How to Get a Grant to Start a Business or Expand

You may be a small business owner in need of funding to expand your business. Or perhaps you’re an entrepreneur trying to get your first business off the ground. In either case, you may be a business owner looking for grant money to help you along the way.

Getting a business grant is not all that difficult in principle; it is somewhat difficult in this tight economy due to the fact that there’s not a whole lot of extra money floating around. But if you know what to do when the opportunity arises you can increase your chances of being successful in winning a business grant.

First Things First

The first thing to understand is that business grants come in all shapes and sizes. Some are as little as a couple thousand dollars while others can be 10 times that. Business grants also usually come with stipulations designed to promote a specific agenda by the grant maker.

For example, you may find a small-business incubator offering technology grants designed to encourage new technology-based businesses. The local baker or butcher would be wasting his time applying for such grants because their businesses are not technology-based.

For step-by-step process and how to get a grant to start a business, read on.

Step 1 – Find the Sources of Grants

Before you can begin applying for grants you need to find sources of grant money. Right off the bat you can cross the federal government off your list of sources. Likewise for state governments. Neither of these entities are allowed by law to get involved in promoting one business over the next; henceforth, they don’t make small business grants. They do provide small business loans however, but that’s a different topic for a different article.

There are plenty of places you can check for information about available business grants. For example, your local chamber of commerce usually has information about available grant money. You might also check with trade groups pertinent to the business you’ve chosen. For example, if you want to open a restaurant there are several restaurant trade groups you can belong to that provide tons of helpful information.

Step 2 – Prepare a Business Plan and Grant Proposal

When you find grants you want to apply for, you will absolutely have to have a business plan in place. This is true for both a startup and an expansion. The business plan is your concept of how sound business principles apply to your plans and how you intend to implement those principles. In addition to your business plan you will also need a grant proposal. The grant proposal is similar to the business plan except for the fact that it’s more specific to your business, your service or products, and your personal vision for your business.

There is nothing set in stone about how to write either one of these documents. However, there are certain things each one should contain. Check your local library or go online for some examples of business plans and grant proposals. There is enough free information available to help you get started.

If you’re struggling with your business plan there’s probably some sort of not-for-profit organization in your community designed to help business people. If so they can likely sit down with you and help you put together a competent business plan. If you’re having trouble with the grant proposal you can ask other business owners for help or, if you don’t mind spending the money, hire a professional grant writer.

Step 3 – Make As Many Applications as Possible

The last step in this process is to make as many grant applications as possible. No matter how small a grant or how foolish the idea may seem, write grant proposals and send them out as quickly as you find the opportunities. The worst that can happen is that you get rejected. The best that could happen is that you get awards for every grant application you send out. Either way, you’ll never get anything if you don’t apply. The law of averages is your friend in that the more you apply for the greater your chances of success.

With all that said, please bear in mind that it’s unlikely you’ll be able to fund your entire business solely on grant money. So plan to get other funding sources. You can apply for small business loans through banks and some government agencies; you can contact private equity firms and ask them to invest; you can approach your family members and friends to provide you loans as well. The point is that you’re going to need more than just grant money. You might as well get started as soon as you can trying to access as many of those sources as possible.