Free Money: 4 Small-Business Grants You May Not Have Heard Of

Don't leave money on the table. Check out these four small business grant resources.
Forbes Contributor: Makers, Inventors, Small Business, Forbes
February 08, 2013

If ever there was a fictional story representing the small-business grant process, it would have to be Alice in Wonderland. Looking for grant information online is like diving down the rabbit hole. You never know what you’ll find, and when you do find something that seems promising, often it’s not what it appears.

These four specific grant sites can help narrow your search, and maybe even help you secure funds for your idea or product.

Love A Local Business.

Intuit runs the Love A Local Business grant program and has given away over $1 million since its inception. Grants are generally awarded based on nominations (you can nominate your own business). The program is preparing its next grant round, so check the site frequently. The average award is $5,000, but there are larger grand prizes depending on that round's focus.

Grants for Women.

WomensNet started the Amber Grants in 1998, and these micro-grants of $500 to $1,000 are often just the jumpstart a microbusiness needs to get moving. It appears this grant program is restarting after a hiatus. The site also maintains a Grants for Women resource page.

U.S. government research and development funds.

The U.S. government doesn't offer funds for you to start a business, but if you're in the business of health research or working on an environmental project, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs may help. They offer small-business federal funds for research and development, awarded directly through federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health or the Department of Energy.

An easy way to search and find these research-oriented funds is to use the Grants.gov website. For small-business owners, this site can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate. However, if you use its advanced search tool, you can find a long list of health and environmental projects for which grants are available. Select “all” for most of the drop down boxes, and scroll down to the “Search by Eligibility” box and select “small businesses.” At press time, 790 grants existed for the keyword.

Green product development.

The SBA website has a page dedicated to eco-friendly product development. While this government program is aimed at university students, it provides up to $15,000 in a competitive grant process. Development like this often falls under a university’s technology transfer office, which some entrepreneurs prefer to avoid. However, these are real funds that may help you get an idea off the ground. The program is called: P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability.

Looking for more financial tips and advice? Check out these finance articles.

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Forbes Contributor: Makers, Inventors, Small Business, Forbes