Business grants are commonly misunderstood by aspiring entrepreneurs. While it's true there are many different types of small business grants, nobody is handing out "free money" to anyone who asks. In many ways, business grants are like college scholarships. Grant money does not need to be repaid, but you must still meet all of the program eligibility criteria and agree to follow specific rules for how the money can be spent.
There are no federal U.S. grants for people who want to start a small business, but there are many state programs available. Most are administered through the economic development agency, which is a good place to begin your research into available funding opportunities. Your local Small Business Administration (SBA) office may also be able to provide suggestions on who to contact to learn more about available small business grants.
If you're not set on a particular location for your business, you may be able to increase your grant eligibility by choosing to set up shop in a rural area. Smaller communities often have aggressive efforts to help new businesses become successful, especially if they believe the business in question will help to generate job opportunities for local residents. Aside from grant funding, there are also a number of tax breaks you may be offered if you agree to stay in the area for a certain time period.
Some types of business grants are awarded based on the background of the person looking to start the business. For example, there are business grants for women as well as for minorities and people with disabilities. In some areas, welfare-to-work programs are even experimenting with providing grant funds to low income people who wish to pursue self employment in areas as daycare, landscaping, or housecleaning. These types of activities are often referred to as microenterprises because they involve five or fewer employees and require start up funds of less than $35,000 US Dollars (USD).
If you find business grants that you believe you are qualified to receive, it is important to fill out the program application very carefully. Do not omit any information, since this could result in you being disqualified from the program. Provide as many relevant details as possible and have at least three people proofread your application. If you can afford it, you may even want to enlist the assistance of a freelance grant writer. A professional with a proven track record is likely to be able to provide tips that can increase your chances of getting the funds you need.