Opening a new business, or making improvements and upgrades to an existing one, requires capital – a fact you’re probably all to familiar with. In many cases, small business owners must turn to lending opportunities through banks or investors, many of which come with added interest, fees, or credit requirements. However, small business grants offer a welcome departure from those financing options.
Small business grants provide owners with much desired funds but without those pesky repayment terms, though that doesn’t mean it’s easy money. On the contrary, those who want to benefit from grants will need to work diligently to identify opportunities, complete applications, and prove that their business goals are aligned with the grant requirements.
Of course, there’s more to winning grants than just following the requirements and submitting forms. Businesses that want to secure the available funds will need to show a competitive edge, convincing the grant provider that their business is most worthy – a tall order when competition is high.
So how do you apply for these grants? What can you do to put your best foot forward? Here are a few tips to help you along the way.
Know Where to Look
Grants come in all shapes and sizes and are extended on behalf of various entities, including government and nonprofit agencies, but also private companies and organizations. Don’t forget to look for grants specifically available to women and minorities.
It’s easy to hop online and search for “grants for small businesses,” but you could find the results overwhelming. Instead, you may want to check out (and bookmark) Small Business Grants: 24 Best Places to Apply, which covers some of the best small business grant resources, including Grants.gov and SCORE.org. Also keep in mind that Nav offers the “Legitify Your Small Business“ grant worth $10,000.
It’s also worth your while to look into small business development centers and local business resources, as they typically have their finger on the pulse of, well, all things local business, including private small business grants.
Gather All Your Basic Business Information
Part of the application process will require you to provide basic-yet-essential business information. The address, name, phone number, EIN, etc. for your business will be required, and as such, before you even start the application process, be sure that you can provide this information.
Create or Update Your Business Plan
Regardless of what type of lending or financing opportunity you seek out, a business plan is likely to be a requirement. Grants are no different, and in some cases, especially when it comes to federal grants, a business plan is required.
A well-written business plan will provide a comprehensive overview of your products or service, the target audience, and financial and operational requirements, among other things. Together, these things show lenders and grant providers that you’ve done your homework and developed a comprehensive plan to get from point A to point B.
If you already have an existing business plan but your applying for a grant that will allow you to expand, pivot, or renovate, be sure to update your plan, as an outdated plan may not accurately describe your business or show how it meets the grant requirements.
Read & Understand all Requirements
Even if you have a stellar business plan, you’ve done your grant research and have found some potential opportunities your work isn’t quite done. One of the most complicated parts of the grant application process is actually properly submitting your application and supporting documents.
Many grant givers require the same basic information about how the funds will be used, your “elevator pitch,” your business plan, and your social media handles. Others, however, require that you to submit a business proposal and other additional requirements, so be sure to read carefully before dropping your package in the mail. The worst thing you can do it send in an application without thoroughly reviewing all the requirements and due dates. In most cases, late or incomplete applications won’t be considered and it’s not likely you’ll get a second chance at the available funds.
Small business grants can provide your business with the cash necessary to get things started or take your business to the next stage in your long-term plan. Finding and applying for grants may be overwhelming, but if you know where to look, prepare for the application process, and come armed with all the essential information and assets, you can increase your chances of beating the competition and obtaining much needed funds.