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Set Your Small Business Up for Success: Strategies, Best Practices, Insights, and Tips (Part 5)

Free Grants for Startups 2023
Nancy Bilyeau
Nancy BilyeauUpdated February 15, 2023
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20 Small Business Startup Grants, Programs, and Checklists 2023

This is the fifth installment in a five-part series. Part Four: “Being Your Own Boss: Benefits, Drawbacks, and Tips”There might not be such a thing as having too many resources when it comes to starting your own business. What could be more helpful than information on free grants to start your business, or to expand it?  How about contests? Or other small business funding programs targeted toward women, owners of color, veterans, or other groups? We’ve put together a list of grants and funding programs for startups along with some super useful checklists of best practices for you, to help you no matter where you are on your journey.

Small Business Grants 2023: The Top 17

What could be more useful than small business loans and grants when you’re turning your idea into reality? These programs offer help that could prove a turning point.

1. Small Business Awards

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce every year gives out various awards of up to $25,000 with the Small Business “Dream Big” Award, honoring the achievements of small businesses and highlighting their contributions to America’s economic growth.

2. Minority-Owned Business Loans and Grants 

The U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) offers targeted grants and loans designed to aid minority-owned businesses. Owners can find information about the programs at more information, see Small Business Grants for Minorities.

3. Women-Owned SBA Program

 Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program is a federal government program contracting dollars to women-owned businesses every year. Through this Small Business Administration (SBA) program,  women entrepreneurs get business training, counseling, federal contracts, and access to credit and capital. For more information, see Small Business Grants for Women

4. The Self Employed Growth Grant

The National Association for the Self Employed (NASE) offers growth grants of up to $4,000.Since 2006, the NASE has awarded nearly $1 million in small business grants. They can be used for marketing, advertising, hiring employees, expanding facilities, and other business needs.

5. Innovation Research and Tech Programs

Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs: The SBIR and the STTR grant programs focus on research and development for technology innovation and scientific research. The programs help connect small businesses with federal grants and contracts with 11 government agencies.

6. The FedEx Small Business Grant

The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest offers corporate small business grants for growth. FedEx awards $25,000 in grants to 12 qualified applicants as well as additional services each year through their small business grant contest.

7. Amber Grant for Women

Since 1998, the Amber Grant has been giving money to female entrepreneurs monthly. They’ve expanded their grant-giving to include “Marketing Grants” and “Business Category Grants,” as well as two “$25,000 Year End Grants.”

8. Veterans Grant 

The Second Service Foundation (formerly StreetShares) offers small business grants for veterans. The Veteran Small Business Award provides financial support to help veterans who lack the financial means to start or grow their small businesses. 

9. Refugees Grant

Provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Microenterprise Development Program helps refugees develop, expand, or maintain their own businesses and become financially independent. To equip refugees with the skills they need to become successful entrepreneurs, the program provides training and technical assistance.

10. Nonprofit Environment Grant

Patagonia Corporate Grants Program: Nonprofits interested in protecting the environment can apply for a small-business grant through the Patagonia Corporate Grants Program. The retailer looks for innovative businesses with proposed projects that are quantifiable and have specific goals, objectives, and action plans. These nonprofit grants typically fall between $5,000 and $20,000.

11. Rural Small Business Grant

The U.S. Department of Agriculture administers the USDA Rural Business Development Grants program, which provides financing to strengthen and grow small businesses in rural communities.

12. Grant Application Database for Women-Owned Businesses

IFundWomen is a grant marketplace that specializes in funding and coaching for women-owned businesses. You can submit one application and when IFundWomen adds a grant from an enterprise partner, it will match the partner’s grant criteria to applications within the database.If your business is a match, you’ll receive a notification and invitation to apply.

13. Federal Grants for Disadvantaged Micro-Entrepreneurs

The Program for Investors in Microentrepreneurs (PRIME) offers federal grants to micro-enterprise development organizations so that they can provide assistance to disadvantaged micro-entrepreneurs. These organizations, such as the Nebraska Enterprise Fund and the Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon, both of which were awarded funding in 2021, can be private nonprofits or run by state, local, or tribal governments.

14. Facebook Small Business Resources

Small Business Funding is a resource offered by Meta for business owners to connect with purpose-driven lenders, access educational resources, and find communities of small business owners like them.

15. Visa Program for Tech Startups

The Visa Everywhere Initiative is a grant competition that offers funding to tech-forward startups across five different regions worldwide. Applicants must show how they’ve developed a product or service that creatively involves Visa’s products. The overall winner of the competition is awarded a $100,000 small-business grant. Additional grants are awarded to finalists.

16. Marketing Makeover Award

Through the Comcast RISE program, startup businesses can receive free marketing services and technology makeovers. These awards are given quarterly to businesses that have been operational for at least one year. To qualify, you also need to be located within the Comcast or Effectv service area—and your business must be 51% owned by someone who identifies as a woman or person of color.

17. Hello Alice Funding and Partnerships

The Hello Alice Grant Platform partners with a variety of companies, such as Progressive and DoorDash, to offer different grants for small businesses, including startups. You can create an account to receive notifications about new opportunities and apply to the grants that are relevant to your business.

3 Checklists of Best Practices for Small Business Success

These three checklists will help you cover all the bases.

18. Internal Revenue Service Checklist

The IRS checklist below provides the basic steps you should follow to start a business, along with useful links for action: 1. Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) if applicable2. Select a business structure3. Choose a tax year4. If you have employees, have them fill out Form I-9 and Form W-45. Pay your business taxesInformation about specific industries can be found at the Industries/Professions Web page

19. Chamber of Commerce Checklist on Insurance

The insurance policies you need will depend on the size of your company (i.e., how many employees you hire) as well as your assets and liabilities. The Chamber of Commerce recommends looking into these:
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Professional liability insurance
  • Product liability insurance
  • Business vehicle insurance
  • Small business health insurance
  • General liability insurance 
Recommended: What Is Business Public Liability Insurance?

20. Checklist for Digital Marketing Success Plan 

Cover these five bases to help your business take off:
  1. Create a brand identity
  2. Build a website
  3. Establish a social media presence
  4. Activate email marketing
  5. Explore online advertising
Recommended: 10 Steps for Starting a Small Business

The Takeaway

If you’re interested in exploring different types of small business financing, Lantern by SoFi can help. With our online lending platform, you can compare rates from small business lenders without making any type of commitment.

About the Author

Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau writes about student loans, mortgages, car insurance, medical debt and many other finance topics for Lantern. A veteran of the magazine business, she has edited stories on personal finance for Good Housekeeping and DuJour magazines and has written articles for The Wall Street Journal, Readers' Digest, Parade, Town & Country and Lifetime/A&E, among others. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
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