If you recall the film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the challenge never really lay in identifying and locating the magical beings. The problem arose in capturing them. The creatures could disappear, shrink and fly. Wizards held wands and spoke spells in hopes of, if not catching the things, at least restoring order. The second group ultimately achieved success.
Small business grants sometimes seem like those fantastic beasts. They might be hard to find, but you can find them. You know what to look for, too. Small business grants share common characteristics—ones usually dissimilar to other forms of financing. For example, they don’t require you to pay back the money, although they do often feature more rigorous regulations and guidelines.
Still, the obstacles don’t primarily rest in discovering them. They come from capturing them. The points that follow will help you accomplish the task.
How to Identify Small Business Grants
As stated above, small business grants feature some common qualities.
- Small business grants don’t need to be paid back, nor do they incur interest. The money is yours, free and clear—so long as you stay within the grant’s guidelines.
- Small business grants, especially federal ones, feature stringent applications and reporting measures. Grants offered by corporations and organizations sometimes prove more lenient.
- Small business grants typically go to small businesses enhancing their local communities or working in agriculture, technology and medicine. That is, the money must serve a purpose beyond meeting payroll or purchasing inventory.
If the thought of qualifications and regulations don’t frighten you away — and they shouldn’t — you should apply for a small business grant. The money can be poured directly into your small business or organization.
How to Locate Small Business Grants
When it comes to locating small business grants, your best bet is to start with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Grants.gov. The first site connects you with several sources of potential capital, including their BusinessUSA Financing Tool and research grants.
The second lists all the federal small business grants available, meaning you will spend some time looking for ones applicable to your business. You also will see more competition and regulation with these grants, so be prepared for multiple submissions and revisions, as well as a lengthy application process.
You should also visit with your state’s small business center. They often know of grants applicable to your industry or particular business. Because the potential pool of applicants is smaller, you increase your odds of getting a small business grant.
Next, you should speak with your city’s small business centers. The plural is purposeful; you often find a number of small business supporters in the local community. Some options include the Chamber of Commerce, technology and startup centers, higher education institutions and co-working spaces. The places might not be the ones awarding the money, but they sometimes know of businesses and organizations that are.
Finally, you can do a Google search. This step will be the most time-consuming as you have to devise search terms and comb through the results. However, many businesses like FedEx award grant money to small businesses. Other businesses and organizations focus on niches, offering grants to veterans, minorities and women. If you choose this route, think through what makes your business unique and use those qualities to conduct a Google search.
How to Capture Small Business Grants
Once you identify and locate your “fantastic” small business grants, you want to use best practices to capture them.
- Make sure you qualify. Read over the instructions, guidelines and regulations carefully. If your business doesn’t match them exactly, the grant application will be tossed.
- Gather supplementary materials. Small business grants, like traditional small business loans, often ask for business plans and other financial documents. Read through the application to see what’s required, then compile the information.
- Tell a story. Corporations, organizations and the government want to know why you deserve a grant. Tell a compelling story and share projections and outcomes to gain their attention and checkbooks.
- Check your work. One typo might be forgiven. Multiple ones won’t be. You should always edit and proofread your work before submitting it.
- Submit your application. Take a breath and send in the grant application. If it helps, chant Seth Godin’s “Ship it.”
- Stay organized. Because grants take a notoriously long time to process, it’s helpful to set up an Excel document and calendar to track deadlines and award dates. You should also map out each grant and check off items as you complete them.
- Take heart. Capturing a small business grant won’t happen overnight. If your first application fails, don’t give up. Ask for feedback and apply again. Also apply for other grants. Just because one organization rejects you doesn’t mean everyone else will.
Grants are a great way to get money for your small business, but remember that they aren’t the only one. Small business loans, like the ones offered by RapidAdvance, serve a purpose. They ensure your business stays in the black as you await news about your capture of a most fantastic beast.