When you’re working hard to get a new business off the ground, any little bit of money put toward your goal helps. It’s even better when that money is a grant as opposed to a loan that needs to be repaid and accrues interest over time. If you are a prospective minority business owner looking for seed money to grow your dream, there are some useful resources available that enable you to get the grants you need to get started.
Tips for Finding Funds to Help Your Business Get Off the Ground
The first place you should check for grants is Grants.gov. This government website posts federal grant opportunities offered by the 26 agencies at the federal level. According to NerdWallet staff writer Steve Nicastro, this includes money from the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Small Business Administration, agencies which are more likely to provide generalized grants for businesses in a wide array of industries. As of right now, this is the single best resource for getting cash from the government.
One thing to note before you rush off to this website is that your business needs a Data Universal Numbering System number from Dun & Bradstreet. The nine-digit DUNS number is free to obtain and is mostly a way for Dun & Bradstreet to track your business’s credit history. Diane Stevens of the Houston Chronicle’s Small Business section says that a DUNS number can be issued to a business with any structure, including a sole proprietorship. A DUNS is not just needed to apply for grants: it is also required if you want to obtain a government contract.
Another source for government grants is the state in which you conduct business. Not every state offers grants for minority businesses, but a large chunk of them at least provide some program for businesses as a whole. For example, the State of Ohio’s Development Services Agency has a list of grants, tax exemptions and loan programs you can use depending on eligibility. The Ohio International Market Access Grant for Exporters Program can provide you with financial assistance if you own an Ohio business and participate in international marketing or other functions to export a product to another country. Opportunities vary by state, so be sure to check out your local government website.
Minority Business Development Agency
The Minority Business Development Agency is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. It rarely offers its own grants (and if it does, they would be listed on Grants.gov), but local MBDA offices specialize in getting business owners paired up with resources in the area to help them succeed. This may include grants, loan programs or other financial resources.
Operation HOPE Small Business Empowerment Program
The Operation HOPE Small Business Empowerment Program is explicitly aimed at helping entrepreneurs from struggling neighborhoods. If your business serves a low-income area, you might be eligible for this program, which includes workshops and training to improve your operations as well as access to funding programs. Many of the funding programs available are loans instead of grants, but it is nonetheless an avenue of financial assistance that should prove vital for helping you grow your business and better your community.
To learn more about grants available to minority businesses, consider talking to your closest chamber of commerce or minority organization. While the above-listed opportunities are more significant in scope, there might be more grant opportunities worth considering that are available closer to home.
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