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A grant for your woman-owned small business can be a wonderful help toward your short and long term goals. But finding the right source for the grant, and competing against other worthy businesses to earn the grant can be very challenging. Finding sources of grants is easy with the thousands of grant sources in the WomanOwned.com grant database. Keep in mind that there ARE people and institutions with money to give, but they want to give it to businesses that are working in line with the givers’ goals. Proving you will do that is the key.
A grant is a wonderful thing to get; it is ALMOST free money. It does not have to be repaid, but you DO have to prove you used it for the right purposes, and you usually have to match the grant money with some from another source (your own money, or another grant). Grants are often smaller amounts than are available with a loan, and can have very specific criteria about who can get them and what they can be used for. There are thousands of sources for grants, and many go unused.
A loan has, theoretically, a much easier requirement than the specific ones for grants – you just have to prove you can repay it! Loans not only have to be repaid, they have to be repaid on a timeline and with interest. However, you are usually free to use a loan for a broader range of needs for your business. Depending on how you guarantee the loan, you can get them for much larger amounts than a grant. Sources for loans are common commercial lenders like banks, but there are also some private not-for-profits that manage loans; in both cases, the U.S Small Business Administration has programs that can facilitate the loan. For more detail on loans for small businesses, see our article ___
One reason many grants are left unused is that they can be hard to find. You can look through a haystack one grass stem at a time to find your needle, or you can check with one of the grant source aggregators (such as WomanOwned.com). The U.S. Small Business Administration does not provide grants, but it does have a grant search tool. Other sources of grants include state and local governments, and not-for-profit organizations.
State and other municipal grants are generally geared toward business needs that will benefit them locally, such as training or business expansion. Grants from not-for-profit organizations are usually focused on a special interest topic, furthering the beliefs or goals of the sponsoring group, where ever the need may be.
A granting institution or individual will not just hand you the money; they are going to want to know a GREAT deal about you, your business, and how you will help their mission. The best way to be ready for this is to have a standard, professional “Marketing Packet”, and in particular an ONLINE Marketing Packet. Most grant applications are done via the internet now, so a glossy paper ad brochure won’t help you. You also have to read the keywords of the grant carefully, and make sure your business matches up with them.
Your marketing packet should include a short, 50-word description of your business. It should likewise have a longer, detailed biography of your business (roughly 500 words) – who you are, what you do, how long you have been doing it, and why you are good at it. Make sure this long description is tailored to match the mission of the granting institution as much as possible (but don’t lie). You should have a clear, concise fact sheet that includes hard data like your type of business (S-corp, LLC, etc.), your certifications (WBENC, 8A), your NAIC code, years in business, owner(s), officers, and contact info. You should have your logo and a professional headshot of your female business owner and leaders. Have someone review this carefully for you; misspellings, poor grammar, and other errors can kill your chances very quickly!
If your target grant requires matching funding, where will it come from? Can you provide a bank statement to show it is available, or a letter from another organization willing to match the grant? This, too, must be prepared in advance.
Research the granting group on the internet, including LinkedIn and Facebook, and the same for the group’s individual sponsors, donors, or officers. Don’t be afraid to call the granting institution to pick the brains of the secretaries, managers, and officers. What do they most want to see in a business? What do they hate to see? Do they have ideas on who might match their grants? They might not answer anything, but then again, they may be excited by your interest and remember you. All this information helps you tailor your grant application for the best chance to win.
If you have done your research and preparation well, you have already done the hard work, and actually applying for the grant is easier. The forms will be online with the granting institution, and while not exactly the same from one to the next, very similar. (Click here for a sample grant application).
Actually winning the grant can be quite challenging; you are not the only one competing for it, money does not grow on trees, and even though it is “free”, you DO have to work for it. The author’s company benefited from a grant a number of years ago that helped provide key training for an employee. It was a reimbursement grant, where the business first paid the cost of the training, and the State of Ohio, once shown the receipt for the class, paid for 50% of it, up to $4,000. For a small business, even a modest grant like this can be a huge shot in the arm and pay off handsomely. Good luck with yours.
An easy and always updated list of grants & opportunities with direct access to grantor's contact information as well as the application requirements.
Grants and Funding
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