If you need capital for your business, a grant may be a source of funding to consider. Every year, more than $80 million in funding is given out in the form of grants. And unlike loans, grants do not have to be repaid. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to start applying for grants.
Benefits of Small Business GrantsThe great thing about grants is that they offer generous amounts of funds which, unlike loans, do not have to be repaid. In fact, every year more than $80 million in free money grants is given out. Some of the most common reasons businesses apply for grants include:
- Asset purchases
- Hiring new staff
- Working capital
- Improvement of current products
How to Qualify for a Grant?Applying for grants is a competitive process. Therefore, candidates should prepare accordingly:
- Review and update your business plan. A good business plan describes your company’s mission and roadmap for success. As a result, this is the tool you have to convince others to invest in your business.
- Audit financial statements. These will reflect your company’s overall financial health over time.
- Thoroughly review the grant requirements. It's common for grants to require further documentation such as reporting throughout a period of time. Will you have the time and resources to collect the information needed?
- Become familiar with grant writing. Most grants require a well-written proposal for consideration. You’ll want to tailor your proposal to communicate your plans and ideas clearly.
Available Grants for Small BusinessesThere are several organizations that offer grants to small businesses. the Small Business Administration (SBA) is a federal agency that provides counseling and funding opportunities to small businesses. Small business grants are available for businesses promoting scientific research, management assistance, and community organizations that support entrepreneurship. Grants.gov is a database of thousands of grants offered by various government agencies. Opportunities are available for companies from a wide range of backgrounds. Small businesses located in low-income areas which were severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic can qualify for grants like the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant. Additionally, for a larger breakdown of other grants available, take a look at this list of grants for small businesses. While the grant process can be extensive and tedious, securing a grant can go a long way to help reach your business goals. Start your financial management process off right with FINSYNC's automated cash flow manager.
Most large corporations have some debt as a standard financing practice. Depending on the economic situation, debt financing can be far cheaper than investor financing. But for many small businesses, having to service debt each month can mean the difference between taking home a paycheck or not, hiring one more employee or working extra hours, or paying your bills on time. Cash is oxygen to small businesses, so you can, and should, pay down your debt. Here are several ways in addition to sacrificing income, new hires, and personal time.
The US Small Business Administration (SBA) Debt ReliefFrom the SBA website: “The SBA will pay 6 months of principal, interest, and any associated fees that borrowers owe for all current 7(a), 504, and Microloans in regular servicing status as well as new 7(a), 504, and Microloans disbursed prior to September 27, 2020.” If you have one of these loans, you do not need to apply for this assistance. According to the SBA, assistance will be automatically provided as follows:
- Loans not on deferment, SBA will begin making payments with the next payment due on the loan and will make six monthly payments.
- For loans currently on deferment, SBA will begin making payments with the next payment due after the deferment period has ended, and will make six monthly payments.
- For loans made after March 27, 2020, and fully disbursed prior to September 27, 2020, SBA will begin making payments with the first payment due on the loan and will make six monthly payments.
SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)On June 15, the SBA announced that the EIDL program is open again. Small business owners in the US, including Washington D.C. and territories, can apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000. This loan advance will not have to be repaid. Recipients do not have to be approved for a loan in order to receive the advance. The amount of the loan advance deducts from the total SBA loan eligibility.
Corporate AssistanceThat’s right: corporate America is helping out America’s small businesses. Here are just a few examples of US enterprises lending a helping hand to small businesses. While such help is generous, keep in mind that it is in these corporations’ best interests to help out the small businesses that put money in their bank accounts. For example, Morgan Stanley's Brian Nowak estimates small businesses comprise 30% to 40% of Facebook's overall advertising base.
- Facebook is offering U.S. small businesses $40 million in grants to help them navigate the coronavirus crisis. Go to facebook.com/grantsforbusiness to determine if your business is eligible. They also rolled out additional features to help small business owners. Facebook now lets business owners to start a Facebook personal fundraiser for their own business. So they can ask their most loyal customers for help with operating costs during the crisis. In addition, they made it easier for businesses to communicate temporary service changes — like changes in open days and hours — to their customers.
- Lowe’s has put up more than $50 million in various types of relief funds for small businesses since the COVID19 pandemic hit the US. In this latest round of funding, the company will “offer small business grants through some of the company's key partners. Including its supplier diversity network. The funds will also expand support to small business home improvement professionals.”
- Vistaprint, Facebook, Verizon, and others offer grants that can help keep your small business afloat during the coronavirus crisis. Companies can qualify for these grants if they have 3 - 20 employees. Located in an economically vulnerable community, and have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
- Finally, here’s a guide of all the companies (as of this writing) offering small business assistance in many different ways to help America’s small businesses weather this storm.
According to a recent study by JP Morgan, the vast majority (88%) of businesses in the US have fewer than 20 employees, and nearly 40 percent of all companies have under $100k in annual revenue. So, if you think your small business is really small, turns out you’re right in the middle of the pack! So how do these businesses get their financing? There are three main avenues of financing for small businesses: debt financing, investment financing, and grants. We’ll explore all three here, but we want to focus on grants, since this method of raising capital for a business is not as well known as debt or investor financing.
Debt Financing for Small BusinessPerhaps the clearest, though not the easiest, option to get the capital required for a small business is to go to your local bank and borrow it. Sounds easy, but it is much more complicated than that. Here are some things you must do and consider in order to get a business loan from a bank — any bank.
- Do you have a relationship (existing accounts) with the bank already?
- How is your credit score?
- Have you created a complete, professional business plan?
- Do you have financial projections for your business for at least 3, perhaps even 5 years?
- How much cash will you personally be able to invest in the business?
- Will your business support both the payback of the loan and your personal income?
Investor Financing for Small BusinessInvestors are known for taking more risks than banks; however, investors still want their money back, and with a high rate of return on their investment. That means that, not only should you be prepared to demonstrate everything you needed to demonstrate for a bank loan, but also that you’ll be able to deliver to your investors their desired rate of return. That return usually comes in some sort of “exit” event, meaning that you sell your business or take the business public. An IPO is not usually an option for a small business, though being acquired can be, if the business is in a market that is consolidating. The more important part of your effort to raise capital from investors will be your relationship with them. In a small business or startup investment, the investors are usually investing in the entrepreneur. That’s you. If they know you, your history, your competence and capabilities, then their confidence will already be high before they even see your business plan. Before you ask for investment dollars, make sure you build relationships with the investors.
Small Business GrantsFinally, small businesses can apply for grants to capitalize their operations. We covered the basics of loans and investor financing because there are many similarities to grants; however, there are a lot of differences, too. First, what’s similar among loans, investments, and grants?
- You’ll need a solid, professional business plan
- There will be a lengthy application process
- A relationship with the granting organization will help a lot
- There will be expectations for the results of the money from the granting organization
- You don’t have to pay back a grant
- The granting organization does not take an ownership interest in your business
- There is no interest nor expected return on investment for a grant
Government Grants vs. Private GrantsA quick search for “Small business grants” brings up the SBA’s grants page, which provides a solid introduction to exactly what the US Government is currently providing grants to accomplish. Add your state name in front of that search, and you’ll get more specific, local information about how to apply for grants in your community. Searching for Private small business grants generally leads you to organizations like Clark Howard or NerdWallet, which provide a wealth of information on all things financial. There’s no such thing as “free money”. At the very least, you will have to put in hours applying for a grant, which includes detailed business plans, forecasts, and other documentation. However, knowing that you have (at least) three options to raise capital for your small business operation can open your eyes to many more possibilities.
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