Finding the seed capital to get your dream business off the ground can be a challenge. The good news is that there are thousands of government grants available to small business owners across the country—you just need to know how to find them and find out if you’re eligible to apply.
Is My Business a “Small” Business?
As you consider your enterprise’s eligibility for government grants, it is important to start with this essential question. The Small Business Association (SBA) has set standards of what qualifies an entity as a small business according to the number of employees a business has and its annual turnover. There are tools the SBA has provided to help businesses determine if they meet the minimum threshold to be considered small. One is its table of size standards, and the other is its size standards tool.
The numerical thresholds of annual receipts and the number of workers differ from industry to industry. For instance, for chicken egg farming, there is no minimum number of workers, but your annual receipts must be below $16.5 million for your outfit to be considered small. If you’re in the wholesale business, you should have less than 100 to 250 employees, depending on the subsector.
Qualifying as a small business makes you eligible for lower-interest loans and grants set aside for small businesses through the SBA. There are also government contracts that are given only to small businesses to level the playing field with larger corporations.
Additional Requirements for Federal Awards
Besides fulfilling the criteria to be considered a small business, your company must also fulfill the below requirements:
- Be located geographically within the United States
- Be independently owned and run
- Not have countrywide dominance in its sector
Over and above these, your business may have to follow some uniform administrative requirements, cost principles, and audit requirements. For example, you will be required to cap the pay of top executives in your business and keep records of all your transactions to certain standards. Submitting to audits if you spend more than $750,000 in business grants is another requirement.
Also, some small business grants will require you to take up some forms of insurance. Eligibility for such grants may also require you to submit additional information; proof of project implementation, as well as payroll information, may be requested ad-hoc, and you will be expected to comply. You can browse through the electronic code of federal regulations to get details of other requirements for you to be eligible for small business grants.
Where to Find Government Grants
If your business is in the field of innovation and scientific research, you can apply for an SBA grant under the Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR). Small startups in this sector are not always able to find the financial backing to take on ambitious projects. Recognizing this, the government, in partnership with the private sector, came up with this program to fund small businesses and nonprofits engaged in beneficial research. You could also apply for a grant under the Small Business Technology Transfer program.
Besides the grants issued by the federal government through the SBA, you can apply for grants at the state and regional level. These are provided through the Economic Development Administration, an agency of the Department of Commerce. Aside from offering funds, the EDA helps budding businesses secure premises and recruit employees.
Another way you can search for government grants is by simply logging on to Grants.gov. Here you will find a vast, comprehensive database of grants offered through various arms of the government. You will also find a full list of the government agencies concerned with offering small business grants.
If you come from a community that is considered economically vulnerable and own a business with less than 20 employees, you could be eligible for a small business stimulus grant. This grant, which can go up to $5,000, is offered by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s small business fund.
Jump Start Your Venture
With a government-funded grant, you can give your business that much-needed cash injection for free. All you need to do is take time to scour the resources the SBA, your state government, and local agencies have to connect you to government grants. It could be all your business needs to grow to the next level.