In the early months of the pandemic, Connie Nguyen says sales dropped 70% overnight at Snowbite, a modern Vietnamese eatery in Pharr, Texas. As the restaurant’s owner, Nguyen has since faced a nightmarish pivot to curbside pickup, fear for the health of employees and customers and rising operating costs that place a further strain on her business.
Hers is a familiar story, one that’s been replicated across industries and states since early 2020. But unlike the hundreds of thousands of small businesses that closed under the economic weight of the coronavirus pandemic, Snowbite stayed afloat — with the help of small business grants and loans.
“We’re lucky we’re still in business,” Nguyen says. “To be able to get help and to have this many different types of programs, it’s how we survive.”
Small business grants can offer a boost for new businesses just getting off the ground or a net to catch existing businesses in free fall.
These grants are offered by federal, state and local agencies as well as by private corporations. Many target specific sectors, like agriculture and technology, or seek to support small business owners from minority communities. Some meet specific business needs, like providing paper products or covering training costs.
Finding the right grant for your needs could be the push your small business needs to thrive. Start your search with these examples of small business grants:
— National Association for the Self Employed Growth Grants ($4,000)
— SBA State Trade Expansion Program ($50,000 to $2,000,000)
— Amber Foundation’s Amber Grant ($10,000 to $25,000)
— FedEx Small Business Grant ($50,000, plus $7,500 in print services)
— Comcast RISE Investment Fund ($10,000)
— Visa She’s Next Black Women-Owned Business Grant program ($10,000)
— Street Shares Foundation Veteran Small Business Award ($4,000 to $15,000)
Search for more small business grants at grants.gov.
COVID-19 Relief for Small Businesses
In addition to these grants, small business owners can access grants created during the COVID-19 pandemic to help offset related loss of income or disruptions.
Some states continue to offer relief grants to small businesses. In California, for example, impacted eligible small businesses and nonprofits can participate in the state’s COVID-19 relief grant program to receive funding of $5,000 to $25,000.
Small business owners can also apply to receive a grant through fundraising organizations like GoFundMe, which created a Small Business Relief Fund that provides one-time matching grants to qualifying small businesses that apply online.
In these late stages of the pandemic, some relief measures have ended, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, and the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant is no longer accepting new applications, for example. But Patrick Kelley, associate administrator of the U.S. Small Business Association, says options for support like the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan still exist.
“As we head into the fall, we are dealing with vaccine uptake and the delta variant,” Kelley says. “If everyone recognized that the vaccine is an important civic step that every person should take to support all of us and prevent the spread, that would have a tremendous impact on the small business economic picture moving forward. Absent that, these tools can help mitigate that.”
[Read: 13 Small Business Ideas.]
How to Apply for a Small Business Grant
Before applying for financial support, Keith R. Hall, president and CEO of the National Association for the Self-Employed, says small business owners first need to determine their specific needs.
“You need to know where you’re going and have your story straight of exactly where you’re going and how you’re going to get there,” Hall says. “It is very cumbersome to request money through a loan or a grant program by just saying, ‘I’ve got a lot of credit card debt I need to pay off.'”
Instead, have a specific request such as the need for a website or a new lead generation program and be able to demonstrate how this grant money will help your business thrive. Having a strong business plan and the patience to apply to many small business grants can help you find success.
Resources for Small Businesses
Beyond grants, small businesses can access loans, lean on support from associations and small business networks and take advantage of online resources like those provided by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.
Particularly for groups typically underrepresented in the business community, more resources for small business owners have become available in recent years.
“No time in my adult life can I remember the focus being this heavily on small business,” Hall says. “One of the things the pandemic has shown is that underserved communities, African American-owned businesses, Asian-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, suffered at a higher rate than average. Where there’s a need typically is where you find resources, so those are absolutely available.”
[Read: Best Small Business Apps]
Dedicating the time to finding and researching such options should be a part of every small business owner’s routine, he says.
“It is so easy when you’re a self-employed business owner to feel you’re out there on your own. You’re CEO, head of marketing, you’re there at night cleaning up,” Hall says. “But there are experts and people who are giving back as part of their careers to help other small businesses grow.”
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