Small business owners are faced with so many different financial challenges when it comes to starting, growing & scaling their businesses. Trying to expand your business or get it off the ground takes money and when just starting out most founders go into personal debt trying to fund their business.
A business grant is a sum of money given to a business in order to help them further their business. They’re usually distributed by governments, corporations, foundations, private donors or trusts. Unlike many other types of business funding, grants don’t have to be paid back and business owners aren’t required to give up equity in exchange for a grant.
There are many types of small business grants available, including ones specifically for women, minorities, veterans, and American business owners with disabilities.
GETTING STARTED WITH GRANTS
Obtaining a grant to get your business off the ground or grow it, can be one of the best ways to acquire funding. However, it’s not always a quick solution. The process can be time-consuming and very lengthy. Fortunately for you, here at HELLO MS.CEO, we have our own grants that don’t take as long of a process to obtain. Every quarter we award several women founders with grant funding. Unfortunately, there are lots of Grant organizations that do not issue funding as quickly as we do.
Finding grants that your business may qualify for can be time-consuming, especially if you don’t hire a grant writer. Grant writers are experts at putting grant proposals together in a way which helps your business to stand out amongst the competition.
The Waiting Time
After applying for the grant you may find yourself waiting weeks and sometimes months to see if you’re approved or even to receive funding once you’ve won. While the process and wait can be extremely frustrating, if you’re awarded the grant, it will be worth it. However, there’s a lot of fierce competition applying for this free money to help fund their business as well, so your application will need to stand out. You will need to show the organization or private issuer of the grant why your company is the best one to be awarded the funds.
Some Grants Have Strings Attached
There are some grant organizations that have strings attached once you’ve been awarded funds. Some grant issuers like to check in with you usually monthly or quarterly- and ask for proof that your business is following the requirements laid out in the grant rules. There may be other requirements, depending on who is issuing the grant. Your grant proposal must detail exactly how you plan to use the funds you receive and the issuer will expect that is how you use the grant award. Grants are free money but it’s not a “get out of debt free-card,” and you will be expected to allocate the funds awarded as you highlighted in your application.
HOW TO USE GRANT FUNDS
HELLO MS. CEO, Congratulations, you’re the recipient of a grant and now let’s put those funds to use.
Business grants can be used to start, grow or expand your company. When applying for the grant, within your proposal you would include exactly the specific purpose you needed the funds for. In some cases you will need to report the spendings to the grant issuer depending on the specific grant.
Some of the most common uses of grant money include:
- Building your team ( hiring staff)
- IT, software, technology and systems
- Materials for product
- Business sustainability
ARE THERE LIMITATIONS?
Great question. Grants are essentially free money given to help fuel your business growth, but it is important that you don’t abuse the funds for personal use. You were awarded this grant because of what you told the issuer on your application of what you would do with the funds, so that is exactly how the money should be put to use.
NOTE: This free money should only be used for the purpose described when you applied for the grant.
With some grants there are spending limitations but this all depends on the organization that’s awarding you the funds. Some grant issuers expect you to report on your spending and progress. This information is usually outlined in great details within the grant rules section of the organization’s application.
HOW TO FIND THE BEST GRANTS FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Finding grants for your business can be a challenge and extremely difficult at times. There are websites that will help you to find business grants. Here are a few listed below.
HELLO MS. CEO
HELLO MS.CEO helps women-owned founders to find the funding they need to start or grow their businesses. Join HELLO MS.CEO Grant Match program or search the Grant Marketplace to get connected to the funding you need to grow and thrive.
Grants.gov is a great resource to help you find thousands of Federal grant opportunities.
US Small Business Administration
The SBA is one of the best resources for not only finding grants but for your business in general. The SBA provides limited small business grants and grants to states and eligible community organizations to promote entrepreneurship. The SBA does not offer grants to start or expand a business but they do have grants for non-profit, resource partners and educational organizations that support entrepreneurship through counseling and training programs. A great start with the SBA would be to seek out a mentor with your local SBA chapter to help prepare your business to seek funding.
APPLYING FOR GRANTS
There are many grants available to women-owned founders. Before you begin your journey of applying to each and every grant that you feel your business may qualify for, we highly encourage you to do your research.
Once you have found a couple of grants that your small business qualifies for, it’s time to start the application process. We highly recommend that you speak with the funder of the grant to seek guidance for your business idea before you write your grant proposal. Try to connect with someone that can help guide you on the do’s and don’ts when it comes to completing the application. Spend some time getting to know the funders core values and culture.
Pro Tip: Take time to research previous winners that were awarded the grants that you’re applying to and take notes because this will help you when trying to stand out amongst the rest. Doing this research will help you to understand what the funder is looking for in a business that they want to get behind.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO APPLY FOR THE GRANT?
The amount of time it takes to apply for a grant really just depends on you and the organization’s process that is awarding the grant funds. Applying for grants can be a very involved process that can take several weeks and sometimes months to have completed, depending on what’s needed. Be sure to research and gather all of the resources along with the information needed to include in your detailed grant proposal.
WHAT’S NEEDED TO APPLY FOR SMALL BUSINESS GRANTS?
The most common documents you will need when applying for grants will include:
- A Business plan
- A written history, mission and vision of the business
- A detailed budget for the grant request
- A projected description
- A cover statement
- Audited financials (If Applicable)
- Tax-exempt documents for non-profit organizations
There are other documents that may be required as per the request of the organization that is awarding the grants. This is usually noted in the information you will need when applying for the grant.
H0W TO FIND THE BEST GRANTS WRITERS?
HELLO MS.CEO, obtaining a grant can be exactly the source of funding needed to fuel your business and help to take your company to the next level. Writing a grant can be a bit challenging which would often require some expertise, time and resources. You may consider hiring a professional grant writer to help improve your application and increase your chances of winning the grant. If you hire a professional grant writer you are 60% more likely to get approved.
Grants are an excellent way to get funding to keep your business running, especially when you are a small business owner or non-profit organization. The best thing about grants is that it’s free money that you do not have to pay back, unlike a loan. However, because grant funding is essentially free money, the competition is fierce. This is why some business owners will invest in a professional grant writer to help them have the best chance of winning a grant.
Grant writers are experts at putting grant proposals together in a way which helps your business to stand out amongst the competition. You can apply for a grant yourself, however, it can take weeks to put all the information needed together. This will definitely take your attention away from focusing on your business. Hiring an expert will save you so much time which will allow you to keep your full attention on your business.
HELLO MS.CEO, LET’S GET YOUR GRANT APPROVED
There’s a lot of great competition when it comes to applying for grants. Many savvy business owners are in search of getting free money to build and scale their companies. It’s important to understand that just because you apply for the grant doesn’t mean you will become the grant recipient. This is why we highly recommend applying for several different grants but with the understanding that there’s a possibility of not winning. Below are some best practices, for next steps when you do not receive a grant.
- Be sure to write a Thank You letter. This gesture will go a long way with helping to build a relationship with the organization issuing the grants.
- Feedback, Feedback, Feedback. Be sure to ask the funder for feedback but note that not every grant organization will be able to assist you with this. Feedback can be a game changer in helping you to win future grant funding opportunities.
- Connections. Building relationships & staying connected with the granter can help you with future grant applications.
- There are so many grant organizations that keep their grants available on a recurring basis. It’s important to keep track and research when the next grant opportunity becomes available so that you may reapply.
I WON A GRANT, WILL THIS HELP WITH GETTING MORE FUNDING?
Great question MS.CEO. The answer is YES & absolutely, once you’ve become the winner of a grant your business gains credibility. This is important and extremely helpful for your future grant proposals. Getting additional grant funding for your business becomes much easier.
GOT GRANTS? WE DO & WE’RE HERE TO HELP YOU!
Let’s get you funded!