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Research shows that BIPOC entrepreneurs receive less business financing, less frequently and at higher interest rates compared to white business owners. Small business grants can be helpful alternatives (or supplements) to more traditional forms of funding.
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Small business grants are competitive and require lengthy application processes. The payment, however, is free funds that you don’t have to pay back.
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Here are some grants suitable for minority business owners and what you need to know to apply.
This federal portal is a great resource for finding grants that apply to your specific industry and eligibility. Overall, Grants.gov provides eligibility guidelines, application information and deadlines for more than 1,000 small business grants.
All federal government agencies that provide grants post their information on this site. More than two dozen federal agencies offer grants, including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
In particular, minority-owned businesses can narrow the search based on your personal eligibility criteria, such as the “small business” category or “Native American tribal organization” or “nonprofit organizations.”
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The SBIR and STRR programs provide business development grants for small businesses engaged in cutting-edge research and development. Eleven government agencies, including NASA, DOD, DOE, DHHS, and the National Science Foundation, have reserved a portion of their research and development funding for this grant program.
Grant eligibility requirements and grant amounts are very specific to the program and individual grant you are applying for. You must have an American-owned and independently operated, for-profit small business with a principal investigator employed by your business. Your business must have 500 employees or fewer.
Are you running your business in a rural area? If so, you may want to explore the Rural Business Development Grant Program from the USDA, which offers small business grants between $10,000 and $500,000.
The program is open to businesses operating in rural areas with a population of less than 50,000. In addition, grant money must be used for projects that benefit your rural area or town. A variety of organizations are eligible for this program, including nonprofit corporations, federally recognized tribes, rural cooperatives, state agencies, and more.
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The USDA Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program assists qualified business owners who may not be able to obtain more traditional business financing. This program, as the name suggests, offers both grants and business loans.
To qualify for this grant program, your business must be located in an eligible water or waste disposal area—a rural area with a population of 10,000 or less or a town, tribal lands or colonies in rural areas. Most state and local government agencies, private nonprofit organizations, and federally recognized tribes are eligible for this program.
MBDA provides grants to organizations operating their minority business centers throughout the United States. Through one of these centers, you can get business advice, procurement matching and financial assistance for your minority-owned business.
In addition, MBDA also conducts a unique ongoing grant competition program. In 2021, the program sought proposals to open and operate one of the four MBDA export centers.
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The program helps socially or economically disadvantaged small business owners compete for set-aside and sole-source government contracts. Although the SBA 8(a) program is not technically a grant program, it provides excellent opportunities for minority-owned businesses. On top of the actual business deal, those who qualify for the program get access to a business opportunity specialist, a mentor-protege program, as well as business coaching, counseling and executive development.
The non-profit association NASE administers their Growth Grants Program, which awards microgrants of up to $4,000 each. These grants are designed to help business growth.
Although NASE does not offer grants specifically for minority-owned businesses, the program is designed for small businesses that cannot always find other financing methods. In addition, the NASE Growth Grant can be used for a variety of business purposes—such as purchasing equipment, hiring employees, or creating marketing materials.
AWGC provides grants for Asian American women-led organizations and individual artists in NYC. The nonprofit organization awards these grants to businesses using arts and culture to bring about progressive social transformation, raise awareness and action on issues affecting Asian American women, girls and families, and to highlight and promote the central role of women in these projects.
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The AWGC typically awards five to eight project grants each cycle (usually on an annual basis) totaling up to $15,000.
First Nations is a nonprofit organization that administers a national grantmaking program that provides technical and financial resources to local nonprofits and tribes.
The Operation HOPE Small Business Development Program is designed to assist small business owners in underserved communities. The nonprofit offers an eight-week entrepreneurial training program to provide minority business owners with business training, personal development, access to professional services and financial advice.
The program helps business owners create and manage a business plan, as well as gain access to funding and other business resources.
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The NBMBAA Scale-Up Pitch Challenge is a grant competition that encourages business owners to brainstorm creative, scalable startup ideas. NBMBAA connects startups with early-stage investors and venture capitalists and gives them an opportunity to present their business idea. The winning business owner or team will receive a $50,000 grant, second place will receive $10,000 and third place will receive $7,500. A People’s Choice Award is also given for $1,000.
This grant competition is a great option for Black-owned businesses looking for startup funding for their first business or trying to launch a new idea. You must be a NBMBAA member to participate and the contest is held annually.
The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest is a nationwide competition that awards grants to approximately 10 different business owners each year. FedEx print services range from $15,000 to $50,000, plus grants of $1,000 to $7,500.
Many of the past winners of this grant competition are minority-owned businesses—and grants are awarded to those with unique business ideas that positively impact the community as a whole.
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It also identifies small business grant opportunities and other resources for women, black women, veterans and felons. Explore whether those grants are a good fit for your business as well.
Sally has over a decade of experience in print and online journalism. Previously she was a senior editor at SmartAsset, a Y Combinator-based fintech startup offering personal financial advice. There she edited articles and data reports on topics including taxes, mortgages, banking, credit cards, investing, insurance and retirement planning. She has also held various editorial roles at AOL.com, Huffington Post and Glamor magazine. Her work has also appeared in Marie Claire, Teen Vogue and Cosmopolitan magazines. Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This affects what products we write about and where and how a product appears on a page. However, this does not affect our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here’s a list of our partners and here’s how we make money.
The Small Business Administration is trying to level the playing field for small business owners, many of whom were shut out in the early days of previous rounds of the Paycheck Protection Program.
Congress appropriated $15 billion for first- and second-draw PPP loans issued by community financial institutions, which typically serve minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses. Additional funding is allocated to business owners in low- or moderate-income neighborhoods who receive loans of less than $250,000.
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Find Non-PPP Loans PPP has completed its funding, but other lenders can help you. See options with Fundera via
However, borrowers should move quickly — the deadline to apply is March 31, 2021 — and be able to prove they qualify for a PPP loan. These tips will help you do just that:
Contact your lender immediately and let them know that you want to apply for an initial PPP loan or a second-draw loan. This will let you know if it is involved and can clue you in on the forms and documentation you need.
“The best advice I can give people is to act fast,” says Mrinalini Jayashankar, an attorney and owner of MJ Law Firm in Tennessee. “I’ve already contacted the lender I worked with in the first round and let her know I want to apply for the second round.”
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Look for a local community bank for your PPP loan, especially if your lender doesn’t participate or you typically work with a large national bank.
Borrowers applying through Community Financial Institutions will get first dibs on PPP funds this time. This includes applications from Community Development Financial Institutions, Minority Depository Institutions, Certified Development Companies and Microloan Intermediaries.
You can use this tool from the Opportunity Finance Network to find a community development financial institution in your area.
To qualify for a second PPP loan, you need to prove your creditworthiness