The challenges minority-owned businesses face when growing a business are multi-fold. A minority small business grant could give your business the access to funding it needs to grow with confidence.
According to the Forbes Finance Council, minority-owned businesses in the U.S. have soared. They’ve increased over 79 percent – faster than any other category of small business ownership. Yet despite this surge, challenges exist. Most notably, access to funding remains a challenge. That’s where minority small business grants could help fill the gap.
Grants can help businesses fill funding gaps to fuel a myriad of initiatives. Initiatives range from payroll to hiring new talent or securing new office space. Loans and grants have a few crucial differences, though.
Unlike with loans, businesses don’t have to repay grants. Grants do, however, come with caveats. Generally, funds are used for a specific business purpose or industry. The application process for grants is often significantly more intensive than loan applications, too. Multiple businesses compete for the same pool of limited grant money. On the other hand, the strength of a financial-centric application serves as the basis for loan awards.
The good news? For small business owners encountering financial barriers, there are several minority small business grants available. The following grants can potentially give minority-owned businesses (including women-owned businesses) a leg up in their efforts to thrive.
The following grants follow in alphabetical order.
Amber Grant for Women
If you’re an entrepreneurial woman in need of a financial boost for your business, it’s worth looking at the Amber Grant for Women. Founded in 1998, this grant program makes monthly grants to women across the business spectrum. They encourage applicants to lead their applications with heart. There is a $15 application fee and the application is short. Grants doubled from the previous $2,000 to $4,000 beginning January of 2020. Recipients of the monthly grant award are eligible to win an additional grant of $25,000 at year’s end. This is on an annual basis.
Cartier Women’s Initiative Grants
Open to women across the globe, Cartier grants benefit women-owned businesses with an eye on growth. Annually, the grant program selects three finalists from each of seven global regions. The 21 finalists all receive exclusive networking and publicity opportunities. The seven regional winners then receive $100,000 in prize money each, and the two runners-up per region receive $30,000 each. Eligible businesses are woman-run, for-profit and in the early stages of growth. Also, you must be running for between one and five years, and meet some additional criteria). Visit the grant program’s website for a comprehensive explanation of the grants and the eligibility and application processes.
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest
Since 2013, FedEx has awarded over $700,000 in grants to businesses through its unique grant competition. Each year, there are ten grant recipients. To be eligible, you must own a U.S.-based business; have been in operation for at least six months; run a business that sells a product or service and have fewer than 99 employees. The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest isn’t exclusively a minority small business grant. However, minority-owned companies with considerable followings could leverage those loyal customers to help win one of the ten awards. During the application process, businesses need to upload a short profile, a video, business photos and a logo. Next, companies will encourage their loyal fans to vote for their business in the contest. While votes aren’t the only deciding factor, it can’t hurt to rally support. Grants in the contest range from $15,000 to $50,000 for the lucky winners.
First Nations Development Institute (FNDI) Grants for Native Americans
Since 1993, the FNDI has awarded more than 1,600 grants, totaling more than $34.9 million in 40 states. Their grants fund both technical and financial resources for organizations and projects that seek to improve the lives of Native Americans. Their website offers a variety of resources designed to support those curious about applying for grants. The website includes details about the application process, too. Applicants for this grant are Native-controlled, tribal-operated organizations. To see which grant programs are currently accepting applications, visit the website regularly. New programs emerge throughout the year.
This website offers grant seekers a searchable database of thousands of government grants. Many of them are minority small business grants. Those seeking grants can search using the keyword, “minority”, and utilize additional filters to review current and upcoming grant programs sponsored by federal agencies. Some participating government agencies on the site include: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Space and Aeronautics Administration (NASA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There are a total of 26 federal agencies that participate in grant listings.
Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Grants
The MDBA awards a series of minority small business grants–“cooperative agreements”–throughout the year. The MDBA operates within the U.S. Department of Commerce. They focus on helping minority-owned businesses access capital, contracts, and markets necessary for sustained growth. Grant program applications open periodically throughout the year. Interested applicants should check the website regularly for programs they’re eligible for as they’re announced. Eligibility criteria vary by grant program. Grants are generally a minimum of $200,000, and interested businesses can review a sample of previous organizations that have received grants here.
National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants
Do you have a business goal that’s within reach? If only you had a little financial help to push you over the edge, right? Well, these $4,000 grants from NASE can be used for a wide array of business purposes. Additionally, awards are on a quarterly basis. Applicants must be members in good standing with NASE for a minimum of three months before applying for a grant. Applicants must be able to state how grant funds will be used. Requirements include basic business information like a résumé and business plan. There are several cost-effective ways to access membership to NASE to begin the eligibility process.
Office of Minority Health Grants
These minority small business grants from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are specifically geared for agencies and organizations working to better the health outcomes for historically disenfranchised communities in the U.S. Grants range from $275,000 to $500,000.
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBTT)
If your business creates or aims to develop cutting-edge biomedical research and development, these grants from the National Institute of Health (NIH) could be for you. While not limited to minority-owned businesses, this highly-competitive grant program has eleven leading government agencies participating. Agencies include but aren’t limited to: the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and NASA. Eligible businesses are American-owned, for profit and have 500 or fewer employees and should include a principal researcher employed by the company. For detailed eligibility and use of funds requirements, visit the SBIR website.
USDA Rural Business Development Grants
These grants from the USDA aim to boost businesses serving rural areas. These grants are awarded for narrow use and must be for organizations that plan to use the proceeds for “projects that benefit rural areas or towns outside the urbanized periphery of any city with a population of 50,000 or more.” Potentially funded projects include pollution control, rural transportation enhancements, rural business incubators and more. Additionally, Those eligible for these grants include (but aren’t limited to) minority business owners (including members of federally-recognized tribes), towns, communities, and even state agencies. While there’s no maximum grant amount, the USDA states that they give priority to smaller grant requests. Interested applicants can reach out to their local USDA office for application information.
Research. Apply. Grow.
There you have it! These 10 minority small business grants can help fuel the growth of businesses on the rise. As you consider available opportunities, keep in mind that the application process for grants is highly competitive. Most companies invest significant time and resources into developing the most compelling application possible to rise to the top of the pool. The key to a successful application process is to start early and give yourself the time to create a well-supported package that clearly states your goals, growth strategy, and how you’ll ultimately use grant funds to advance your initiatives.