When most people think of grants, they think of money given free to nonprofit organizations. But for-profit companies, and frequently startups, can also win grant money. But how do you find these grants?
Unfortunately, locating the right grant is a little like looking for your soulmate. The grant is out there, but you're going to have to do a lot of looking to find a good match. A good place to start is at your local bookstore. There are a lot of books about getting grants, with titles like Grant Writing for Dummies(Wiley) by Beverly A. Browning, Grantseeker's Toolkit(Wiley) by Cheryl Carter New and James Quick, and Demystifying Grantseeking(Wiley) by Larissa Golden Brown and Martin John Brown. And then there's the Bible of grant books -- the annual The Grants Register(Palgrave Macmillan), which lists more than 4,200 grants.
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There are other places to look, of course. The most logical place to get an infusion of cash is from Uncle Sam, but you can also win grants from foundations and even some corporations.
Even in the most economically challenged of times, the government is one of the best sources for grants. For instance, the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Advanced Technology Program offers grants to co-fund "high-risk, high-payoff projects" in order to provide Americans with a higher standard of living. Whatever the project is, you can bet it will be scrutinized by a board of qualified experts and academia.
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program is another government program that gives grants. The SBIR Program specializes in small businesses looking for funding for high-risk technologies. Founded in 1982, the SBIR recently awarded funds for research in advanced metals and chemicals, biotechnology, information technology and manufacturing. So if you're planning on opening a pizzeria, you might have trouble with this one.
But there are federal grants awarded to food and nutrition companies. For instance, a pizzeria that caters to children and specializes in serving nutritious, healthy pizzas may be able to win a grant. You can also check with your state or local government -- start with your local or state chamber of commerce.
Of course, finding the grant is the easy part; the hard part is getting the grant. It's a lot like applying to college. You have to jump through the hoops of each organization, which usually involves writing an extensive essay on why you need the money. There are grant-writing businesses out there as well as grant brokers -- people who try to find the right grant for you. You pay them regardless of whether they find you a grant; on the other hand, if they land you a $750,000 grant, you still pay them the flat fee, which is generally from $25 to $100 an hour, depending on their level of success. But if you don't have the funds to pay for a grant-writer or a broker, and you're a decent writer and have a passion for your business, then start researching, and fill out the forms and compose the essay yourself. There's no rule that says you can't try to get a grant on your own. And who knows -- you might be successful.
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This article is an edited excerpt from Start Your Own Business, Fifth Edition, published by Entrepreneur Press.