Whether you,re looking at state, private, or federal options, just finding available grants can be challenging - navigating the application process and understanding what you,ll get if you receive the grant probably seems even more difficult.
Here,s an overview of how to find grants, determine whether your business qualifies for them, and improve your likelihood of ultimately receiving one.
Figuring Out Whether You Qualify
For a business to be considered a minority-owned business, it must be at least a majority - 51 percent - owned by people or stockholders who are minorities. It must also be managed and operated by someone who belongs to a minority group. In general, ethnic minority groups are broken down into African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans. Women, people with disabilities, and even veterans may also qualify for minority grants.
Besides meeting these criteria, your business will need to be certified as a minority business enterprise, or MBE. To get certified, you,ll need to contact the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) to receive an application, as well as information about the documentation that you need to provide. Once your application is received, a council representative will actually visit your business to confirm that you,ve provided accurate information. Receiving the MBE certification through NMSDC also comes with a perk - the organization has many large corporate member companies, and can provide small businesses with valuable connections and potential opportunities.
There are many different places to seek grants for MBEs - in fact, the problem many business owners run into is not knowing where to start first. Starting at the broadest level, you can search for federal grants at the Small Business Administration website, http://www.sba.gov, or at the website for general federal grants, http://www.grants.gov. There are also various grants and loans offered at the state level by state economic development agencies. Finally, some private organizations offer grants for small businesses.
Your business may have an easier time qualifying for grants if it fits certain niches aside from being an MBE. The requirements for many grants - especially government ones that are funded by taxpayer dollars - are extremely strict, so when you,re looking at grants, make sure you thoroughly read the criteria for recipients. You,ll probably going to spend a significant amount of time on grant applications, and receive some rejections, even if you only apply to grants that you qualify for - so try to avoid wasting time on ones that you don,t.
Improving Your Likelihood Of Receiving Grants
First, there are many resources that can help a business put together a strong plan for development and growth. The SBA website offers plenty of information on various aspects of planning, funding, and running a business. You can also visit a Minority Business Development Agency center, to receive advice and counseling from experts about funding and growing your business. The list of centers throughout the country can be viewed at http://www.mbda.gov/businesscenters.
Once you,ve put together a business plan, you need a strong grant proposal to clearly communicate it and convince the reader that you deserve funding. A strong proposal will be concise and easy to read. It should provide data, give a precise timeline and funding needs, and follow formatting guidelines exactly. Many businesses hire a professional to take care of writing the grant because it is such a crucial step in the application process. There are many associations of grant writers in the United States; with a quick online search, you can hire a consultant or writer from one of them and be sure of producing a top-quality grant proposal.
Other Options Available To Small Minority Businesses
If you can,t find grants that you qualify for, or if you keep applying and getting rejected, it,s important to remember that there are always other options. These include traditional loans and the SBA,s 8(a) support program for businesses that are considered socially or economically disadvantaged. Many small minority business owners would obviously prefer a grant to a loan or a support program, but it,s worth exploring other options if your grant applications haven,t been successful. It,s good consolation to consider that not all grants come absolutely free - some require the business to kick in some form of funding, such as a matching contribution - which means that alternatives like loans and business development programs really aren,t such a step down.
Although minority grants are often advertised as free money just waiting to be taken, the reality is that qualifying for minority small business grants usually requires plenty of time and hard work. However, if you are really invested in your business and have put plenty of thought and effort into your planning and proposal, you could qualify for a grant that will pay off for years.