the technology industry. These grants help fund innovative technological advancement, boosting the economy and business owners.

  • Award amount: Funding for a phase one award is up to $259,613 and phase two up to $1,730,751.
  • Where to apply: If you fit industry requirements, you must apply to a specific solicitation on their website.

5. Nav's Small Business Grant

Nav is a company that helps match businesses with the best loans and credit cards to grow their business. Every April, a Nav's Small Business Grant is awarded to a small business owner.

  • Award amount: $5,000–$10,000
  • Where to apply: Visit their website and sign up for a free account to get started.

6. FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

Each year, FedEx hosts a small business grant contest to provide funding for ambitious entrepreneurs. In 2021, they held their 9th annual contest and awarded a small business $50,000. This grant is open to most small business models, as long as your business strategy is a story “worth telling."

  • Award amount: $15,000–$50,000
  • Where to apply: For more information, visit their website.

7. National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grant

The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grant was established in 2006. Over the years, NASE has awarded roughly $1,000,000 to entrepreneurs to help grow small businesses. You must be a member of NASE to apply, but winners can receive up to $4,000 to go towards marketing, team growth, and other needs.

  • Award amount: Up to $4,000
  • Where to apply: For more information, visit their website.

Business Grants for Women

While four out of every 10 businesses in the US is owned by a woman, only 25% of women seek additional financing compared to 34% of male entrepreneurs. However, there is no shortage of support for women-owned businesses.

8. Amber Grant Foundation

The Amber Grant Foundation was founded by WomensNet in 1998. Their mission is to help women fund their life dreams. The first week of every month, they give $10,000 to women pursuing their entrepreneurial passions. At the end of each year, they also grant one special woman $25,000 of funding.

  • Award amount: $10,000 is available every month and one annual winner will receive $25,000
  • Where to apply: For more details, visit their website.

9. Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grants Program

Eileen Fisher is a women-owned clothing brand on a mission to support other women business owners. Their Women-Owned Business Grant program awards women entrepreneurs $200,000 annually. Before applying, you must meet these prerequisites:

  1. Demonstrate your business has positive impacts on the environment and women's representation.
  2. Provide and demonstrate helpful information on climate change, mitigation, and advocacy.
  3. Help lead and engage other women in the sustainable economy.
  4. Be able to meet all of Eileen Fisher's eligibility requirements.
  • Award amount: $10,000–$40,000
  • Where to apply: Although funding is temporarily suspended, check their website for updates to see if the program is renewed.

10. Live Your Dream Award

Each year, the Live Your Dream Foundation grants $2.1 million in educational funds to women. This foundation focuses on passionate women who have survived sexual violence or other traumatic events. They offer programs and funding that help women build confidence, advance their careers, and overcome unexpected situations.

  • Award amount: $1,000–$16,000
  • Where to apply: Applications open from August 1 to November 15 at this online portal.

11. Cartier Women's Initiative Award

This grant program was created for eco-friendly and sustainable women-owned businesses around the world. They have two different funding types: regional awards and science and technology pioneer awards. No matter where you live, you could have a strong chance of earning grants via the Cartier Women's Initiative Award program. Cartier's team helps provide monetary, social, and human capital support to ambitious women leaders.

  • Award amount: $30,000–$100,000
  • Where to apply: Applications will be postponed until Spring 2022, but you can check their website for more information.

Business Grants for Veterans

Veterans serve our country and community in many different ways. Thanks to certain organizations, they can be on the receiving end when it comes to small business grants and programs.

12. StreetShares Foundation

StreetShares Foundation was launched on Veterans Day of 2016. They established their nonprofit with the mission to inspire and support military entrepreneurs. They grant businesses funding, share educational content, provide mentors and coaching, and host networking events. Since 2016, they've built a strong community of over 85,000 members and helped 5,000 entrepreneurs build their businesses.

  • Award amount: $4,000–$15,000
  • Where to apply: For more information, visit their website.

13. VA VR&E Business Ownership Track

If you're a veteran with a disability and an entrepreneurial passion, reach out to the VR&E Self-Employment Track program. This program helps coordinate services to build your business starting with your business plan. Team members assist in small business operations, marketing, and finances.

  • Program benefits: Assistance with your business plan, training, and guidance.
  • Where to apply: For more information, visit their website.

14. Boots to Business Training Program

Although not a grant, this program offers entrepreneurial training to veterans to launch their business. The two-day training connects veterans with experts and their networks. After initial training, veterans and their spouses can go on to take additional coursework offered by Mississippi State University at no cost.

  • Program benefits: Training, coursework, and networking opportunities.
  • Where to apply: For more information, visit their website.

Business Grants for Minorities

People come from all walks of life, facing unique struggles and having individual triumphs. Many small business grants celebrate this diversity by offering grants specifically for minorities to help you and your business.

15. Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)

The Minority Business Development Agency helps grow minority business enterprises (MBEs) through their programs, services, and funding. They currently have two grants open for the spring of 2021.

  • Award amount: $375,000–$415,000
  • Where to apply: For more information, visit their website.

16. Sephora Accelerate

Sephora is a makeup retailer that created a grant program called Sephora Accelerate. Each fall, this program helps fund and inspire entrepreneurs in the beauty industry. If your business is focused on makeup, skincare, or hair products, this may be a great opportunity for you.

  • Program benefits: A six-month business boot camp with exclusive access to launching at Sephora.
  • Where to apply: Check their website on October 1 to apply.

17. National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC)

The National Minority Supplier Development Council is one of the top corporate membership organizations. They offer business services and networking opportunities to connect with investors and build your practice.

  • Program benefits: Resources and access to 1,450 other members and 23 regional councils.
  • Where to apply: For more information, visit their website.

How to apply: Each year, the NMSDC hosts a few different funding opportunities. In 2020 and 2021, they've focused their funding efforts on small minority businesses impacted by COVID-19. As 2021 carries out, check their website to seek eligible grants.

18. Operation Hope Small Business Empowerment Program

Operation Hope Small Business Empowerment Program understands the struggle to seek funding and valuable resources for startup businesses. To advocate for minority entrepreneurs, they offer an 8- and 12-week entrepreneurship training program with funding opportunities. This program helps small businesses learn new tools and skills to develop their practice.

  • Program benefits: Entrepreneurship training programs in 8- and 12-week courses.
  • Where to apply: For more information, visit their website.

19. The USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program

The USDA's mission is to help improve the economy and the quality of life throughout America. Their team offers grants to increase job opportunities and stimulate economic development. Services include healthcare, first responder services, water, electric, and communications. Most recently, they enacted a small business enterprise grant program assisting rural small business owners.

  • Award amount: Varies.
  • Where to apply: For more information, visit their website.

20. The SBA's Funding Programs

The SBA grant program offers a few funding options — COVID-19 relief, research and development, exporting, and associate rewards. Grants vary by the year, and your eligibility may differ depending on each grant. They also offer a Veterans Business Outreach Center services for veterans to help assist in operations, funding, and other business needs.

  • Award amount: Varies
  • Where to apply: For more information, visit their website.

Business Grants for Startups

You may need funds to take your business model to the next level. Instead of taking out a business loan, consider these startup grants.

21. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Grants

In 2021, the Build to Scale (B2S) Program Notice of Funding Opportunity has made $38 million in federal funds open to startups. Plus, each year they have an updating funding method for entrepreneurs ready to grow their businesses. The B2S program accepts applications for two different competitions: Venture Challenge and Capital Challenge.

  • Award amount: Varies
  • Where to apply: For more information, visit their website.

22. GrantWatch

GrantWatch is an online hub for all grants in the United States and Canada. You're able to browse various funding opportunities easily by filtering your specifications. GrantWatch has more than 26,000 grants, funding opportunities, awards, and contracts on its site.

  • Award amount: Varies
  • Where to apply: For more information, visit their website.

23. The State Business Incentives Database

The State Business Incentives Database offers a wide variety of funding opportunities across the United States. They currently have over 2,000 financial programs available, 537 being grants. To access programs, initiatives, and networking opportunities, you must be a member of the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) team. As a regular research professional, it costs $345 annually. For teams of up to 10 people, it costs $1,055 annually.

  • Award amount: Varies
  • Where to apply: For more information, visit their website.

24. Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)

The Small Business Development Centers' mission is to provide entrepreneurs with resources and tools to support their network nationwide. They help fund, teach, and mentor business owners that want it most. They offer loans, investment capital, disaster assistance, surety bonds, and grants. Most resources require various information and business standards.

  • Award amount: Varies
  • Where to apply: For more information, visit their website.

Tips for Securing a Small Business Grant

Small business grants come in many forms and have various requirements. While there's nothing you can do to guarantee you get a grant, there are some things you can do to increase your likelihood of getting picked for one.

Start Local

Big nationwide grants can be appealing due to their large awards. Before you spend countless hours preparing submissions for nationwide grants, though, consider starting local.

Look for any small grants offered by your town or city. Then, branch out to the state level and regional level. These grants may not be as big as some of the ones offered to the entire country, but you'll also be competing with a smaller pool and have a greater chance of getting one.

Research Previous Winners

If you've found a grant that looks like a good fit for your business, do some digging and see who the previous winners were. Note any patterns you see between the business. Seeing what kinds of businesses are awarded a certain grant can help you narrow down if your business is a good fit, what you could possibly do to increase your chances, and ultimately help you save time by not applying to a grant you're unlikely to land.

Take Your Time with Applications

Grant applications can be long and grueling. Take it slowly when filling them out and don't let yourself get overwhelmed by trying to rush them. A mistake on the application could cost you the grant, so make sure it's time well spent by filling out the forms the right way.

Consider Hiring a Grant Writer

Grant writing is an art, so consider hiring a grant writer if possible. A grant writer will know what kind of language to use to make your application stand out, which can make quite the impact when you're competing.

It's worth noting that grant writers can be rather expensive, so if you're strapped for cash you may want to hold off and consider taking some free grant writing courses instead.

Instead of taking out loans you'll have to pay back, grants offer you the opportunity to earn money without going into debt. Before you start applying to grant programs, ensure you've covered all your business's legal bases.

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