Small business grants can be a valuable source of funding for entrepreneurs and growing business owners in California. The state government and private enterprises offer numerous grants to eligible small businesses, providing access to funds and support programs to help them evolve within their industry.
Likely the most significant advantage of small business grants is that they don’t have to be paid back, giving businesses more flexibility compared to loan programs. As a result, there are often varying eligibility requirements and strong competition for grants.
To help California entrepreneurs understand what grants are available and to navigate the application process, we have compiled a detailed outline of the small business grants currently offered in California. Additionally, we provide tips on how to maximize your chances of receiving funding.
By taking advantage of these opportunities, you can help your business reach its full potential and contribute to the development of your local economy.
How Grants Help Small Businesses In California
Small business grants can be highly beneficial for entrepreneurs, as they offer financial assistance that can aid in the development and growth of their businesses. Successful applicants who demonstrate a need for funding to support their growth, expansion, hiring, or development can succeed.
Grants can ultimately provide a significant boost to a business’s operations and help reach its goals through the following:
The financial assistance a small business grant can provide a California business is possibly its most advantageous aspect. Grants can be used for many varying purposes, such as purchasing equipment, hiring employees, or investing in marketing.
Unlike loan programs, grants offer a lump sum of money without the burden of monthly repayments or paying back principal amounts. This can be particularly helpful for small businesses and entrepreneurs who have limited resources and want to avoid taking on loan debt.
Training And Education
Grants can offer more than just financial assistance to California’s small businesses. Many grants come with the added opportunity for training and education programs, which can be immensely beneficial for a start-up company.
Some grants require recipients to participate in specific training programs or workshops as a condition of receiving the funding, while others provide this as an additional component of the grant package. By taking part in these programs, small business owners, entrepreneurs, and employees can all improve their knowledge and skills related to the latest industry trends.
Visibility And Credibility
By utilizing a grant to improve your marketing strategies, your small business can gain a competitive advantage within the industry. Not only can you increase your visibility, but you can also enhance your credibility and legitimacy.
By showcasing that your business has been awarded a grant, you demonstrate to potential investors and clients that you are a reputable organization recognized by the state.
3 Major Types Of Grants Available
While the competition for grants can be fierce, taking the time to research available options before preparing an application can significantly increase your business’s chance of being successful. Let’s explore the three sub-types of grants that are available in California and their unique features.
Additionally, we will highlight some of the grants within each subtype that are currently available.
1. Government Small Business Grants
Small business grants offered by the federal government can provide vital support for small businesses in the state. These grants are widely available and can be used for various purposes to help boost small businesses across the state.
However, due to their popularity, the application process can be highly competitive and often come with specific eligibility criteria. It’s important for businesses to carefully review the eligibility requirements to submit a strong application that will be successful.
Below are some of the available federal small business grants and the types of assistance they can provide to help your small business.
California Dream Fund
The California Dream Fund (CDF) provides grants of up to $10,000 to underserved small business groups that may face financial and training opportunity disadvantages. To be eligible, the small business must reside in California, have a concise business plan, and be an undocumented entrepreneur.
Successful applicants receive tailored training programs and can use the grant funds for eligible expenses such as employee-related expenses and business certification.
The application period usually opens in the fall and closes in November, and eligible businesses include childcare, green technology/infrastructure, manufacturing, professional/technical businesses, construction trades, and agriculture/wildlife businesses. The application process for the CDF is highly competitive, so a strong application will improve your chances of success.
More detailed information on the CDF, eligibility criteria, and the application process can be found on their website.
Small Business Innovation Research
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant is a great way for small businesses in California and across the US to get funding for innovative research and development. The grant aims to help small businesses bring their ideas to life and support technological innovation, with a maximum grant available of $1.5 million.
To be eligible for the grant, businesses must meet size and ownership requirements and be a novice within their industry. The application process is very competitive, with three phases that involve funding and support for research and innovation.
During the first phase, funding is provided for preliminary research, while the second phase offers funds for refining the proposed research and innovation. In the final phase, the focus is on supporting possible commercialization for further growth and expansion.
To apply for the SBIR grant, businesses must submit a proposal that outlines their research project, how they plan to commercialize their innovation, and the qualifications of their working team.
Make sure to keep an eye on the SBIR website for updates on application dates and phases. Overall, the SBIR grant is a valuable resource for small businesses in California that are looking to innovate and grow.
Small Business Technology Transfer Program
The Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Grant is similar to the SBIR. It provides grant funding for small businesses across the US to develop their research plans, just like SBIR. However, STTR differs as it partners small businesses with large research institutions such as universities or state laboratories to develop and market innovative technologies.
STTR is smaller in size than SBIR, but the application process is still highly competitive. Businesses that meet the eligibility criteria, including being small in size and not dominating their industry, can receive funding of up to $1.5 million.
Like SBIR, STTR is also a multi-phase program that outlines the specific requirements and varying funding amounts for each phase. The first two phases require the company to work directly with the collaborating researcher.
Overall, the STTR program can be an incredible funding source for small businesses in California and across the country that are looking to partner with research institutions and develop innovative technologies. It’s important to stay up-to-date with the STTR application process from the STTR website, as application dates and phases may vary.
Veteran-Owned Small Business Assistance Program
The Veteran-Owned Small Business Assistance Program is a resource for veteran-owned small businesses in California. The program provides access to finance, counseling, training, procurement assistance, and certification services to help their business expand and succeed.
To be eligible, the business must be at least 51% owned and controlled by a veteran who is a California resident, and it must be small according to California Small Business Association standards. The program can help with the development and implementation of business plans, improve marketing and sales strategies, and gain access to new markets and opportunities.
To apply for the program, simply visit the U.S. Small Business Administration website to learn more and complete the application process.
2. Private Small Business Grants
Private organizations across California also offer various grants for small businesses. These grants often have differing eligibility requirements compared to federal grants and can provide valuable resources to help a business grow and succeed. Here are some examples of available private grants in California:
Walmart Local Community Grants
The Walmart Local Community Grants are available for nonprofit organizations that serve local communities across the US. These grants offer funding for projects and programs that directly benefit the local community, including initiatives aimed at developing small businesses.
Grant applications are typically accepted quarterly, and there are eight unique programs where small businesses can apply for funding. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis, and successful applicants may receive up to $5,000.
A nonprofit organization looking to make a positive impact in their community may benefit from the Walmart Local Community Grants program and be a valuable resource to explore. Specific areas of funding, guidelines, and application processes can be viewed on their website.
National Association For The Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants
The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants provides financial support for small businesses to undertake specific business projects which may boost their development. These grants are available only to NASE members who are starting their small business journey or seeking to expand their current business.
Eligible projects include marketing campaigns, websites, and product development, among others. The funding aims to help with the costs associated with these projects, and successful applicants can receive up to $4,000.
To apply, you must have been a NASE member for at least 90 days, and you need to submit an application outlining your business needs, expected use of the grant, and how your business will benefit from the funding. NASE reviews applications quarterly, so keep an eye on their website for application deadlines.
Comcast RISE Investment Fund
Comcast RISE was created in 2020 to support small businesses impacted by the pandemic. It provides grants for marketing, technology, and financial assistance to help the impacted businesses continue to grow. Today, Comcast aims to help all businesses develop by providing business consulting, entrepreneurship training, and complimentary marketing services.
This investment fund concentrates on supporting small businesses owned by people of color, including Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, and Asian American, together with businesses owned by women. Eligible businesses must have been in operation for at least three years and have between one and 25 employees.
The grants can cover most business expenses such as rent, payroll, and marketing costs. The program also provides consulting and coaching services as a valuable resource for small businesses and their employees. Interested businesses should check the Comcast RISE website regularly for updates on future application periods.
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest
The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest is an opportunity for small businesses with innovative ideas and growth strategies to receive up to $50,000 in funding. This can be utilized for costs related to advertising, marketing, and technology upgrades.
Not only does this grant provide financial support, but it also offers networking opportunities, publicity, and other resources that might help expand and build a business’s brand.
Applications for the grant require an online application along with a short video that highlights the business mission and values. Eligibility criteria vary between programs, but at a minimum, the applying business must have shipping needs, have fewer than 99 employees, and be a for-profit business.
This grant program is an excellent opportunity for small businesses looking to take their operations to the next level. To learn more or apply, check out their website.
3. Women & Ethnic-Specific Small Business Grants
To support women-led businesses and ethnic-specific small businesses in California, several grant programs are available. These programs provide valuable resources and support to these groups, offering an opportunity for small businesses to obtain funding and support that can help them grow and succeed.
Eligibility requirements for each program are often specific and vary, but they can help break barriers for underrepresented groups.
Amber Grant For Women
In honor of Amber Wigdahl, a young woman who passed away before achieving her business dreams, WomensNet founded the Amber Grant. The grant provides at least $30,000 of funding each month to women-owned businesses, acknowledging and supporting their diversity.
The grant program has expanded to include marketing and business category grants, as well as an additional $25,000 year-end grant awarded to one company that was successful with the monthly application.
This is a perfect opportunity for women entrepreneurs to develop their businesses and establish themselves in the industry. The application process is simple, requiring only a piece outlining the business goals and how they came about.
A single application is submitted for all available grants, which are competitive and typically awarded monthly. Women business owners of all ages and industries are eligible, and the typical grant amount is around $10,000.
Overall, this is an inclusive opportunity for strong, women-led small businesses, and candidates can find the monthly application form on the Amber Grant website.
IFundWomen Universal Grant
The IFundWomen Universal Grant provides up to $10,000 to women-owned businesses across various industries in the US, including California. The platform is specifically designed to fund female entrepreneurs and help them succeed in their respective fields.
The eligibility criteria are not extensive; as long as the company is primarily women-owned and has a clear mission to positively impact their local communities they may be eligible.
To apply, businesses must complete a campaign on the IFundWomen platform. Monthly recipients are then paired with a partnering brand that aligns with their business model. Coaching and other resources are also provided as part of the program.
This is an excellent opportunity for women-owned businesses looking to grow and achieve success, so be sure to check out the IFundWomen website for more information on how to apply.
SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant
The SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant is a fantastic program that offers cash grants to Black women and non-binary entrepreneurs throughout California. This initiative is a collaboration between the SoGal Foundation and other recognized sponsors, including Walmart.Org’s Center for Racial Equality, Winky Lux, and Twilio, among others.
It aims to support eligible businesses in growing and eliminating barriers for Black women in entrepreneurship.
To qualify for this grant, applicants must self-identify as a Black woman or Black non-binary entrepreneur, have a registered business, and have the desire to expand their business into commercialization.
Successful recipients will receive cash grants ranging from $5,000 to $10,000, as well as ongoing assistance in navigating fundraising strategies and lifetime support access to SoGal Foundation and SoGal Ventures teams.
Applicants can visit the SoGal Foundation’s website to keep updated on when the application period opens and closes, as these dates often vary.
What You Need To Know Before Applying
Small businesses applying for grants within California can expect a rigorous and greatly competitive process. Unlike loan programs, grants do not need to be repaid, making them a highly sought-after source of funding. It is essential to complete the application form clearly and include all required components.
These often include outlining details of how you plan to use the funds, the impact of the project or technology, and an understanding of your business’s trajectory and future goals.
It’s worth noting that some grants may receive hundreds of applications, so making your application stand out is crucial. Federal and private grants mostly have different application processes, so it’s important to tailor your application to the specific requirements of each grant.
Federal grants usually require more extensive documentation and proposals, while private grants may require less documentation but are far more competitive.
In detail, some of the common questions asked throughout grant applications include:
- Why is the business applying for the grant, and how does it intend to use the funds?
- What is the business plan, and how will the awarded funds help the business reach its goals?
- What impact will the project have on the local community or business industry?
- What potential challenges does the project face, and what is the plan for overcoming them?
To increase your chances of success, your application should include a strong strategy and demonstrate financial stability within your application. Being a creative and notable applicant can also help your application stand out among others.
By preparing thoroughly and answering these questions thoughtfully, businesses can increase their chances of receiving a small business grant in California.
Get Your Startup Running Through Small Business Grants
For small businesses in California looking to expand and develop, grants provide an excellent option for financing numerous aspects of their growth, including research and development, marketing, and hiring new employees.
Although the grant application process can be rigorous, the potential benefits for startup businesses are significant. Grants not only offer capital growth opportunities but can also enhance the knowledge and skills of a business’s team.
J.R. Martin & Associates can assist small business owners in applying for grants. Our team of experts provides advice and guidance throughout the application process, increasing the likelihood of success.
We help to identify all potential grants for which small businesses may be eligible and craft strong grant applications tailored to each grant’s specific requirements, highlighting the business’s strengths and potential for growth.
As a committed partner to the success of small businesses, our team recognizes their pivotal role in our economy and aspires to help them thrive. Our goal is to provide comprehensive support for small businesses at every stage of their development, from startup to growth and beyond.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you in obtaining the funding you need to take your small business to the next level.
Let professionals assist you in getting your business up and running. Check out how we can help you through our business planning services today!