Convicted felons, like everyone else, often want to change their lives for the better by starting a business once they have served their time. And yet, they may have a more difficult time of it, since there is some prejudice against ex-convicts.
You might wonder: can I even start my own business? Can I qualify for grants or loans? Is it even worth the effort?
Let’s explore your options as an ex-convict looking to turn over a new leaf.
Can You Own a Business if You are Convicted of a Felony?
Before we talk about small business grants and loans for felons, let’s first determine whether a felon is qualified to start a business.
The good news is that there are no laws against an ex-convict owning a business! That means you’re only limited by your own imagination when it comes to running a business.
That being said, starting a business requires money, and you may not have the kind of capital you need to realize your dreams. Fortunately, there are options to help you secure that money.
Small Business Grants for Felons
Our first stop on this journey to finding funds for your business is a look at small business grants. Grants offer free money that doesn’t have to be paid back the way business loans do.
Grants are offered by city and state governments, as well as the federal government. Also, private corporations, nonprofits, and foundations offer grants.
Each grant will target a specific audience. Some are for small businesses in general, while others may target a specific type of business owner, like a minority, woman, or veteran. Some are for businesses in particular industries. Know that grants often have heavy competition, so you’ll want to review the requirements carefully before applying and make sure you check all the boxes with your application.
Here are a few grants you may want to consider.
Nav’s Small Business Grant
Every quarter, Nav’s small business grant provides up to $10,000 to businesses looking to overcome a challenge.
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest
FedEx offers $25,000 grants to businesses each year. You’ll need to capture your business’s story via video to apply.
National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants
NASE Growth Grants are offered to members of the organization National Association for the Self-Employed who are looking to take their business to the next level. These grants are worth up to $4,000 and can be used for all types of activities, like purchasing new equipment, hiring help, and creating promotional material.
Can Felons Qualify for Federal Grants?
In addition to grants offered by private companies like those above, local and federal governments also offer grant programs, and your past felony conviction isn’t a barrier to qualifying.
You can search for federal government grants on Grants.gov. You may also want to check with your local government to see if there are other programs you qualify for.
Can Felons Get Small Business Loans?
If you’re curious about small business loans, know that your criminal record isn’t necessarily a barrier to getting the funds you seek.
There are a wide variety of small business loans you may qualify for, whether you’re launching a startup or looking to build an existing business. Even if you have low credit scores, there are lenders you may qualify for loans with.
Small Business Loans for Felons
Taking out a loan for your financial needs can ensure you have the capital you need for your business.
If you have excellent credit, you might consider a loan from the Small Business Administration (such as the SBA microloan program). There are no eligibility restrictions around having a felony record, and the loans have some of the lowest interest rates of any financing options available.
Here are some loans to consider.
Qualifying businesses can borrow up to $50,000 with the SBA microloan program. Some may require a background check for ex-convicts.
Kapitus Short-Term Loans
Kapitus has a variety of lending options, from equipment financing to revenue-based financing. Borrow up to $500,000.
Newtek Long-Term Loans
Newtek provides loan programs to suit every kind of business. You can borrow $1,000 to $15 million.
Other Resources for Small Business Owners with a Felony
Beyond the resources we’ve listed above that provide small business loans and grants that ex-convicts may qualify for, here are a few other resources to help you launch or grow your business.
Inmates to Entrepreneurs
Inmates to Entrepreneurs provides entrepreneurship programs to people with criminal records. There are several in-person and online courses to help you decide what kind of business you want and learn how to find customers.
HelpforFelons.org provides a variety of resources to give felons a second chance, including reentry programs and lists of grant opportunities and loans. Whether you want to start a business or go back to school, there are a variety of financial assistance options, from federal education loans to small business grants.
Small Business Development Centers
Another helpful resource for your business is your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and SCORE. These SBA resource partners provide free access to mentoring, workshops, and assistance in creating a business plan, developing your business idea, and inspiring you to start your own business. You can also get guidance about where to seek business funding.
Another option for raising funds for your business is crowdfunding. You create a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for your business or for a specific project or product. Anyone who’s interested can contribute to it. Crowdfunding marketplaces include Indiegogo, GoFundMe, and Kickstarter.
How Will You Make Your Entrepreneurial Dreams Come True?
If you’re ready for a second chance, starting your own business could be the ticket. Carefully research your options for financing and choose the one that best fits your needs.
And remember: anything, absolutely anything is possible!
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13 responses to “Small Business Grants and Loans for Felons”
this site was very hopeful being an ex convict a lot of the things you hear just aren’t true and deter you from ever chasing your dreams. If their is a will their is a way
Hello, good evening.
I was incarcerated for 18 years and since I have been home I have went to school received my Esthetician license. My business consists of Lashes, facials, waxing and micro blading. I tried to start my business I put up the capital and then covid hit and my credit dropped. On October 1st 2021 I started my business again starting with an LLC. I also joined a group on Facebook about how to grow your business credit which led me to NAV. I started an account and now in need of financial help and guidance if available. It’s crazy how I’m looking for grants and help and NAV has it. I look forward to your response. Thank you for your time and attention.
Congrats on starting your business again. For one-on-one help growing your business, we recommend you reach out to your local Small Business Development Center or SCORE, both of which offer free consulting to entrepreneurs. Find local help here. For questions about Nav and what it offers, you are always welcome to reach out to customer support: email@example.com.
I would love to see if I qualify. I just completed 14yrs incarceration, and really need aid to start my own paint business
Brian – I would recommend you set up an appointment to talk with your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and SCORE chapter. Both offer FREE mentoring and assistance to those who want to start a business. They may be familiar with local programs that can help. Find local assistance here.
Need to get a loan to start a business driving truck over the road
Louis, I’d encourage you to set up a free Nav account to see your financing options. Once you’ve done that you can always speak to someone at Nav to learn more about lender qualifications.
I am a current small business owner, I’m the owner/operator of a handyman business in central FL… I am also a convicted felon and now I have bad credit due to a horrific accident that I barely survived.. a emergency helicopter ride for the sum of 45,000 was not covered by insurance devasted my 808 credit score, but I didn’t let that get me down I kept fighting, every penny I had went into getting my business off the ground. But then came Covid, I’ve pretty much have been drowning in debt since. The government turned me down for any assistance, the IRS has even taken my stimulus money for funds they say I owe but in reality they owe me money ( long story) I’ve been able to hold my head above water for last two years and somehow have kept my business going. But due to the rising costs of everything here in central FL, added in with material shortages and a rental crisis.. I don’t even know how I’m going to get through this month.. the government turns me down for everything, even food stamps they say I make too much but my bills are starting to exceed my revenue. I can’t really move anywhere cheaper, there is literally no places for rent and being a convicted felon with poor credit I wouldn’t be able to anyways. I poured everything into this business 3-1/2 years ago.. there really isn’t any jobs out there that’ll hire a felon that pay good enough wages to survive, I really don’t want to close down my business.. I’ve been working seven days a week 15-18 hours a day trying to catch a break wherever I can to no avail. I search for help but it’s all too many hoops to jump through with no real help in site plus I just don’t have the time to keep wasting pursuing these dead end sites that claim to offer help, does anyone have any realistic options that offer any kind of assistance to someone like me in my position??
Mike – I’m so sorry to hear what you’ve been through. My best suggestion at this point is to reach out to your local SBA resource partners which provide FREE assistance to small business owners including your SBDC and SCORE. Not sure which part of Florida you are in but both have a strong presence in the state and can hopefully help you come up with some ways to continue your business.
Need to know how to apply for a small business grant and how much I would be eligible to get.
There’s no way to predict what grants you can get or for how much. It’s like finding clients; you need to do the research and then put together a winning application for the grant.
I’m an ex felon who has turned his life completely around
I’m a full time plumbing technician from New Jersey who has moved to Florida
I’ve been in the business since I was a kid and worked my way up the ladder
I before I could make something of myself I ended up with a drug addiction that ended up leading me to prison
After completing my time there I got out and started working for a local company in Florida
Threw sheer hard work and determination I’ve risen up the ranks in my company .
Though I could make a good life just working 9-5
I want to create a plumbing company of my own
But because of the criminal record it will make getting a plumbing license that much harder(realistically I couldn’t get it for another 4years,but I am still going to do that as well)
The reason I write this letter is because I’ve found a small nitch in my profession that will let me work at my craft but doesn’t require a plumbing license
I want to open a drain cleaning business and offer camera inspections as well
It will only require a handyman permit and insurance
If it leads to an actual plumbing fix I can sell the job to another plumbing company or trade them foe more clogs and/or camera inspections
What I’ll need is a loan or grant for the cost of a van ,drain cleaning machine , camera with location device and money for advertising
This small but critical section in the plumbing field is in high demand in Florida because of the material that all these homes were built with (castiron)
And every realtor company has to prove to potential homebuyers that the plumbing system is up to code so there will be no shortage of work
My question to you is ,if I’m a white Ex-con who is very skilled in the plumbing trade ,what’s the best option for me?
Please feel free to email anytime to see what my options are moving forward
Thank you so much for providing this site for guys like us who just want to break free from being a burden on society and helping us to make a difference in our lives and giving us the resources to make something of ourselves!
A grateful reader,
Alexander – Have you tried reaching out to your local SBDC or SCORE chapter? Both provide FREE consulting to those wanting to start a business and they may be aware of local grant or microloan programs that may help. Find your local office here.