This article is reprinted by permission from NerdWallet. Business grants may seem like the holy grail for small-business owners, since they offer cash you don’t have to pay back. But finding one can feel as futile as searching for lost treasure.
“Everybody wants to know: How do I get free money for my business?” says Jenn Steinfeld, director of entrepreneurship and economic development at the National League of Cities, an organization that supports local government officials nationwide. “And the answer that I have is: It’s just not that easy.” That doesn’t mean small-business grants aren’t worth pursuing — as long as you manage your expectations. Here are five tips to remember as you search.1. Prepare in advance Grant competition application windows can be short. Prepare in advance so you’re ready to take advantage of good opportunities. Salt Lake City-based Niche Snowboards has been in business since 2009, but the company leaders had never applied for a grant before they learned about the FedEx
Small Business Grant Contest just four days before the application deadline. But they’d already invested time and resources in a strong mission statement and marketing assets like photos and videos — which helped them pull everything together in time. “We had all the building blocks there,” says Ana Van Pelt, creative director at Niche Snowboards. “We just had to put them all together for this grant.” The company won one of the contest’s three $50,000 grand prizes in 2022. It plans to use the grant to develop an upcycling program for manufacturing waste and to invest more in marketing. When evaluating grant applications, FedEx’s judges look at a company’s website, social media profiles, sustainability efforts and whether it would make a good mentor to other small businesses, says Kelli Martin, who administers the company’s grant program. “These are questions that you should have answered regardless,” Van Pelt says. Also see: Four ways small businesses can prepare for a recession2. Understand parameters and requirements Local governments sometimes offer business grants as part of neighborhood revitalization or economic development programs. Facade grants and commercial corridor grants, for example, offer funding to help you update things like your storefront and sig …