Is There “Free Money” For Small Businesses?

The past three months have been crazy. I have learned so much about Seed Grants especially for women. I went from entering a Seed Grant competition this summer not knowing what I was doing to actually winning one less than four months later. How did that happen? Divine intervention and being consistent.

My Seed Grant is Free Money

So is there free money or grants for women in small business? Yes. There is a lot out there. Most people either don’t know about them, don’t apply thinking they won’t win or can’t figure out where to begin. I want to tell you to apply to every single one you feel you qualify for. They are free to apply to. If you have to pay, that is NOT a Seed Grant. Often times hardly anyone enters.

There were only 5 people in the one I entered. I can honestly say I have applied to several and only won one. But what happened during the other competitions? More people found out about Women Are Gamechangers. Great marketing strategy and I didn’t even have to pay for it.

I do want to give you 3 tips to follow when applying for a seed grant:

  • Be authentic in your messaging. The genuine message of your brand will shine brighter than you ever will.
  • Don’t oversell what you are doing. They are not looking for gimmicks. They are looking for sustainable businesses that will have a strong impact in their communities.
  • Get the support of your offline and online community behind. This is where networking becomes a critical step in moving your business forward.

I am going to share some sites that lists Seed Grants. This is no where near a complete list. But this list either caters specifically to women or is easier to apply if your business is just starting. (Not rated or put in any type of order.)

Each grant has its own set of standards and rules to follow. Read carefully and fulfill every requirement. Usually you just apply. Some ask for an online application, a paper application or a video. Others require a lot more but those that do give out a large sum of money. So just read to see. I’m not 100% sure of dates so keep checking their sites.

  1. PeopleFund— This is for Texas businesses. PeopleFund cater to women, minorities and veterans. They have awarded over $24m dollars in loans. Well they cater specifically to businesses that are in start up phase or can’t get a traditional loan. And they walk you through the process and let you know how and what you need to do to qualify. OK now to the Seed Grant. They only offer the Seed Grant once a year. So prepare yourself around September 2013 to see postings to submit for your chance to win. They really want a business that will be an asset to the community. To learn more, go to the website.
  2. Melinda F. Emerson Foundation— Melinda F. Emerson aka The Small Biz Lady just started this foundation recently. I shared the link when it was up. She gives grants specifically to minorities and women. Don’t know too much about it yet since it’s still new but investigate and see if you qualify. To learn more, go to the website.
  3. Chase (for profit)— Now to the Small Business Grant by Chase. I entered this one. There were over 70,000 applicants this year. So competition is fierce. Remember you must have a dedicated online following to help you win in competitions. But the amount of money they give out is worth putting forth the effort. Again just fill out an online application to compete.
  4. Chase (nonprofit)— This is specifically for nonprofits and they want to see proof that you are a nonprofit. If you are one or plan to be one you need to make sure your paperwork is current with the state and is on hand. They are not playing about seeing your IRS paperwork at all. You must be legit. To learn more, go to the website.
  5. FedEx— I’m currently in another Grant Competiton. FedEx is giving grants to businesses. There really wasn’t much criteria for that. Other than to fill out an application online. They asked 3 questions and that was it. Easy, right? Well you need to know that hundreds of businesses are in this competition around the country. So if you don’t have a strong online community your chances are slim to none winning. I’ve gotten new online followers because they saw WAGC competing.
  6. Startup Nation (Home-Based)— StartupNation Home-Based 100 Competition is a ranking of outstanding home-based businesses and the amazing people behind them. Entries are accepted until the end of October. The 100 winners are published in mid-December. To learn more, go to the website.
  7. Startup Nation (Leading Moms in Business)— StartupNation is conducting its third annual ranking of these astonishing entrepreneurs and the businesses they run. Daily votes will determine the top 200 Leading Moms in Business. In addition our judges will determine special awards and accolades for moms within the top 200 who deserve special recognition. To learn more, go to the website.
  8. Black Celebrity Giving— Black Celebrity Giving gives Seed Grants to nonprofits. They have different levels and criteria for their grants. This is specifically for nonprofits. Also they host a weekly chat on Twitter that shares tips for nonprofits to find money and ways to lower their overhead and be more efficient. To learn more, go to the website.
  9. MillerCoors Urban Entrepreneurs— MillerCoors Urban Entrepreneurs Series is a tough one. The application is no joke. They want a full on business plan. You will also have to submit 15 pages of financials signed by a CPA. Yep, you read that right. I think this one is more for  businesses that have been around at least 3 years. By that time you should know the direction you want your business to go and have financials to back it up. If you have been in business that long look into it for next year. The deadline for this year has already passed. To learn more, go to the website.
  10. Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Initiatives— (not sure if this is a grant but the results I have heard about have grown businesses tremendously) Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businessesis an investment to help small businesses create jobs and economic opportunity by providing greater access to business education, financial capital, and business support services. The program is based on the broadly held view of leading experts that greater access to this combination of education, capital and support services best addresses barriers to growth. To learn more, go to the website.
  11. Goldman Sachs Gives (nonprofits)— Goldman Sachs Gives is a donor-advised fund, from which current and former Goldman Sachs partners can recommend grants to qualified nonprofit organizations. To learn more, go to the website.
  12. For Profits–Try your local community college or college Entrepreneurship Program. Many of them have annual business plan competitions that awards money.
  13. Non Profits— Many product businesses have grants specifically for you such as Clorox, Bounty, you see the pattern.  Look into these companies and see how they give back.
  14. There are also grants for both for profits and nonprofits via Facebook. Some companies or organizations have created contests to win grants that are only on Facebook such as The Small Business Challenge. So search around the site and see what you come up with.

This is where your true research begins.

A Seed Grant is great. It really is. It’s free money. But you did work for it. You will put in the time to completely and thoroughly fill out the application, essay or create the video. You will make sure that your message is clear, strong, and on point.

You will work to get your online community behind you to support the reason you are vying for the grant. You are working for this grant. Don’t get it twisted. Free doesn’t mean you don’t have to work.

What will you do to get your business a Seed Grant?

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13 thoughts on “Is There “Free Money” For Small Businesses?

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  2. Ms. Vernetta, you are a beautiful surprise. I didn’t know about your site until now because I am searching for money for my business. Your site was listed and I am glad I clicked on it. I am in Georgia and will post when I have applied to touch basis with you. Thanks for your information, it will go a long way.

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  5. This is a fantastic list – thank you for compiling! You know, as silly as it may sound, it never occurred to me that there was money out there to help folks run their businesses. You hear a lot about *loans* but these are prizes – free and clear! An old friend from law school recently clued me in on this whole thing when she shared that she has taken out $0 in loans to launch her small business…instead she pursues grant/prize funding…so far, she has been very successful. Definitely will be sharing this list!!

    • You’re welcome. Yes if you can get money you don’t have to pay back in your business, that’s always a great first step. These are established with a good track record of actually giving out money to small businesses. Please apply and share with others.

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