How to Find a Small Business Grant

Dan Nicholson

Finding a small business grant can be a pivotal step for entrepreneurs looking to start or grow their businesses without taking on debt or giving up equity. Grants are essentially free money—but they do come with their own set of challenges, including steep competition and specific requirements. But if you know where to start and what process to follow, there are many excellent opportunities available.

Government Grants

Your journey to finding a small business grant should begin with local and federal government options. Government agencies offer a huge number of business grants, although it can take a lot of time to find and apply for the right ones. 

For federal grants, Grants.gov is a comprehensive database where you can find and apply for over 1,000 small business grants from various federal agencies. While these are often focused on specific industries like research and development, technology, and conservation, it's a valuable resource for any entrepreneur looking to explore federal grant opportunities.

Major federal sources of grant funding for small businesses include the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which is renowned primarily for its loan programs. However, the SBA also supports small businesses through its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. These programs are designed to encourage small businesses to engage in research and development projects. 

Additionally, the SBA administers the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP), which provides funds to help small businesses explore international export opportunities. If you’re interested in taking your company international, this is an excellent option.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through its Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, offers grants targeting small businesses that qualify under its specific criteria, focusing on those that are socially or economically disadvantaged, located in underutilized business zones, or women-owned. It is noted for distributing the largest amount of grant funding among federal agencies. 

While the opportunities for government grants are extensive, they do often come with a lot of paperwork. Investopedia warns, “Grant programs tend to have very specific criteria, so it's important to know what they're looking for and whether your business appears to be a good fit.” Make sure you fulfill all the eligibility requirements before you start the application process. 

Private Grant Options

There are also many options for grants available from private organizations. Some of these can be easier to apply for or have less specific eligibility requirements. For example, the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) offers $4,000 grants to its members every month.

Corporate grants are another avenue worth exploring. Many corporations, such as FedEx, Amazon, and Verizon, offer small business grants as part of their philanthropic efforts. Amazon has significant funding available for Amazon Business customers who make up to $1 million a year, while FedEx holds an annual grant contest for small companies that use their shipping services. 

Certain entrepreneurs may be eligible for funding on a demographic basis. Women entrepreneurs can look into the Amber Grant, which awards monthly and annual grants to women-owned businesses. Additionally, Black Founder Startup Grants provide financial assistance to Black women and nonbinary entrepreneurs, highlighting the diversity of grant programs available to support underrepresented business owners.

To find private grants, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recommends that you “start by searching for corporations in your area and finding out what they offer.” Alternatively, search for grants based on your industry or demographics. GrantWatch.com has a fairly comprehensive list of private and corporate funding options, which can be filtered by various criteria.

Application Tips and Best Practices

When applying for grants, it's crucial to follow best practices to increase your chances of success. Thoroughly research each grant to understand its criteria, application process, and deadlines. Tailor each application to highlight how your business aligns with the grant's objectives, and don't hesitate to seek advice from local SBDCs or industry mentors who can provide guidance and feedback.

Amanda Smith of Bench shared this tip in a blog post: “Reach out to the grant officer and get a sense of what they’re looking for” in order to give yourself a competitive edge. You can even contact past grantees to ask for advice on your application.

Persistence is key, as is the willingness to apply for multiple grants and not be discouraged by rejections. Follow up on your applications where appropriate and continue to look for new opportunities as they arise.


Finding and securing a small business grant requires diligence, research, and a strategic approach. By exploring federal, state, and corporate grant opportunities, as well as grants targeted at specific demographics or industries, entrepreneurs can find valuable resources to support their business goals without the need to incur debt. Remember, the landscape of small business grants is ever-evolving, so stay informed and connected to resources that can help you navigate this challenging but rewarding process.



National Association for the Self-Employed

U.S. Chamber of Commerce


Dan Nicholson is the author of “Rigging the Game: How to Achieve Financial Certainty, Navigate Risk and Make Money on Your Own Terms,” deemed a best-seller by USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. In addition to founding the award-winning accounting and financial consulting firm Nth Degree CPAs, Dan has created and run multiple small businesses, including Certainty U and the Certified Certainty Advisor program.

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