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Michigan Small Business Grants: The Top Options

Known for its natural beauty and proximity to the Great Lakes, Michigan is a beautiful state, and home to over 800,000 small businesses.[1] But owning or starting your own small business means finding ways to sustain your cash flow and business operations.

Qualifying for traditional business loans can be difficult, which is where small business grants can really make a difference. The only problem is, grants are highly competitive. Fortunately, Michigan has several local and state grant programs for small businesses, which means there are many opportunities for businesses to get “free cash” to cover business expenses or fund a business idea.

The process to find Michigan business grants can be challenging, so we’ve taken the time to find the top options. We’ll also tackle how to navigate the grant search process, and go in-depth on how to successfully apply for small business grants. 

The Top 6 Small Business Grants in Michigan

Your best chance to get a Michigan small business grant is by starting your search within your local area because oftentimes communities will give preference to local businesses. Once you’ve exhausted that option, you’ll want to expand your search regionally, then look for state grant programs. During your search, it’s a good idea to frequent grant aggregator sites or any other authoritative official government websites. Connecting with your local small business development office is also another underrated resource.

You should also think about applying to national grant programs. Although more competitive, national grant programs generally offer more grant money than local grant organizations. If you’re a minority, woman, or veteran business owner, it’s also worth looking into nationally recognized small business grants for women, small business grants for minorities, and veteran business grants.

1. Match on Main 

Provided by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Match on Main is a grant program for small businesses located in “Select” or “Master” level Main Street communities in Michigan. This grant program gives local downtown management organizations up to $50,000 to administer to small businesses. Although this program provides funding directly to communities, small businesses should reach out directly to their local Main Street director for more information about the program. 

2. Moving Flint Forward Small Business Grant Program 

In an effort to revitalize neighborhoods and communities in Flint, Michigan, General Motors and the Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce are providing grants to small businesses that are facing difficulties to grow. Known as the Moving Flint Forward Small Business Grant Program, select awardees receive $10,000 to finance expansion projects, repairs and leasehold improvements, or purchasing inventory and equipment.

Prospective applicants must meet the program’s criteria in order to be eligible for the grant. Some of the program’s criteria include: owning and operating a business in Flint, having fewer than 20 employees, supporting at least one nonprofit organization, and being in good financial standing before applying. 

3. Hatch Detroit

If you’ve always wanted to run your own brick-and-mortar retail business in Detroit, Highland Park, or Hamtramck, Michigan, the Hatch Detroit contest gives you a chance to do so by offering the grand prize winner $100,000 in cash and a business package from Hatch Detroit and its partners.

Since opening in 2011, the Hatch Detroit contest has helped 42 businesses open their doors and generated over $1 million in services to their alumni and winners. To apply for the Hatch Detroit Contest, you must submit an online application detailing the viability of your business. Contest judges are seeking businesses that fill a retail gap and positively impact the surrounding community. 

4. Emerge Fund

Want to start or grow your business in St. Clair County, Michigan? Then you may want to look into the Emerge Fund. Created by the Community Foundation of St. Clair County and the Economic Development Alliance, the Emerge Fund awards a maximum grant amount of $5,000 per eligible applicant to entrepreneurs who want to develop a business plan, create a website, file a patent, or other business initiatives.

Winners of the Emerge Fund are also required to join The Underground, a business incubator that provides resources, tools, and mentorship to business owners. 

5. Michigan GrantWatch

A great resource for Michigan businesses looking for grants and other funding is Michigan GrantWatch, a website that frequently updates with the latest grants for small businesses and nonprofit organizations in Michigan.

For businesses that are looking for the latest government grants, GrantWatch is one of the largest databases that compile grants from the federal, state, and local governments. If you’re interested in hiring a grant writer, you can also request a grant writer specialist from GrantWatch.

6. Amber Grant for Women 

The Amber Grant for Women is another grant program for women entrepreneurs seeking capital to grow their businesses. Women business owners in Michigan are encouraged to apply to this grant program, which is open nationally. The Amber Grant for Women awards $10,000 to an outstanding female entrepreneur every month. At the end of the year, an additional $25,000 grand prize is awarded to one of the monthly winners.

Applying to this grant program is easy, although you will have to pay a $15 application fee. You will need to submit information about yourself, your business, and other crucial information about why you need the grant money for your business. To give yourself a leg up on the application process, we recommend that you look at previous grant winners, who are listed on the grant program’s website

How to Find the Right Michigan Grant for Your Small Business 

Selecting the best grant for your business in Michigan means you have to be strategic. You shouldn’t just be applying to the programs that offer the most money. You’ll need to consider your business’s eligibility, and also the amount of time you can devote to completing your grant applications. 

Plan out Time for Your Application

Applying to small business grants is like applying for a business loan. You’ll have to devote time to collecting documents and financial statements, as well as drafting a coherent business plan—all of which takes more than a few hours to complete.

And because grant applications take time, it’s not an efficient way to get funding if you’re looking to cover an urgent business financing need. Even if you are successfully able to complete and submit your application, getting a grant can take weeks, if not months, to process. If you do have more urgent financing needs, we recommend looking into the best Michigan business loans instead.

Understand Your Eligibility 

Perhaps the most important part about applying for grant programs is knowing whether your business fits the eligibility criteria to receive grant funding. If your business is clearly not a fit for the grant, you will have wasted your time and money filling out applications.

Grant programs specifically look for small businesses that match their mission or have demonstrably contributed to certain communities. Likewise, take advantage of programs that are available for businesses with special characteristics, such as being minority- or woman-owned.

To help you familiarize yourself with your business’s core features, here are some questions you should answer about your business:

  • Whether you identify with any underserved groups (women, minorities, veterans, etc.)
  • Your industry 
  • Whether your business is for-profit or nonprofit
  • How you plan on using the grant money
  • Your company’s goals and mission 
  • How many jobs you can create with your grant (if applicable)
  • The local areas to which you belong (state, county, community, etc.)
  • The size of your project
  • Whom your company serves and affects

Remember, answering these questions about your business is just the beginning. When writing your grant applications, you’ll need to provide very detailed information about your business in order to differentiate yourself from the competition. 

Write a Stellar Grant Proposal 

Although most grant programs have different grant application requirements, in most cases you’ll be expected to write a complete grant proposal. A grant proposal generally details your business, your objectives, why you need the grant money, and how you plan on using the grant money to support your small business.

As a general rule, every grant proposal should be tailored to the specific grant organization to which you’re applying. Your grant proposal should answer every question that the organization may have about the viability and potential of your business.

Grant proposals will generally include some, if not all of the following components:

  • Cover letter
  • Table of contents 
  • Executive summary
  • Problem statement 
  • Goals 
  • Timeline 

If you want to polish your grant proposal (and increase efficiency), you may want to consider hiring an external consultant to review your proposal. 

The Bottom Line

You’ve familiarized yourself with the top small business grant programs in Michigan, how to search for the best Michigan small business grants, and learned how to prepare yourself for the grant application process. Now it’s time for you to dive deep into the small business grant process, where you will hopefully secure a small business grant that fulfills your business financing needs.

If you find that you’re having trouble getting a small business grant, note that new small business grant programs open up every year, which means that you’ll always have another chance to get a grant. There are also other business funding resources available if you’re willing to look into other forms of financing. Many Michigan cities offer affordable business loans. And don’t forget about SBA loans and microloans—both are great options if you want business financing with low interest rates and simple terms. And if your business is just getting off the ground, look into the best banks for small businesses in Michigan so you can start forging a professional relationship that you can leverage down the line for future funding needs.

Article Sources: 

  1. SBA.org. “2018 Small Business Profiles

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7 Best Business Budget Software for 2020

Online business budget software is a must-have for many businesses, freelancers, and accounting professionals looking to automate their business financial tasks. From tracking expenses to running reports, the right budget software can increase your business’s efficiency and streamline your workflows.

Luckily, whether you’re looking for a comprehensive small business budgeting software to create a detailed financial analysis or a pared-down option, there are plenty of quality options to choose from. And to help you get started in the search process, we’ll review some of the best business budget software on the market today.

Top 7 Business Budget Software Options

So, first things first, what exactly is small business budgeting software?

In short, budget software is a specific program that small businesses use to manage, track, and forecast their business budget. Budget software should have strong reporting capabilities that allow you to generate and manage financial statements like cash flow reports and profit and loss statements.

Similar to standard accounting software, business budgeting software can also come with additional features such as payroll processing or payroll services.

That said, although some business accounting software can be used as budgeting software, there are also distinct business budget software solutions that you might consider as well—depending on your individual needs.

Before you dive into your options, consider how pricing, user experience, accounting tools, and more will play into your decision-making process. Then take a look at these top options for business budget software.

1. QuickBooks Online

Best budget software for overall functionality.

Our top overall pick for the best budget software for small businesses goes to QuickBooks Online. Although QuickBooks is considered accounting software, it can automate virtually all of your business financial tasks, from invoicing and billing to sorting expenses. The user-friendly interface and dashboard let you easily track your budget and expenses. 

Most importantly, QuickBooks Online has robust reporting capabilities. Small businesses can build their own customized reports or select one of QuickBooks’s own built-in reporting options, making it easier to generate profit and loss statements and other important financial reports. If you want to customize your software, QuickBooks also allows you to choose from hundreds of integrations.

QuickBooks Online offers four pricing plans for small businesses: Simple Start ($25 per month), Essentials ($40 per month), Plus ($70 per month), and Advanced, ($150 a month). No matter which plan you choose, you’ll enjoy (at minimum) these features:

  • Invoicing and payments
  • Income and expense management
  • Track sales and sales tax
  • Capture and organize receipts
  • Run standard reports

You can also look into QuickBooks Self-Employed, which includes tools designed for freelancers, contractors, and other self-employed professionals. This software starts at $15 per month. 

Pros  

  • Easy to navigate    
  • Various price points   
  • Customizable reports   
  • Multiple users 
  • Can separate personal and business expenses 

Cons  

  • Can be pricey
  • Difficult for non-finance professionals 
  • Hard to set up 

2. Xero

Best budget software for advanced features. 

If you don’t want a lot of complex accounting features, but still want one of the best cloud-based

business budgeting software solutions, Xero is worth considering for your business. 

With Xero, users can keep track of all of their accounts, invoices, and budgets in one place. Plus, Xero has made improvements to their more advanced features such as their expense and project management modules, both of which are particularly useful for budgeting.

Xero offers three pricing plans: Early, Growing, and Established. 

The cheapest plan, Early, starts at $9 per month and includes Xero’s bare-bones accounting features and a limited number of invoices, quotes, and bills.

The Growing plan costs $30 per month. It includes everything in the Early plan plus unlimited invoices, quotes, and bills. 

Lastly, Xero’s most expensive plan, Established, costs $60 per month. In addition to including everything in the Growing plan, the Established plan allows you to use multi-currency features, as well as the more advanced expense and project management tools.

Pros

  • Excellent integration capabilities
  • Relatively affordable 
  • Accessible user interface 
  • Strong customer service 
  • Unlimited users 

Cons

  • Limited reporting options 
  • Not ideal for larger businesses 

3. FreshBooks

Best budget software for basic budgeting.

FreshBooks is another well-known business accounting and budgeting software for small to medium-sized businesses and is really ideal for businesses that want basic budgeting tools. 

With FreshBooks, you can create and view estimates during budgeting. FreshBooks also allows you to control your budget efficiently with their expense tracking system. However, it is important to note that FreshBooks is not capable of handling complex budget planning. 

There are four versions of FreshBooks: Lite, Plus, Premium, and Select. The Premium and Select versions are skewed toward larger businesses, while the Lite and Plus versions are geared toward self-employed and small to midsize businesses. 

The Lite version is the cheapest option, and costs $15 per month and provides unlimited expense entries, unlimited custom invoices, custom functionality, and much more. 

Pros 

  • Easily integrates with other web services 
  • Very easy to navigate 
  • Sophisticated reporting 
  • Simple invoice creation

Cons

  • Can get very expensive with higher plans/adding team members
  • Doesn’t allow for complex budgeting

4. PlanGuru

Best budget software for forecasting.

With years of experience helping small businesses and financial advisors, PlanGuru’s business budget software is known for its scalability. Whether you’re looking to create a simple small business budget or a highly detailed operating budget, PlanGuru can make those accommodations. PlanGuru is known for their forecasting and analytics tools, providing over 20 forecasting methods to allow small businesses to easily budget and forecast up to 10 years ahead of time.

PlanGuru offers both a cloud-based app and a desktop application. The desktop version does come with slightly more features, as desktop users can run an unlimited number of consolidations, conduct business valuation, and access the breakeven tool. Both versions of the product cost $99 per month or $899 annually. Additional users cost an extra $29 per month or $299 per year. 

Pros

  • Integrates with Excel, QuickBooks, and Xero
  • Provides integrated balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements   
  • Strong product support 
  • Comes with additional analytics tools 

Cons 

  • Limited reporting flexibility
  • No remote access for Desktop

5. Float

Best budget software to manage cash flow.

Float is an award-winning business budgeting and cash flow forecasting add-on for businesses that use Xero, QuickBooks Online, or FreeAgent. With Float, users get clear visibility into their cash flow in real-time, and users can also set budgets. 

You can also view your cash flow on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Float will alert their users when cash flow is low or if there is a cash surplus, creating actionable insights for businesses. 

Float offers a 14-day free trial period and three paid plans: Essential, Premium, and Enterprise. Essential is $69 per month, Premium is $119 per month, and Enterprise costs $249 a month. 

Pros    

  • Easily integrates with top accounting systems
  • User-friendly
  • Automatically imports data 
  • Quick set-up

Cons  

  • No consolidated cash flow
  • Difficult to import large amounts of data
  • No mobile app

6. Centage’s Budget Maestro 

Best budget software for collaboration.

Centage Corporation offers a suite of budgeting and accounting tools for small and medium-sized businesses. One of these tools is Budget Maestro, a cloud-based budgeting software specifically designed to allow businesses to easily create complete budgets and manage budget models. Budget Maestro comes with many impressive capabilities, including the ability to generate infinite “what if” budget scenarios. 

In addition, Budget Maestro also comes with customizable dashboards, making it simple for finance and non-finance professionals to quickly understand the business’s financial data. The most popular feature of the software is that multiple contributors can work together on a budget. Budget Maestro then consolidates all of the work into one model. 

Budget Maestro’s pricing is available upon request. You will have to contact them directly to receive a quote.  

Pros

  • User-friendly interface
  • Collaborative budgets
  • Integrates with your general ledger

Cons

  • Tricky to set-up
  • Quote-based pricing; could be expensive

7. Adaptive Planning

Best budget software for bigger businesses.

From business budgeting to modeling, Workday Adaptive Planning’s enterprise software can do it all. Adaptive Planning is a cloud-based CPM software that enables enterprises to plan budgets and conduct revenue forecasts, calculations, and much more. 

Users love Adaptive Planning for its ability to streamline budgeting expenses and accurately track budgeting costs and review total company spend. Like Centage’s Budget Maestro, Adaptive Planning can also generate and forecast different budgeting scenarios.

Adaptive Planning has two pricing packages: standard and enterprise. However, to learn more about specific pricing or implementation services, you’ll have to contact a sales representative.

Pros 

  • Rolling forecasts
  • Allows “what if” scenarios for budgeting
  • Synchronizes with select applications 

Cons 

  • Very difficult to set up
  • Not user-friendly
  • Quote-based pricing

The Bottom Line 

With so many small business budgeting software options to choose from, it can be difficult to narrow down which solution is right for your business. To start, we’d recommend thinking through your most important feature needs and price points:

  • Are integrations important, or can you get by with customized financial statements and reports?
  • Do you want software that can scale or just the basics? 

Ultimately, whether you opt for one of the best business budget software solutions we’ve reviewed here or another choice entirely, don’t forget to take advantage of free trials—and test out a platform for yourself before making a paid commitment.

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Illinois Small Business Grants: The Top Options

Finding working capital to help start or run a business in Illinois can be complicated, especially when you’re looking into small business grants. Like business loans, small business grants can help your business accomplish many things. Whether you need funding for ideation or business operations, a small business grant can give your business the extra boost it needs. But the best part about grants is that you never have to worry about paying the funds back.

In this guide, we’ll go over the top small business grants in Illinois. Most of these grants are specifically for businesses in specific areas of Illinois, but we’ve also included some national grants as well. We’ll also address how to find the best small business grants and the proper steps you need to take to complete your grant application. 

The Top Options for Illinois Small Business Grants

When it comes to finding the best small business grants for your Illinois business, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, your best strategy is to look into grants offered by your local community and city. Contrary to what some may believe, there are several local grant programs that are available; however, they can be hard to find because they aren’t advertised very well. Second, Illinois has many grant programs specifically for businesses in underserved areas, such as Chicago’s South Side. If you’re planning on starting a business, you may want to consider looking into areas that could use more revitalization, as there are generally more grant resources from the local government to support entrepreneurs who are interested in starting or relocating their businesses. 

To help you with the search process, we’ve selected a mix of both local and national grant programs for Illinois businesses. 

1. Neighborhood Opportunity Fund 

Established in 2016, the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund supports Chicago’s underserved neighborhoods. Business owners located in Chicago’s West, South Sides, and Southwest commercial corridors can apply to The Neighborhood Opportunity Fund for grant funding to pay for the construction or rehabilitation of new business projects.

Business owners can apply to receive one of two types of funding: small projects or large projects. Small projects can receive up to $250,000 in grant funding, but applicants must be located in an eligible commercial corridor. Large projects can receive grants exceeding $250,000, and applicants do not necessarily have to be located in designated areas.

2. South Side Pitch 

The South Side Pitch is a business plan competition organized by the University of Chicago Law School’s Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship with the aim of showcasing Chicago’s South Side businesses. Finalists of the competition must pitch their business in front of a panel of judges and members of the Chicago community, and the top three winners will receive $8,000, $7,000, and $5,000, respectively.

To be eligible to apply for the competition, your business must have less than 50 employees, generate under $1 million in revenue, and be located within the South Side area. Your application must address how it has impacted the surrounding South Side community, how you plan on using the grant money for your business, and your business’s history.

3. Metro East Startup Challenge

The Metro East Startup Challenge is a competition for businesses in the St. Louis Metro East region of Illinois. The purpose of the competition is to encourage high-growth businesses to relocate or grow in the Metro East area. Applicants to the Metro East Startup Challenge can submit their application online. Finalists will then have to pitch their business for 10 minutes, and the grand prize winner will receive a $10,000 grant. You must be a for-profit business and be relocating (or headquartered) to one of the nine counties in the Metro East area in order to compete in the challenge. 

4. City of Urbana Business Grants 

The city of Urbana awards $1,000 to $2,000 grants to new or existing businesses in Urbana, Illinois. Entrepreneurs can apply for either a business development grant or a business opening grant. To apply for a business development grant, you must ensure that you already own a building or have signed a lease for a space located in an eligible district area. You must also participate in the city’s free business counseling program. Existing businesses are not eligible for the business development grant.

For the business opening grant, applicants must meet the same requirements as those applying for the business development grant. However, applicants for the business opening grant can be an ongoing business. 

5. Feed the Seed Business Startup Grants

Another Illinois grant program is the Feed the Seed Business Startup Grants, which are designed to bring innovative business ideas to market within the Kane, DuPage, Kendall, and Will counties. Recipients of the grant must ideally generate no more than $40,000 in revenue in the past 12 months and agree to remain headquartered in the above areas for at least two years. Businesses in the retail, pharmaceutical, restaurant, consulting, and nonprofit sectors will be automatically disqualified. 

6. Amber Grant for Women

If you identify as a female entrepreneur, the Amber Grant for Women is a nationally recognized grant program that awards a total of $145,000 to outstanding women business owners each year. Each month, one woman wins $10,000 to invest back into her business. At the end of the year, one of the winners is selected to win an additional $25,000.

Applying to the Amber Grant for Women is incredibly simple, as all you need is to fill out a short application form detailing your business information and other required information. You’ll also have to pay a $15 application fee. 

7. Illinois Grant Watch

Keeping up with the latest local and federal grants can be overwhelming, but Illinois GrantWatch simplifies the process. Illinois GrantWatch is an aggregate site that lists all of the available small business and nonprofit grants in Illinois from government agencies. The website updates daily, so we highly encourage you to check back frequently to stay updated on the latest grant programs in Illinois. 

How to Find the Right Illinois Small Business Grant for You

Once you’ve done your research and found a couple of interesting grant opportunities you’d like to apply to, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the grant application process. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you go about your grant search.

Get to Know the Process

Applying for an Illinois small business grant, like applying for an Illinois business loan, takes a lot of advance preparation. In addition to gathering financial statements and submitting documents, you’ll have to allocate enough time to write your grant proposals, which can eat into your time spent running your business. We recommend starting the process as early as possible—in fact, you may want to start the application process a few months ahead of time. We also suggest hiring an experienced consultant who can look over your application. 

Understand Your Eligibility 

The key to applying for Illinois small business grants (and grants in general) is having a complete understanding of your business’s eligibility. That means knowing your business industry, goals, and the community your business serves. 

If you don’t have the basics of your business drilled down already, you should look into developing answers to these questions: 

  • How you identify (gender, race, ethnicity)
  • The industries into which your business fits (e.g., biotech)
  • What you’re going to use the grant money for
  • Your company’s goals and mission 
  • How many jobs you can create with your grant (if applicable)
  • The local areas to which you belong (state, county, community, etc.)
  • The size of your project
  • Whom your company serves and affects

The more you can identify what makes your business unique, the better. For example, if you’re a woman, minority, or veteran business owner, you should know that there are a ton of grant programs targeting business owners of your demographic, and you should most definitely look into small business grants for women, small business grants for minorities, or veteran business grants.

Watch out for Grant Scams 

Unfortunately, grant scams are a common occurrence, and there are many scammers out there who try to take advantage of desperate business owners. If a grant program has super easy eligibility requirements or asks you for sensitive banking information, be sure to verify the credibility of the organization. Remember, applying and receiving a small business grant is usually a very long and tedious process, so if an organization immediately approves an application, you should think twice. 

The Bottom Line

Securing a small business grant for your business in Illinois is a big undertaking. It requires a lot of upfront investment and energy, and you’ll likely have to apply to multiple grants to get the hang of the process. With that said, don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to get a grant on your first try. Many grant programs allow businesses to reapply again. 

If you don’t manage to secure a small business grant, you can always look towards other small business loan options, particularly small business loans offered by the SBA. While business loans come with repayment terms and interest rates, they may be a better option if you’re looking to get funds more immediately.

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California Small Business Grants: The Top Options

With the fifth-largest economy[1] in the world, California is without a doubt one of the most popular states in the country to own or start a small business. And because many small businesses operate in the Golden State, there are plenty of business financing options. Besides traditional business loans, there are also small business grants for California businesses that are worth exploring opportunities. However, when it comes to finding the best grant for your California business, you’ll need to plan ahead if you want to increase your chances of securing a business grant.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the best small business grants in California—from both state and national agencies—as well as the best way to find small business grants in your local area. We’ll also explain how to best position yourself when starting the grant application process. 

Top 6 Small Business Grants in California

When you’re trying to find the best small business grants in California, you should start locally, then broaden your search. A good first step is to check your city’s government website or state’s grant aggregator site for any available small business grants. Speaking to a counselor at your closest SBA Business Development Center is also a handy resource if you need help finding grants for your specific business needs.

Lastly, don’t discount applying to national grant programs. National grants tend to be more competitive; however, your business may be eligible to earn one. There are several nationally recognized small business grants for women and small business grants for minorities, so take advantage of your business’s unique characteristics. 

1. SBIR and STTR Programs

Operated by the SBA, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs award grants to small businesses that conduct research and development with the federal government. Eligible businesses must have technology that is eligible for commercialization and meets specific government needs. Only small businesses in the United States are eligible to apply for grant funding, and your business must have no more than 500 employees. The SBIR and STTR programs award grants from $50,000 to $250,000, and awardees have the opportunity to earn more funding down the line if they can prove the viability of their business.  

2. Rural Business Development Grant 

The California Rural Business Development Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development provides technical assistance and funding to small businesses in rural areas. If you’re a small business in an area with a population of less than 50,000, a rural business development grant can be a great way to start a business and provide job opportunities for the surrounding community.

A huge draw to getting a rural business development grant is that grants can range up to $500,000. To apply for a rural business development grant, your business cannot be located in a suburban area, and you must contact your local USDA’s rural development office. 

3. Calling All Dreamers Competition

The Calling All Dreamers contest is a retail business plan competition that awards aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to open a storefront in downtown Sacramento. The winner of the competition will receive up to $10,000 in matching funds and a comprehensive business service package that includes marketing, legal services, accounting, and more.

Experienced business owners looking to launch their first brick-and-mortar business in Sacramento are also welcome to apply. To enter the contest, you’ll need to share your business concept, submit a 60-second video pitch, and pay a $50 registration fee.

4. California GrantWatch

Because grants operate differently than traditional funding options, their availability is always in flux. To keep an eye on new opportunities, you can use Californa GrantWatch, a grant aggregator site that updates with the latest grant opportunities for businesses in California.

California GrantWatch publishes grants from foundations, organizations, and the local and federal government, so it’s a must-have resource when searching for California business grants. The site’s best-known feature is its proprietary search engine, which allows you to search for grants within certain parameters. You can also find a grant writer to assist you with researching and writing small business grant proposals. 

5. Amber Grant for Women 

The Amber Grant for Women is a well-known grant program for women business owners. Every month, one female entrepreneur is selected to win a $10,000 grant and is then eligible to receive the Amber Grant’s year-end $25,000 grant. In order to be considered for the Amber Grant, the business must be at least 50% woman-owned and for-profit.

Applying for an Amber Grant is a straightforward process. Unlike most government grants, you don’t need to submit a pile of lengthy documents. To apply for the grant, all you need to do is tell your business story, your plan on growing and starting your business, and how you intend to use the grant money. All applicants must pay a $15 application fee.

6. CalSeed Fund 

The California Sustainable Energy Entrepreneur Development Initiative (CalSEED) is a  grant program by the California Energy Commission and funded by the Electric Program Investment Charge. CalSEED awards over $150,000 in grant funding to clean energy small businesses. Awardees will be invited to exclusive workshops, networking events, and webinars.

Additionally, grant winners will also get the chance to participate in the annual Business Plan Competition by CleanTech Open for the chance to win an additional $450,000 in funding. Interested applicants must submit their applications online detailing their proposed innovations. 

How to Find the Right California Small Business Grant for You 

Finding the best California business grant is a matter of being selective about what opportunities you decide to pursue and how much time you spend on your applications. You’ll also want to give yourself enough time to review your application if you want to increase your chances of being successful. 

Plan out Your Application Timeline

Getting a California small business grant is a time-consuming process. You will need to carve out time to research the best small business grants for your business and write grant proposals. You’ll likely spend several days, if not weeks, compiling documents and running financial reports if you want to showcase your business in the best light.

Applying for grants can also be costly, especially if you plan on hiring an external consultant to help you with the application process. To apply for grants easily, don’t wait until the last minute. Consider starting a few weeks ahead of time so that you aren’t rushing to draft and revise your application. 

Understand Your Eligibility 

California business grants are highly competitive, so the more you know about your business’s qualifications, the better. You want to be certain that your business fits the grant program’s exact eligibility requirements. Make sure as you look into grant programs that you have a solid understanding of your business’s unique characteristics and needs.

Here’s what you need to know about your business:

  • Whether you identify with any underserved groups (women, minorities, veterans, etc.)
  • Your industry 
  • Whether your business is for-profit or nonprofit
  • How you plan on using the grant money
  • Your company’s goals and mission 
  • How many jobs you can create with your grant (if applicable)
  • The local areas to which you belong (state, county, community, etc.)
  • The size of your project
  • Whom your company serves and affects

When you apply for government grants, keep in mind that the more your business is able to solve a specific problem within the community, the better chances you have of securing the grant. 

Write a Solid Grant Proposal

Writing a good grant proposal is like writing a business plan, but in this case, you’re trying to convince a committee that your business deserves funding. When you’re writing a grant proposal, you have to clearly state how and why your business aligns with the grant organization’s mission and purpose. You’ll also need to write an executive summary of the scope of your business funding needs and a detailed account of how you plan on using the grant money. As a rule, you should also put down the exact amount you need for your business. You may want to hire an accountant or bookkeeper who can assist you with those calculations.

When writing a grant proposal, you generally need to include the following components:

  • Cover letter
  • Table of contents 
  • Executive summary
  • Problem statement 
  • Goals 
  • Timeline 

Remember, this is a general description of what a grant proposal requires. You may not have to write a comprehensive proposal for each grant application, depending on the organization. 

The Bottom Line

Now that you know how to find the best California business grants and the art of submitting grant proposals, finding the best funding opportunity for your business should be a breeze. But remember, winning grant awards takes more than finding the right grants and writing a good proposal. You also need persistence and frankly, a lot of luck. However, even if you have trouble getting a small business grant in California, you can always reapply again at a later date or wait for new grant opportunities to come up. 

If you’re open to other forms of financing, it’s worth looking into different small business financing options. Although they aren’t free, some business loans can be relatively affordable—and access to funding can be faster than applying to grant programs. Check out SBA loans or microloans if you’re interested in securing financing with low interest rates and reasonable terms. 

Article sources: 

  1. IMF.org. “World Economic Outlook Report

The post California Small Business Grants: The Top Options appeared first on Fundera Ledger.

Iowa Small Business Grants: The Top Options

Whether you’re an experienced business owner or planning on starting a new business, getting an Iowa small business grant is a great way to earn free money. Unlike a traditional business loan, you don’t have to worry about paying a small business grant back. Small business grants are typically used for a specific business purpose, such as covering operational expenses or creating more job opportunities.

In this guide, we’ll cover how to find grants for small businesses in Iowa by listing the best local and national grant programs. We’ll also go over applying for grants and include a few tips on how to prepare your grant applications. 

Top 7 Options for Iowa Small Business Grants

Finding the right small business grant for your business in Iowa means exhausting all of your options locally, regionally, and sometimes nationally. Two of the best ways to find grants are by searching through grant aggregate sites or contacting your local SBA business development center. A representative will often assist you with finding local or federal small business grants free of charge. If you’re a minority, woman, or veteran business owner, it may also better serve you to look into small business grants for women, business grants for minorities, or grants for veterans.

To save you the hassle of scouring for small business grants in Iowa, we’ve listed a few of the top Iowa grant programs and sites for your reference. 

1. Iowa Rural Business Development Grant

Own a small business in a rural area of Iowa? You might want to consider applying for an enterprise rural business development grant (RBDG) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Designed to support the development and expansion of small businesses in rural areas, RBDGs are for small businesses with less than 50 employees that generate no more than $1 million in revenue. If your business needs extra support with training, acquiring equipment, and strategic business planning, a rural development grant can give you a head start.

Additionally, rural development grants have no limit. On average, small businesses receive grant amounts ranging from $10,000 to $500,000. Interested applicants must make sure that they fill out the appropriate paperwork at their local or state USDA’s rural development office. Businesses located in a suburban area or a town with a population of over 50,000 will not qualify.

2. Iowa GrantWatch

Another fantastic grant resource for Iowa-based businesses is the Iowa GrantWatch. The Iowa GrantWatch is an ever-growing list of grants for individuals planning to start or grow their businesses in Iowa. Iowa GrantWatch offers a grant for businesses in virtually every sector, and you can also find grants specifically for minority or veteran business owners. 

3. Dream Big Grow Here Grant 

Run by the University of Iowa’s Center for Business Innovation, Dream Big Grow Here is a premier business grant program. Since its inception, thousands of small businesses have competed in an online voting competition to win over $10,000 in grant money.

New and experienced entrepreneurs interested in pursuing or growing their business in northwest Iowa are encouraged to enter the contest. If a business owner is selected as a finalist, he or she will receive $5,000 and advance to the next round and get the chance to win an additional $10,000 grand prize. 

4. The City of Walnut’s Small Business Startup Grant Program

If your business is located within the city limits of Walnut, Iowa, then you likely qualify for the City of Walnut’s Small Business Startup Grant. The Small Business Startup Grant Program is targeted to help business owners in Walnut successfully run their businesses. Recipients of the grant will receive $5,000. To qualify for the startup grant, your business should have no more than five employees, gross less than $350,000, and be within its first year of operation. 

5. Iowa SourceLink 

Iowa SourceLink is overseen by the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Business Growth and Innovation. The Resource Navigator tool is a convenient search engine that connects business owners with over 360 nonprofit organizations to help them find local grants and a wide range of other business-related services. 

6. Amber Grant for Women

The Amber Grant is a popular grant option for women entrepreneurs. The Amber Grant is open to women business owners in any state, and every month, a panel of judges selects one woman-owned business to receive a $4,000 grant. Businesses chosen to win one of the monthly grants will also be eligible to win an additional $25,000 grant at the end of the year. The Amber Grant is not open to nonprofits.

To apply for an Amber Grant, you’ll need to share information about yourself and your business. You will also need to answer questions about how you plan on using the grant money for your business. A $15 application fee is also required. We recommend viewing past winners to get a sense of how to make your application stand out and what kind of businesses the judges are looking for.

7. National Association for the Self-Employed Growth Grant

Since 2006, The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) has awarded Growth Grants to support the development of small businesses. Selected grant winners receive $4,000 to cover a specific business expense such as marketing, hiring, or expansion. To apply for a Growth Grant, you must be a NASE member in good standing, provide appropriate documentation, and demonstrate why you need financial support. 

How to Find the Right Iowa Small Business Grant for You

Finding the right business grant is one thingーbut successfully applying is an entirely different process. The best course of action to take when applying for a small business grant is to be as prepared as possible: the more you understand the application process and qualifications for each business grant, the better chance you’ll have in securing one.

Spend Time on Your Application 

Applying for grants is a serious commitment. You’ll spend a lot of time searching for grants, writing customized proposals, and gathering documents to make your business stand out from the competition. Spending too much time on your grant applications can actually interfere with your day-to-day business operations. If you’re desperate for funding, it may be a better idea to look for alternative small business financing options. Or, if you aren’t too keen on spending too much time on your application, you may want to consider hiring an outside consultant who can review your application for you.

Understand the Eligibility Requirements

Before applying for a grant, you need to be sure that your business meets the eligibility requirements, because otherwise, you’re wasting your time. You should also have a firm idea of who your business serves, a detailed plan on how you plan on spending the grant money, and a detailed budget of how much money you need. You can get a better sense of whether you’re eligibile by heavily researching the grant organization’s past grant recipients, reading their mission statement, and browsing their grant requirements.

Here are a few common questions you’ll need to know before filling out your grant application:

  • How do you identify yourself?
  • What industry are you in?
  • What is the background behind your business?
  • Who does your business serve? 
  • Can you demonstrate a need for funding
  • How much funding do you need?
  • What do you plan on using the funds for? 
  • How do you plan on evaluating the project outcomes? 
  • What is the budget for your project? 

The questions above should give you a rough idea of the type of information you need when applying for a grant. When you’re competing against hundreds of other businesses, the more concrete information and evidence you can present, the more likely your grant application will be considered. 

Watch out for Scams

Many scammers will try to take advantage of small business owners by advertising “free grant money” in classified ads or on television. In some cases, scammers will even call you directly and ask for your personal banking information. As a precautionary measure, you should always verify every grant organization’s credibility and never give out your sensitive financial information over the phone. If you or anyone else you know come across a grant scam, we advise you to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

The Bottom Line

Finding Iowa small business grants isn’t an easy endeavor. It requires considerable upfront research and preparation in order to be successful. But even if you face a few hurdles, keep in mind that there will always be more opportunities to receive grants in the future.

If you’re strapped for cash, there are plenty of other business financing options at your disposal with less stringent application requirements and faster application turnaround times. One option is SBA loans or microloans, which offer reasonable loans with low interest rates. Plus, there are several Iowa government loan programs that cater to small businesses looking for general business funding. 

The post Iowa Small Business Grants: The Top Options appeared first on Fundera Ledger.

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