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Finding Government Grants For Small Business

Think of government grants as loans that don’t require repayment. What small business doesn’t want free money? That’s partly why government grants are difficult for small business owners to obtain.

Government grants for small business are rare because they are usually married to specific government agency needs and agendas, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) notes. The federal government also has strict rules about who can get grants and how they can use them. Because grant recipients don’t have to repay the funding, the competition to land government grants is fierce. It’s also easy to get lost in the rabbit hole of online grant searches. For small businesses that choose to seek government grants, here are some important basics they need to know.

Funding from Uncle Sam

First, and most importantly, the federal government and state governments do not provide grants to start a business, pay off debts or cover operational expenses.

While government grants for small business are infrequent, small businesses involved with scientific research and development and technology have more options through the SBA’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.

The Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR) aims to get small businesses engaged with federal research and development (R&D) for potential commercialization. The program’s goals are to spur technological innovation; meet federal R&D requirements; boost participation in innovation and entrepreneurship by women and socially or economically disadvantaged people; and raise private-sector commercialization of innovations derived from federal R&D funding. Today, 11 federal agencies offer grants through SBIR:

The Small Business Technology Transfer program (STTR) seeks to widen public/private sector partnerships to include joint-venture opportunities for small businesses and nonprofit research institutions. Its main goals are to stimulate technological innovation; encourage technology transfer through cooperative R&D between small businesses and research institutions; and boost private-sector commercialization of innovations derived from federal R&D. Notably, STTR grants demand small businesses work together formally with research institutions throughout most of the program cycle. Today, five federal agencies offer grants through STTR:

There are other federal grants and grant programs, though not many are open to small businesses. However, the federal government has created a one-stop-shop experience at, where small businesses can search for funding. Small businesses can also learn more about eligibility and applying at the site’s comprehensive Grants 101 tutorial.

Additionally, the federal government hosts an Assistance Listings website, which lists all federal financial assistance programs and links to grant opportunities.

Grants from the state

State grants funded by the federal government are available to businesses that help with economic development. According to the SBA, small businesses can use the website to search for grants provided by states but funded with federal dollars.

In some instances, the SBA also oversees state grants for small businesses. Its State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) offers funding to state and territory governments to help small businesses with export development. The program wants to help increase the number of U.S. small business exporters and their export sales by helping them learn how to export; attend foreign trade missions and trade shows; get services to support foreign market entry; develop websites to attract foreign customers; and create international marketing products and campaigns. Small businesses can find the state entities that received STEP awards here and work directly with them. State entities looking for STEP funding opportunities can search here.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is the only federal government agency that focuses solely on economic development. It provides grants and assistance to spur regional economic development efforts in communities across the nation. Every state’s agency help businesses find state or regional EDA grants. Small businesses can search the EDA economic development directory to find grant opportunities by state.

Funding opportunities for women

Women-owned small businesses have additional options through the SBA. Women entrepreneurs can search for grants at the website, for a start.

The SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership seeks to support and empower women entrepreneurs through advocacy, outreach, education and supports through nearly 100 Women’s Business Centers. Some of these centers help find small business grants for women.

There are also many private organizations that provide small business grants for women. Some of the most popular:


In addition to the above mentioned SBA resources, minority-owned small businesses have some other grant options. The Minority Business Development Agency helps its members grow their businesses through public and private partnership, policy and research. In addition to its educational programs, it often reports grant opportunities.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers grants between $10,000 and $500,000 to businesses that operate in rural areas with populations under 50,000. Entities that win these grants often include Native-Americans and other minorities. The grants are earmarked for community economic development, long-term business planning and technology development.

Additionally, the privately run FederalGrantsWire is another resource to track government grants aimed at any specific industry, gender or race.

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The information provided is intended to provide a general overview. This information is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such. EMPLOYERS® makes no warranties for the accuracy, adequacy, or completeness of the information provided, and will not be responsible for any actions taken based on the information contained herein. If you have legal questions or need legal advice, please consult an attorney.