Guide to Small Business Grants and Where to Find Them | SoFi (2024)

By Susan Guillory ·May 22, 2024 · 10 minute read

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Guide to Small Business Grants and Where to Find Them | SoFi (1)

Taking out a business loan or line of credit is one way to get the working capital you need to launch or grow your business. But there’s also another option to consider: a small business grant.

Awarded by government agencies, foundations, and corporations, small business grants provide funding to new and existing businesses of all types, and do not have to be repaid. Some grants even come with added benefits like business coaching and mentorships.

Because grants are essentially free money, however, they can be difficult to get. Here’s what you need to know about small business grants.

What Is a Small Business Grant?

A small business grant is a lump sum of money awarded to a business or business owner that, unlike a loan, does not have to be paid back. Business grants are offered by federal, state, and local governments, as well as foundations, nonprofit organizations, and corporations.

Some grants are targeted to businesses in specific industries or that are developing certain types of products. Other grants are designed for businesses located in underserved communities or owned by women, minorities, or veterans. In some cases, a grant will come with stipulations about how the money has to be used by the business; in others, there are no restrictions.

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Why Consider Small Business Grants?

Grants provide a way to get funding without taking on debt. They also offer funding opportunities for startups that might not qualify for a loan. In fact, some grants are available for entrepreneurs who may have nothing more than a great idea for a business.

You’ll want to keep in mind, however, that grants attract a large number of applicants and often come with fairly strict qualification requirements. Plus, the application process can be rigorous. You typically need to supply a lot of information and financial details about your business, plus explain how you plan to spend the grant money.

Where to Find Government Small Business Grants

There are so many different kinds of government business grants available – at the local, state, and federal level – that trying to find the right fit for your business can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, there are some helpful resources and databases that can help streamline your search.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and other federal agencies list their government grants for small business on . There, you can search based on criteria like eligibility, categories, and funding agency.

America’s Small Business Development Center, an SBA partner, is a nationwide network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) located throughout the U.S. New and existing businesses can seek free business consulting and low-cost training. SBDC consultants can also help you find a grant for your business.

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6 Private Company Business Grants

Certain private companies offer small business grants. Below is a sampling of what’s available.

1. Visa Everywhere Initiative (VEI)

This global program offers funding to tech-focused startups around the globe. To apply, you need to show how one of your products or services involves Visa products in a creative way. The top award is $50,000, but smaller amounts are also available.

2. FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest is designed to help startups grow and scale their companies. Each year, it awards a $50,000 Grand Prize and nine additional $20,000 grants. To apply, you need to have been in business for at least six months and have no more than 99 employees.

3. NASE Growth Grant

The National Association of the Self-Employed offers a $4,000 grant to qualifying NASE members to help take their businesses to the next level. Grants can be used for marketing, advertising, hiring employees, expanding facilities and other business needs.

4. Fast Break for Small Business

Fast Break for Small Business is a grant offered by LegalZoom, along with the NBA, WNBA, and NBA G League, that focuses on helping businesses in underserved communities. The grant provides $10,000 and up to $500 in LegalZoom products and services. Applications are open twice a year.

5. Venmo Small Business Grant

The Venmo Small Business Grant awards 20 small businesses with $10,000, free promotion on the Venmo and PayPal web and social media sites, and professional consulting services. To qualify, you must have less than $50,000 in annual sales and no more than 10 employees.

6. Lenovo Evolve Small Grant

Lenovo’s Evolve Small Initiative is a program that provides funding, mentorship resources, and community support to small businesses located throughout the U.S. and Canada. Each year, the focus and funding amounts of the grant vary.

3 Grants to Start a Business

While many grants are aimed at established businesses, others are designed to provide free money (and sometimes support) to start a small business.

1. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and its sister program, the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR), support small businesses with big ideas in technological innovation. The programs not only provide funding to qualifying small businesses but also partner those small businesses with federal research organizations to help develop those ideas into commercialization.

2. The Halstead Grant

The Halstead Grant is specific to a particular type of business entrepreneur — emerging silver jewelry artists. The grant includes $7,500 in funding plus $1,000 in merchandise to start a small business.


If you’ve got a great solution to an existing problem, you could submit your idea to This site is a hub for all prize competitions and challenges across the federal government and leverages crowdsourcing to come up with ideas that turn into businesses.

4 Business Grants for Women Business Owners

Some grants are only open to women who run businesses. Below is a selection of available grants.

1. Cartier Women’s Initiative

The Cartier Women’s Initiative seeks women who are making a difference in the business world. In addition to grants of either $30,000, $60,000, or $100,000, winners also receive business and financial coaching.

2. Amber Grant

WomensNet offers several Amber Grants throughout the year, giving away at least $30,000 every month, including “Startup Grants” and “Business Category Grants,” as well as two “$25,000 Year End Grants.”

3. Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program

This Fellows Program provides 50 eligible women running early-stage businesses with a one-year fellowship that includes workshops, coaching sessions, network-building, and financial resources.

4. The SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant

The SoGal Foundation, along with Winky Lux, bluemercury, and other sponsors, offers several $10,000 and $5,000 startup grants to Black women or nonbinary entrepreneurs. Grant-winners also receive fundraising assistance and access to the SoGal Ventures team. Applications are rolling.

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3 Grants for Minority Business Owners

Here’s a look at just some of the available awards.

1. Galaxy of Stars Grant

Galaxy of Stars, an online network for minority- and women-owned businesses, offers a grant of $2,750 to eligible applicants to start or grow a business.

2. The Coalition to Back Black Businesses

The Coalition to Back Black Businesses offers $25,000 grants to 14 Black business grantees who’ve been selected by a panel of judges. It also awards mentorships and resources to other qualifying small businesses.

3. National Black MBA Association Scale-Up Pitch Challenge

If you have an idea for a Black-owned startup that is scalable, you might want to consider this Pitch Challenge. Sponsored by the National Black MBA Association, the competition aims to give eligible startups a chance to connect with venture capitalists and other early-stage investors. Three finalists also receive cash awards (up to $50,000).

How Do You Qualify for a Small Business Grant?

While each grant program will have different requirements for applicants, many share certain criteria.

If the grant is U.S.-based, applicants may be required to be U.S. citizens. If the grant is state-based, applicants may be required to be citizens of that state or doing business there.

Additional requirements for certain grants may include:

•You may only qualify if you have been in business for a certain period of time.

•You may need to operate a for-profit company (or, in some cases, the opposite: a nonprofit).

•You may need to have a business in a particular industry.

The key is reading all of the qualification requirements carefully before applying to make sure you meet the criteria before investing too much time in the application process.

The process of applying for a small business grant can be time consuming. You’ll want to write your business plan (if you haven’t already) or refine it. The plan should clearly explain your business and what sets it apart from other competitors, plus detail what you would do with the grant money. Small business grant applications may also require financial data and other relevant information for your business, so having that information organized and prepared can help streamline the process.

Pros and Cons of Small Business Grants

Like any type of small business funding, grants come with both benefits and drawbacks. Here’s a look at how they stack up.


You don’t need to repay the money. Unlike small business loans, grants do not have to be repaid, so they’re essentially free money.

Information is widely available. No matter what type of business grant you’re looking for, a lot of information about grants is available online.

Provides credibility. In addition to the funds, a grant can provide more visibility to your business and validate your business idea. It can also make it easier to receive other grants in the future, since you’re already a proven candidate.


Time-consuming. Just finding the right grant to apply for can require a lot of research. And once you do, completing the application and making a convincing proposal can take time and effort — and may not result in any returns.

Hard to get. Small business grants are appealing, so you’re not the only business looking for one. Grants typically receive a large number of applicants, but only a few are chosen.

Money may have strings attached. Some grants come with restrictions about how you can spend the money. Others require you to spell out your plans for the money in your application; once you get your award, you typically need to stick with that plan.

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Alternatives to Small Business Grants

If you don’t qualify for any small business grants (or don’t feel it’s worth the time and effort to apply), you’re not necessarily out of funding options. Here are some other ways you may be able to get the capital you need to launch or grow your business.

Small Business Loans

There are many types of loans for small businesses. For example, the SBA helps businesses by backing up loans made by partner lenders. While banks typically have strict criteria (such as at least two years of business history and a minimum amount of revenue) for business loans, online business lenders tend to have more flexible requirements. Just keep in mind that rates from online lenders are generally higher than those from traditional banks.

Angel Investors

Angel investors are high-net-worth individuals who invest in early-stage startups in exchange for equity in the company. Since they invest using their own money, they aren’t beholden to banks or other institutions. This allows them to invest more freely. Typically, when an angel investor funds your company, you also get access to their expertise and industry contacts, which could help you grow your business.

Merchant Cash Advances

If you do business using credit card transactions, you may be able to get a merchant cash advance (MCA) fairly easily. With an MCA, you get a cash advance in exchange for a fixed percentage of future credit card receipts. Typically, the MCA provider automatically deducts a daily (or weekly) percentage of your debit and credit card sales until the advance, plus fees, is repaid in full. While an MCA can be a quick source of cash, this is one of the most expensive types of small business financing.

Recommended: First Time Business Loans

The Takeaway

No matter where you are on your business journey, there may be a loan available to help you take it to the next level.

If you’re seeking financing for your business, SoFi can help. On SoFi’s marketplace, you can shop top providers today to access the capital you need. Find a personalized business financing option today in minutes.

With SoFi’s marketplace, it’s fast and easy to search for your small business financing options.


Which business grants are considered taxable?

Generally, the money you receive from any type of business grant is taxable and should be reported on your federal tax return. Depending on what state you live in, you may also need to report a business grant award on your state return.

How do you get small business grants?

Small business grants are offered by the government (at the federal, state, and local level), foundations, and corporations. You might start your search with the government database, as well as simply Googling “Business [industry] grant.”

Who can get small business grants?

Grants are available for all types of business, but you may have a better chance of finding one if your company serves an underrepresented or rural community, is in the tech sector, or is owned by a woman, minority, or veteran.

Photo credit: iStock/mapodile
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Guide to Small Business Grants and Where to Find Them | SoFi (2024)


Is the government giving out money to start a business? ›

State loan programs are available to small businesses looking to start or grow their business, or businesses who have been impacted by COVID-19 health and safety restrictions and natural disasters.

How can I get money to support my business? ›

  1. Determine how much funding you'll need.
  2. Fund your business yourself with self-funding.
  3. Get venture capital from investors.
  4. Use crowdfunding to fund your business.
  5. Get a small business loan.
  6. Use Lender Match to find lenders who offer SBA-guaranteed loans.
  7. SBA investment programs.

Which funding is best for startups? ›

Venture capital is funding that's invested in startups and small businesses that are usually high risk, but also have the potential for exponential growth. The goal of a venture capital investment is a very high return for the venture capital firm, usually in the form of an acquisition of the startup or an IPO.

What are at least three sources of funding for new businesses which is the most important? ›

According to the SBA, 3 in 4 new businesses use personal savings; roughly 1 in 5 use a bank loan (19%). Other sources of startup income in both categories include a loan from family or friends, venture capital funding, or leveraging earnings from an existing business.

What is the easiest SBA loan to get approved for? ›

SBA Express loans, part of the SBA's 7(a) loan program, offer the easiest application process and the fastest approval times among all SBA loans. These loans, with payoff periods as long as 25 years, are designed for purposes such as refinancing debt, buying equipment, or improving real estate.

Who will give me money to start a business? ›

Begin your search for a grant from the federal government at This government site offers the most comprehensive database of funds the government is going to give away. There are thousands of grants to apply for, with opportunities for companies from all backgrounds.

How long does Hello Alice take to approve a grant? ›

You will be contacted by Hello Alice directly to inform you of your application status (whether you have been selected as a recipient or not) once the review process is completed (generally 6 to 8 weeks from the closing of the application period).

What is an SBA loan? ›

The 7(a) Loan Program, SBA's primary business loan program, provides loan guaranties to lenders that allow them to provide financial help for small businesses with special requirements. 7(a) loans can be used for: Acquiring, refinancing, or improving real estate and buildings. Short- and long-term working capital.

How to start a business from scratch with no money? ›

8 steps to starting a business with no money
  1. Choose a free business idea.
  2. Write a business plan.
  3. Embrace the entrepreneur community.
  4. Choose a business name.
  5. Create a brand.
  6. Launch a website.
  7. Validate ideas with preorders.
  8. Source funding to grow.
Feb 17, 2024

How do I find startups that need funding? ›

How to Source Startups for Investment Opportunities
  1. Build Relationships With Other Investors. ...
  2. Go Where Startups Congregate. ...
  3. Mentor at Startup Accelerators and Incubators. ...
  4. Find Them on Internet Platforms. ...
  5. Work on Your Inbound Strategies. ...
  6. Watch Where Talented People are Going. ...
  7. Take a Problem-first Approach. ...
  8. Host Events.
Oct 12, 2023

How do small startups get funding? ›

Startups can get funding in different ways, including business loans, personal savings, friends and family, venture capital and startup grants.

What is a seed loan? ›

Seed financing (also known as seed capital, seed money, or seed funding) is the earliest stage of the capital-raising process of a startup. Seed financing is a type of equity-based financing. In other words, investors commit their capital in exchange for an equity interest in a company.

How to look for funding? ›

The best way to get capital to grow your business
  1. Bootstrapping. The funding source to start with is yourself. ...
  2. Loans from friends and family. Sometimes friends or family members will provide loans. ...
  3. Credit cards. ...
  4. Crowdfunding sites. ...
  5. Bank loans. ...
  6. Angel investors. ...
  7. Venture capital.

What is the easiest and most likely source of funds for any new small business? ›

Common Financing Sources. You: Contributing your own money to your business is the easiest way to finance it. You can tap into your savings, use a home-equity line of credit, or sell or borrow against a personal asset -- including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or real estate.

What are common primary reasons that small businesses fail? ›

5 Reasons Small Businesses Fail
  • Lack of a solid business plan. ...
  • They can't find the startup or growth funding that they need. ...
  • Poor cash flow. ...
  • Inadequate management. ...
  • Sometimes life just gets in the way.
Nov 17, 2023

Can I get money for opening a business? ›

Federal and state agencies, as well as private companies, offer small-business grants. Here's a list of resources. Find grants for startupsStartup business grants can help small businesses or true startups grow without debt.

How can I start my own business with no money? ›

Consider the following options:
  1. Small Business Grants: These grants provide money to support entrepreneurship, and unlike a loan, it doesn't need to be paid back. ...
  2. Crowdfunding: This option allows people to contribute money to campaigns in small amounts in order to help entrepreneurs launch their businesses. ...
  3. Microloans.

How much money do small businesses get from the government? ›

In each of the last three fiscal years, the Administration has increased spending on contracts to small businesses on the way to this goal, with small businesses receiving nearly $163 billion in federal contracting dollars in FY 2022, $70 billion of which was earned by SDBs.

What is it called when a government gives money to a business? ›

The Energy Sector

A government subsidy is a cash payment or tax break given to a business or institution to help lessen a burden or give an economic boost to a struggling sector or corporation.

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