You’re finally doing it. After years of working for other people, you have decided you want to start up your own company, be your own boss, and provide a service or product that you see a niche for. But figuring out how to start, or how to fund yourself after starting, is the hardest part.
There is borrowing from people you know, but that has its own drawbacks. You could go to a bank and apply for a loan, but most small business loans come with a hefty interest rate, and it could take years to pay them back. Crowdfunding may be a plausible solution, but if you aren’t comfortable with the idea of throwing your business to the mercy of the Internet, there is another solution available to you. Small business federal grants do actually exist, and you may be eligible for them.
First big question: What is a grant?
According to grants.gov, “A federal grant is an award of financial assistance from a federal agency to a recipient to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by a law of the United States. Federal grants are not federal assistance or loans to the individual.”
So what does this mean? This means that there are 26 federal agencies that have money set aside and available for people and businesses that qualify. This may seem like a small number, but from those 26 agencies, there are now over a thousand federal grants available to qualified individuals and organizations. These government grants are sorted by 22 main categories, such as Business and Commerce, Energy, Environment, Science and Technology, and many others.
It also means that this is gift for qualifiers. It is not a loan. As long as you adhere to the standards and requirements these agencies have set, you will never have to pay it back. These standards can be very specific, so be sure you read up on the specific small business federal grant you are interested in before applying.
Second big question: Yeah, but there can’t be that much money available, right?
Wrong. Some of these grants offer millions of dollars in available funds. One federal grant currently available in Georgia is a small business grant that has up to $75,000 available for those who are developing or adopting innovative energy and resource conservation approaches and technologies. If your company is developing a way to reduce crop or livestock losses due to disease, insects, or weeds, you can receive up to $1,000,000 with a small business grant available from the USDA.
Last big question: How?
This one is a doozy. First, you must find the small business federal grant you qualify for. There is a website that you can use that has made this easier for anyone seeking a grant. Grants.gov is a centralized website designed to make finding, applying for, and managing a federal grant as painless as possible. The vision they have stated on the site is, “to be a simple, unified source to electronically find, apply and manage grant opportunities.”
There are other websites that will provide access to information on grants as well, but so far it seems that grants.gov is the most organized and easiest to use. Grants.gov also has a contact center that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week excluding federal holidays.
So if you are on your own and are looking to get some help in your small business endeavors, you may want to check and see if you are eligible for a small business federal grant. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results.