Short answer: No.
Long answer: Contrary to what you have heard, unless you work in very specific industries doing very specific things, there are no grants available for your new business. The SBA states very clearly on their website that they do "NOT provide grants for starting and expanding a business."
So, what are these businesses or areas that are eligible for grants? Well, if you engage in scientific research and development, there may be grants available. Also, as per the SBA, there may be local or state grants available for businesses that are "expanding child care centers; creating energy efficient technology; and developing marketing campaigns for tourism." However, in these cases, it's rarely free money: usually they will match whatever money you raise for your business.
Despite this, the SBA does offer a Loans and Grants Search Tool to find grants available for your business, though it is limited and very specific. While there are always new programs, if you're looking for a grant to cover initial expenses, market your business, or build a website, your possibilities are limited.
So, with all that said, what is a budding entrepreneur to do? The answer is that you will take one of three courses, ranked from the most to least common:
- Take out a loan for your business
- Attract an investor
- Win a contest (such as QEDC's StartUP competition)
Of the three, only the third can be considered anything close to "free money." There are numerous competitions throughout the country and you can use BizPlanCompetitions.com to find them. But keep in mind that most competitions have strict entry requirements; for example, many are linked to schools and you have to be a student of that school to compete.
I did a quick scan of the competitions and some of them could be useful. If you live in Manhattan, the Bronx, or Staten Island, you can enter the New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition. If you're starting a business hoping to solve one the world's most pressing social, environmental, or economic threats, you can apply for the Buckminster Fuller Challenge. We think it would be great for you to check out all contests that are available for you, but, you shouldn't rely on it; plenty of people lose these contests and still launch fantastic businesses and, if you want to be one of them, you need to have a backup plan.
What should your backup plan be? For most businesses, it's going to be getting a loan. There a variety of options available for a person wanting to start a small business including:
- Getting a loan from a bank
- Getting a loan from the Small Business Administration
- Getting a loan from a non-profit, such as Accion, The Business Center for New Americans, the Grow America Fund, or TruFund.
- Raising money from a crowdsourcing platform, such as Kiva Zip.
What is best for you will depend on a variety of factors, including your credit score, if you have any collateral, how much money you need, and whether you're a startup or an existing business. Finding out what is the best for you can be tricky, which is why we're here! If you need money for your business, please make an appointment and we'll help you find out what's best for you!