By James Chittenden
Let’s start a good article with bad news by busting a myth; “I should receive free money for my startup or small business”. Inaccurate information is everywhere; that government agencies provide grant funds for entrepreneurs and small businesses. There is no pot of free, unrestricted money from the government to start or run businesses, no matter who you are.
Now, let’s get to the good news. Grants ARE available for specific purposes, and your business may be eligible. Read on…
The biggest myth about grants
“Free money is widely available for veterans, minorities, women, and ex-convicts”
This may be true for charities, but not for businesses. Grants are usually for nonprofit organizations, and are rare for for-profit businesses. However, nonprofit organizations may offer assistance to small businesses in the form of technical assistance or funds IF the business meets the criteria and mission of the nonprofit. Don’t look to the government to provide unrestricted free money to start a business or fund ongoing business operations. While there are government grants available to help accomplish specific purposes, those are rarely awarded solely on the basis of gender, race, or veteran status. Businesses that qualify under that status must compete with other qualified businesses, with the grant awarded to the best-qualified.
Also, banks lend to businesses that are woman, minority, or veteran-owned using the same criteria as lending to those businesses that are not. That criteria is solid credit and operating history, as well as sufficient collateral. However, there are organizations that specialize in arranging credit for underserved populations, or businesses with credit challenges.
While direct payments may not be widely available, free consulting, assistance, and services ARE widely available.
Grants in the form of direct payments DO exist if you know where, and where not to look. And no, we are not suggesting that you find this book, the subject of many 1990’s infomercials:
So where are the grants, then?
Whether you are seeking grants or you are an issuer of grants, there are a multitude of sites to find funders or eligible recipients. However, opengrants.io has consolidated most of this information in one online location, and is by far the richest source we have found. There are free and paid plans. You can greatly increase your odds of approval by hiring professional grant writers. Estimated fees:
- A $100K-$250K award might cost $6K-$8K
- A $250K-$1M award might cost $8K-$15K
- A $1-$4M award might cost $15K-$30K
Signing up and creating an account is free. Once you have created an account, you are then able to search their vast database of potential funding sources. You can go through the opengrants marketplace and hire grant writers directly there, or simply find and apply for the grants yourself.
“How do I qualify?”
A search through opengrants.io reveals multiple grant opportunities for startups and small businesses. Remember that a grant is a contract. Read the description of the grant carefully. Your business must meet certain conditions to receive the funds. Examples include, but are not limited to vital medical, scientific or technical services delivered in rural areas or to underserved populations.
You may or may not be required to submit a business plan. We always recommend having one ready. Creating a business plan is useful and, with good software, can actually be fun.
- The U.S. Small Business Administration has a free tool for your use here.
- LivePlan by Palo Alto Software also offers a simple, user-friendly, and relatively inexpensive business plan service here.
- One Click Advisor fills in the gaps with the free Business Builder, which walks business owners through a plan and connects them with free, discounted or paid recommended services.
Also, grants for small businesses can take the form of free education, consulting or other services. Most prospective business owners, startups and businesses are eligible. See Local Assistance under SBA.gov .
Welcome to One Click Advisor! We would be remiss if we didn’t give you a brief tour of the site and what it can do for you. Your challenges and opportunities can be sorted into one of three areas.
Marketing, because it brings in the customers. Start or continue that plan here.
Operations, because it keeps your customers. Start or continue that plan here.
Finance, because it is the scoreboard. Change the “score” and explore financing here.
The One Click Advisor Business Builder connects you with all the fundamentals. Skip the hours of research and costly mistakes…we have done the work for you.
Help IS available. There are many free resources, including funds, available to help you start, run, and grow your business.