The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Iowa Small Businesses

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The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Connecticut Small Businesses

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The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Oregon Small Businesses

Sandwiched between booming tech sectors in California and Washington, Oregon is one of the quirkier states in the nation in which to start a business. Oregon is widely considered a great state in which to start a small business, but a difficult state in which to grow one, so you’ll want to be aware of the financial resources available to you if you’re operating within the Beaver State.

Below, we’ll look at some of the types of financing you can access in Oregon, as well as some specific resources you can tap.

Online Business Lenders For Oregon Businesses

Geography can be cruel, and Oregon has some of the most formidable and varied environments in the nation (valleys, mountains, dessert, ocean). Finding a local lender can be easy if you’re in Portland, but may be challenging in some of the more remote areas of the state. Luckily, geography matters much less than it used to when it comes to financing.

What are the advantages of working with an online lender? Generally speaking, online lenders are faster, have simpler application processes, and more flexible lending standards than traditional lenders. The tradeoff, of course, is they also tend to have higher rates and more concentrated repayment term lengths. That said, the best online lenders offer transparent terms and excellent customer service.

Oregon has some of the stricter usury laws in the nation, which helps to weed out more predatory online lenders. Note that regulations governing loans usually only apply specifically to loans and not to loan-like products like merchant cash advances.

Here are a few of the better ones that lend within Oregon:

SmartBiz

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SBA loans offer some of the best terms small businesses can find, but the application process can be a bit of an ordeal. For those who want some help navigating it, SmarBiz will streamline and walk you through the process.

BlueVine

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BlueVine is an alternative option for businesses that need a line of credit or that have unpaid invoices that they’d like to cash in a little early. Invoice factoring is not for everyone, but it is a way to infuse your business with cash without going into debt.

LoanBuilder

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PayPal’s LoanBuilder service is one of the faster and more transparent digital lenders, allowing you to tweak the terms of your loan somewhat to fit your needs. Their rates are also pretty decent, but as short-term loans, you’ll have to pay them back fairly quickly.

Fundbox

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Businesses with credit issues can have a hard time finding funding, but lenders like Fundbox make it a little bit easier. Like BlueVine they offer lines of credit and invoice factoring. They also offer a service similar to invoice factoring called Fundbox Pay, which allows sellers to receive money for their services right away.

While Fundbox doesn’t have any hard credit requirements, they do want to see that your business does at least $50K/year in revenue.

Lendio

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Lendio is a great resource for businesses that are tapping the online lending market for the first time and don’t have a lot of time to fill out multiple applications. Lendio lets you access their network of lenders with a single application and with no direct fee.

Oregon Banks & Credit Unions

Just because online lenders offer speed and convenience, don’t think brick and mortar banks are obsolete. Bank and credit unions tend to offer better rates and terms, provided you have the credit to qualify for them.

If you’re happy with the bank or credit union currently servicing your accounts (and they’re happy with you), it’s often a good idea to start there. The advantage is they already have a sense of you as a customer and records of your financial transactions, which can save you a few steps when you’re applying.

National banks with branches in Oregon include:

Chase Bank

You can find Chase branches in most of the country, particularly in urban areas like Portland. Chase has some of the best business loans rates you can find, but they’re very selective about who they lend to. You’ll also need to be able to get to a branch in person; no digital applications here.

Borrower requirements:
• Must have excellent credit (high 600s)
• Must have access to a Chase Bank branch
Read our Chase Bank review

Bank Of America

If you live along the I-5 corridor, you should have little trouble finding a Bank of America branch. Even if you don’t, BoA does allow you to apply for a couple of products online, making them a more convenient option for remote customers.

Line of credit borrower requirements:
• Must have been in business at least 2 years.
• Must have a personal credit score of 670 or above.
• Must have revenue > $200,000 for unsecured products, or greater than $250,00 for secured products.
Read our Bank of America review

US Bank

US Bank has Oregon well-covered with branches, even in secondary and tertiary markets. If you want to deal with a big bank that’s a bit more approachable, US Bank is a solid option.

Borrower requirements:
• Must be located in a state served by U.S. Bank
• Must have been in business for two years
Read our U.S. Bank review

Credit Unions

As non-profit entities, credit unions can, at least in theory, provide lower rates than similar for-profit entities. Whether or not they offer business lending will vary from union to union, though in many cases you may be able to leverage personal loans for business purposes.

Some of the more accessible credit unions in Oregon include:

  • OnPoint Community Credit Union 
  • Oregon Community Credit Union
  • Selco Community Credit Union
  • Rogue Credit Union
  • Columbia Credit Union

Small Business Grants In Oregon

startup grants

Why go into debt when you can get money for free? Grants can provide your business with just that: free money.

Of course, nothing’s truly “free.” Grants are highly competitive. If you’re trying to get one, expect to spend a lot of time in pursuit. They also tend to be very specific with regards to what they can be used for, so finding a grant that fits your business goals can be time-consuming.

For some general advice on where to find them, check out our grant feature.

Resources For Startups In Oregon

Remember how we mentioned Oregon is a good place for starting a small business? The state has some well-developed infrastructure that new businesses can tap.

One of the best resources for finding these programs is the state’s economic development agency, Business Oregon. They can help you access state programs like:

  • Oregon Business Development Fund: Offers up to $1 million in direct loans to business that create or retain jobs in manufacturing, processing, or distribution. Preference is given to businesses local in rural or distressed areas.
  • Small Business Expansion Loan Fund: Offers up to $250,000 direct loans to expanding businesses.
  • Entrepreneurial Development Loan Fund: Offers up to $75,000 to businesses with less than $500,000 in revenue looking to get established in Oregon.
  • Oregon Credit Enhancement Fund: A loan guarantee program available to most businesses in the state.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

credit card refund

Remember that your lender ultimately has to serve your needs, not the other way around. Don’t settle for a deal that’s bad for your company.

Need some help narrowing down lenders? Here are some factors to consider:

  • Your Industry: Some lenders specialize in lending to specific industries. Others can’t or won’t lend to certain industries. If they can’t write you a loan, cross them off your list.
  • Borrowing Amount: If you need $5,000, you’ll be looking at different lenders than if you need $5 million. Choose the right tool for the job.
  • Rates & Fees: How much is it going to cost you? Are the lender’s rates in line with the industry standard? Do they tell you what additional fees they charge, or do they hide them?
  • Time To Funding: Do you need the money right away or next quarter? Choose a lender that can work with your timetable.
  • Term Lengths: You’ll want to know how quickly you have to pay the money you’re borrowing back. Make sure you can afford the loan over the long-term.
  • The Type Of Expense Being Financed: Some financial products are limited in what they can be used for. Do you need a lump sum of cash? Or do you need a line of credit that you can draw upon periodically?
  • Collateral: Secured loans and lines of credit require some form of collateral, usually in the form of an asset, real estate, or cash deposit. If you don’t have collateral to put it, you’ll want to look at unsecured loans.

Final Thoughts

If you’re ready to start a business in the Pacific Northwest, or planning to expand the one you already have, there’s no shortage of resources to help you reach your goals. Now that you know the basics, what’s next?

Want to see more options for business loans in Oregon? We can help you compare lenders and credit cards.

Just starting out? Check out our resources for startups.

Need more specialized information? Check out our small business loan recommendations for veterans, women, minorities, or individuals with bad credit.

What’s Next
    • Learn what you can write off as small business tax deductions
    • Business loan options that don’t require a credit check
    • A guide to consolidating business debt

The post The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Oregon Small Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Arizona Small Business Loans

Arizona is one of the fastest growing states in the nation; its warm, arid climate is a big attraction for people suffering from winter fatigue. That swelling population comes with some distinct advantages for entrepreneurs looking to start a business in the Grand Canyon State.

Of course, opening a business anywhere comes with challenges, many of which require money to circumvent. When that happens, you’ll want to know where you can turn to for a cash infusion.

We’ll take a look at some of the types of lending available to you in Arizona, as well as some specific lenders you may want to consider.

The Best Online Business Lenders For Arizona Businesses

If a local lender doesn’t immediately come to mind, you may want to consider an online lender. Most online lenders are willing and able to lend to Arizona-based businesses.

What are the advantages of working with an online lender? Generally speaking, online lenders are faster, have simpler application processes, and more flexible lending standards than traditional lenders. The tradeoff, of course, is they also tend to have higher rates and more concentrated repayment term lengths. That said, the best online lenders offer transparent terms and excellent customer service.

Arizona does have a maximum legal interest rate for loans, but these are easily circumvented with written contracts, so don’t necessarily count on state regulation to keep your rate under control. Note that regulations governing loans usually only apply specifically to loans and not to loan-like products like merchant cash advances.

Since there are tons of online lenders to sift through, here are some of our recommendations to get you started:

OnDeck

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One of the oldest and most mature online lenders, OnDeck offers short-term loans and lines of credit to businesses. They don’t necessarily have the lowest rates in the business, but their product lineup is versatile and transparent, so you should have few surprises.

BlueVine

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BlueVine is an interesting option for businesses that need a line of credit or who have unpaid invoices that they’d like to cash in a little early. Invoice factoring is not for everyone, but it is a way to infuse your business with cash without going into debt.

LoanBuilder

Review

Check Eligibility

PayPal’s LoanBuilder service is one of the faster and more transparent digital lenders, allowing you to tweak the terms of your loan somewhat to fit your needs. Their rates are also pretty decent, but as short-term loans, you’ll have to pay them back fairly quickly.

Fundbox

Review

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Businesses with credit issues can have a hard time finding funding, but lenders like Fundbox make it a little bit easier. Like BlueVine, they offer lines of credit and invoice factoring. They also offer a service similar to invoice factoring called Fundbox Pay, which allows sellers to receive money for their services right away.

While Fundbox doesn’t have any hard credit requirements, they do want to see that your business does at least $50K/year in revenue.

Fundera

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An alternative approach to finding an online lender is to use an aggregating service like Fundera. Fundera doesn’t originate their own loans. Instead, when you apply to them, they’ll attempt to pair you with one of their lending partners. The advantage for you is that you’ll effectively be applying to multiple lenders at once with a single application.

Arizona Banks & Credit Unions

As convenient as online lenders can be for small businesses, that’s usually not where you’ll find the best interest rates or terms. Traditional banks aren’t obsolete, they’re just a bit trickier to qualify for post-2008, especially if you don’t have stellar credit.

Typically, the easiest way to get a bank loan is to have a pre-existing relationship with the bank you plan to apply to. Having the requisite accounts in place, as well as a convenient, in-house record of your transactions, can smooth out some of the bumps you might encounter in the application process.

If you have a good relationship with your local bank or credit union, be sure to inquire about their business products. National banks with branches in Arizona include:

Chase Bank

America’s biggest bank has branches scattered through Arizona’s major population centers. Despite their size and market share, they’re still pretty traditional when it comes to business loans, so you’ll have to apply in person.

If you can meet their requirements and don’t mind dealing with an enormous lender, Chase offers some of the best business loan rates out there.

Borrower requirements:
• Must have excellent credit (high 600s)
• Must have access to a Chase Bank branch
Read our Chase Bank review

Bank Of America

Another bank with a big presence in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, Bank of America has very stringent lending standards. They do offer a more modernized application process than many of their competitors, however.

Line of credit borrower requirements:
• Must have been in business at least 2 years.
• Must have a personal credit score of 670 or above.
• Must have revenue > $200,000 for unsecured products, or greater than $250,00 for secured products.
Read our Bank of America review

 

US Bank

US Bank is one of the smaller of the big national banks, with a reputation for being a bit more personable and flexible. You’ll find them mainly around Phoenix and Tuscon.

Borrower requirements:
• Must be located in a state served by U.S. Bank
• Must have been in business for two years
Read our U.S. Bank review

 

Credit Unions

If you’re looking for the absolute best rates on loans, it’s hard to beat credit unions. As non-profit entities, credit unions can, at least in theory, provide lower rates than similar for-profit entities. On the other hand, be aware that even the biggest credit unions are nowhere near the size of even most mid-sized banks, so they can’t wield the advantages that come with scale.

Credit unions offering business loans are uncommon, but many offer personal loans that can be used for smaller business expenses.

Some of the more accessible credit unions in Arizona include:

  • Desert Financial Credit Union 
  • OneAZ Credit Union
  • Arizona Federal Credit Union
  • Vantage West Credit Union
  • TruWest Credit Union

Small Business Grants In Arizona

startup grants

Grants represent the holy grail of business financing: free money! Of course, as you can imagine, you won’t be the only one seeking it. Competition for grants is fierce and time-consuming; expect to make grant-seeking a part-time job if you choose to seek funding this way.

Grants tend to be targeted — to a specific industry, to a specific problem that needs to be solved, or to a specific demographic. They can be public or private in origin. Find a grant to apply for that fits the profile of your business and/or you as a business owner.

For some general advice on where to seek them, check out our grant feature.

Some Arizona-specific options you may want to consider include:

Arizona Step Grants

The AZSTEP program combines funds from the federal Small Business Administration with those of the Arizona Commerce Authority. These grants are designed to help small businesses enter the export market and increase their international sales.

Arizona Innovation Challenge

Held twice annually, the Arizona Innovation Challenge is a competition awarding applicants up to $150,000, with 10 awardees named each cycle. The grant is designed to help tech companies commercialize their products. An interesting note: you don’t actually have to live in Arizona to apply, you just have to be willing to relocate to Arizona within a 12-month timeframe.

Arizona Job Training Grants

Arizona’s Job Training Program can provide employers creating new jobs a grant that reimburses up to 75 percent of their eligible training expenses. Worth looking into if you’re expanding.

Resources For Startups In Arizona

Starting a business can be an anxiety-producing experience if you don’t have a network ready to support and advise you. Some organizations and programs that might be able to help you include:

  • Arizona Commerce Authority: A public-private economic development organization oriented around expanding Arizona businesses and recruiting new ones from out-of-state.
  • Arizona Small Business Association: A private organization that offering information and resources to the Arizona business community.
  • Small Business Administration: Though technically a federal agency, the SBA publishes state-specific information such as the Arizona edition of their Small Business Resource Guide.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

Even if your lender search feels desperate, remember that you still are their client, not the other way around. And that means they need to meet your requirements as well.

Need some help narrowing down lenders? Here are some factors to consider:

  • Your Industry: Some lenders specialize in lending to specific industry. Others can’t or won’t lend to certain industries. If they can’t write you a loan, cross them off your list.
  • Borrowing Amount: If you need $5,000, you’ll be looking at different lenders than if you need $5 million. Choose the right tool for the job.
  • Rates & Fees: How much is it going to cost you? Are the lender’s rates in line with the industry standard? Do they tell you what additional fees they charge, or do they hide them?
  • Time To Funding: Do you need the money right away or next quarter? Choose a lender that can work with your timetable.
  • Term Lengths: You’ll want to know how quickly you have to pay the money you’re borrowing back. Make sure you can afford the loan over the long-term.
  • The Type Of Expense Being Financed: Some financial products are limited in what they can be used for. Do you need a lump sum of cash? Or do you need a line of credit that you can draw upon periodically?
  • Collateral: Secured loans and lines of credit require some form of collateral, usually in the form of an asset, real estate, or cash deposit. If you don’t have collateral to put it, you’ll want to look at unsecured loans.

Final Thoughts

Companies seeking financing in Arizona have a wealth of options so long as they know where to look. And remember that just as important is finding a funding source that fits your needs and strategy.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Want to see more options? We can help you compare lenders and credit cards.

Just starting out? Check out our resources for startups.

Need more specialized information? Check out our small business loan recommendations for veterans, women, minorities, or individuals with bad credit.

What’s Next
    • Learn what you can write off as small business tax deductions
    • Business loan options that don’t require a credit check
    • A guide to consolidating business debt

The post Arizona Small Business Loans appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Step-By-Step Guide To Starting And Funding A Tutoring Business

The news cycle is full of hype about the “knowledge economy” but often light on details about how the average person can catch a piece of the tutoring action. Do you have a skill you’ve carefully honed over the years — or even one you have accidentally cultivated through repetition at your job? Don’t have state certification and six years of college handy? No worries; you don’t have to have an MA in education to be an effective teacher. One of the more accessible points of entry to a career in education is to teach those skills to other people via the increasingly lucrative tutoring industry.

Have you considered starting a tutoring business? Tutoring may be one of the easier avenues to make a little cash in the knowledge-selling economy, but expanding a part-time coaching gig to full-time, lucrative business can take a surprising amount of planning and resources. Not sure where to start? We’ll walk you through a step-by-step process for planning your tutoring business. We’ll also give you some ideas for where you can turn for funding when you need it.

Ready? Let’s go!

Pick A Tutoring Niche

Life is full of paradoxes, but one key part of thinking big is to narrow your focus. Creativity is as informed by limitation as it is by possibility.

As you would when starting any kind of business, think about where you can add value and what problems your skill set can solve. Are people in your area already doing what you’re planning to do? Is there an X-factor you could offer? A different spin on the familiar? Or is there a niche that’s unserved or under-served, particularly in your local area? For that matter, does your area have needs for specific skill sets?

Don’t have the skills or the local demand to create a flute tutoring business?

You can always fall back on subjects that are in high demand. Languages. Writing. Math. Science. And remember, each of these subjects can be broken down farther into sub-categories like algebra, chemistry, conversational Spanish, etc.

Another safe approach is to tutor students who are studying for standardized tests like the SATs, GREs, and LSATs or even trade certification tests like CompTIA A+ for IT technicians. The possibilities aren’t quite endless, but they are numerous.

Choose A Business Location

One of the great things about tutoring is that you can do it just about anywhere: at a dedicated business site, at a college library, at a coffee shop, at your home, or remotely over the internet.

Early on, your choice of location may not be critical–you can tailor your work environment to meet your own needs and the needs of your clients. Obviously, some of those options will disappear once your business gets large enough–your local coffee shop may or may not appreciate you using their space to run your business–so you’ll want to have a growth strategy in mind if you’re planning on turning your business into a tutoring empire down the road.

At the same time, you’ll want to avoid spending more on overhead than your business strategy requires. If you don’t need a brick and mortar space or a fancy interactive website right away, it may be best to hold off on those investments while you build your brand and reputation.

You’ll also want to consider the demographics of your clientele. Are they easily distracted teenagers who may have a hard time concentrating with a lot of background noise? Are they older adults who aren’t as tech-savvy as you are? Are they dependent on public transportation or parents to get to you? Does your subject matter require extra space for demonstrations? Are you working with clients with learning or physical disabilities? Are you going to need WiFi?

Keep all of these factors in mind when you’re considering a location for your tutoring business.

Create A Business Plan (If You’re Going Big)

If you’re going to be tutoring as a side gig, you can probably skip this part, but it’s not a bad exercise for anyone to try, even if they aren’t planning to incorporate anytime soon.

A business plan is simply a written, organized description of your planned business and business strategy. It’s your vision of how your business will develop, operate, and finance itself. It can also help show prospective financiers and grant-money sources that you’re organized and serious about your operation.

You can find a lot of guidance online about how to organize your business plan. Likewise, your local chamber of commerce and government economic development agencies (and similar organizations) often have resources you can tap.

A typical business plan includes the following:

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Market Overview
  • Sales & Marketing Strategy
  • Operating Plan
  • Organizations & Management Team
  • Financials

Calculate Starting Costs

Once you have a basic idea of how your business will operate, it’s time to calculate your starting costs. Does your subject require materials, teaching aids, or similar items? Are you renting a workspace? Are you paying employees or subcontractors? Shelling out for a web host? Purchasing hardware or software? Buying insurance?

Some of these costs may be trivial enough to finance out of pocket, while others may require additional effort. As a new business owner, finding funding can be especially challenging. Many traditional sources of funding, bank loans in particular, usually aren’t available to businesses that are newer than two years old.

Funding Options For Tutoring Businesses

So what do you do if you need money? Here are some options:

Personal Savings

Obvious? Maybe, but tapping your personal savings has distinct advantages over going into debt. You may be accessing your rainy funds, but you won’t be losing additional money on interest payments.

Of course, you are taking a risk using your own money to finance your business. If your business fails, you’ve effectively lost that money. For that reason, and as a general best practice, it’s a good idea to separate your business finances from your personal ones.

Tap Your Support Network

Another option, especially if you don’t have much in personal savings, is to ask friends and family for a loan. Unlike a private lender, your support system probably isn’t trying to make a profit off of you.

Keep in mind that this comes with its own risks. You may stress your relationships, especially if you aren’t able to pay back these so-called friendly loans quickly. One way to avoid this is to formalize any agreements you make with friends and family so that everyone fully understands what they’re getting into and what the expectations are. You may even want to draw up a formal contract that outlines any expected payments and return on investment.

Credit Cards

One of the easier–and riskier–ways to fund your startup expenses is with personal or business credit cards (you don’t actually have to own a business to get a business credit card). Credit cards offer a lot of flexibility and convenience when it comes to making purchases. Even better, many credit cards offer reward programs that can actually save judicious users money.

However, keep in mind that credit cards carry very high interest rates on any balances you carry from month to month. Most business credit cards — and all personal credit cards — offer a grace period of at least 21 days. Purchases that you pay off within that window do not accrue interest. This makes credit cards ideal for purchases you can pay off quickly, and problematic for ones that you can’t.

Note: Avoid taking out cash advances on your cards unless absolutely necessary. They come at a very high cost.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Cash

Chase Ink Business Cash



Apply Now

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.49% – 21.49%, Variable

Business credit cards often have aggressive rewards programs, but rarely will you find one that offers 5 percent cash back on qualified purchases. And since that includes office supplies, the card’s not a bad fit for tutoring.

There’s a $25,000 cap on the higher rates of return, but with no annual fee, it’s quite a bargain.

Recommended Option: Capital One Spark Classic

Capital One Spark Classic For Business


Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


24.74%, Variable

If you don’t qualify for the Chase Ink Business Cash, Capital One’s Spark Classic is an easy-to-qualify-for, no-frills cash back card that can help you save money on purchases while building up your credit.

You’re only getting 1 percent back on purchases, but it’s not a bad place to start if you’re coming off a year or two of hard luck.

Personal Loans

Traditional business loans may not be an option for new businesses, but you can often use personal loans to cover some of your startup expenses. Since you don’t have to worry about business-oriented qualifying factors like the amount of time you’ve been in business, these loans can be easier to get when you’re first starting out.

The downside is you won’t have the liability protection you’d theoretically have if you applied as a business. You may also be more limited in terms of the amount of money you can take out.

Still, if you need a little money to get started and don’t have funds on hand, it’s not a bad option.

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

lending club logo

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Lending Club is a good option for individuals who may not have the strongest credit, but have a good debt-to-income ratio. The borrowing range is fairly narrow at $1k to $40k, but when you’re just starting out you don’t want to go too deeply into debt anyway. You’ll have three-to-five years to pay it off, which makes it fairly manageable when you’re first starting out.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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If you’re just entering the alternative loan market for the first time, it can be pretty overwhelming. Lendio takes some of that burden off of you by allowing you to effectively apply to their whole network of lenders with one application.

Recommended Option: Upstart

upstart logo

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Another solid option for non-traditional borrowers is Upstart. So long as you have fair credit (620+), a stable source of income, and live in a state other than West Virginia or Iowa, there’s a pretty good chance Upstart will work with you.

Flexibility is the name of Upstart’s game. How so? They’ll use non-traditional means to get a picture of your credit worthiness and they’ll allow you to select between different payment schedules. And with three to five years to settle your loan, you won’t have to worry about paying it off right away.

Need more options? Check out our feature on startup loans.

Grants

Nothing’s better than “free” money, and grants might be the closest thing to that in the real world. Grants usually require a fairly involved application/writing process and, as you might expect, are often highly competitive. So while you may not have to worry about interest with grants, you do want to factor in the amount of time you have to spend trying to get a grant, especially considering there’s a high chance that you won’t be selected for the grant.

On the other hand, being awarded a grant comes with some prestige that you can then use in your marketing efforts. And it is “free” money, after all.

If you need some help figuring out where to look for grants, check out our feature on the topic.

ROBS

Not your neighbor-with-the-nice-car Rob, but Rollovers as Business Startups. If you haven’t heard of ROBS, don’t feel bad. They’re extremely niche products for entrepreneurs with retirement accounts like 401(k)s.

For a fee, a ROBS provider allows you to use money from your retirement account to pay for startup costs without incurring the tax penalty you normally would by tapping those funds early.

As is the case with personal savings, you are risking your own money.

ROBS will be overkill for most new tutoring businesses, but if your startup costs look like they’re going to pile up, keep them in mind.

Recommended Option: Guidant Financial

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If you’re in the market for a ROBS, it’s worth checking out Guidant Financial. If your retirement account has at least $40k in it, you can roll over up to 100 percent of your funds.

Register Your Business

blogging

This part is technically optional, but if you’re planning to build your tutoring business into more than an occasional source of freelance income, you should probably register your business.

If you do nothing at all, your business will default to a sole proprietorship (or a partnership, if you’re starting it with someone else). This essentially means that you’ve started a business with your own name. Sole proprietorships have the advantage of being cheap and easy to start. Your taxes will also be easier to file (and lower) than they would generally be with other forms of incorporation. Keep in mind, however, that for liability purposes, sole proprietorships and the individuals behind them are essentially one and the same. While it won’t separate your personal and business finances, you should consider filing a DBA (Doing Business As) with your local county clerk. This will allow you to legally operate your business under its own name (Uber Math Works as opposed to Barry Holgram, for example).

Other forms of incorporation will require a bit more work and come with their own advantages and disadvantages. This is where the business plan we talked about earlier will come in handy, because you’ll need one if you’re going to incorporate. Keep in mind that incorporation comes with costs and additional responsibilities, so make sure you’re at the point where it makes sense for your business.

Here are the most popular ways to incorporate:

  • Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs): If you’ve seen LLC after a corporation’s name, you’re dealing with this type of company. LLCs offer limited liability protection for their owners without the full complexity of a corporation. Each state has its own rules for how to start and maintain an LLC, and you don’t necessarily have to register your LLC in the state where you’re doing business (although you’ll generally want to). LLC owners report their business earnings and losses on their personal taxes.
  • C-Corp: This is the “basic,” default form of incorporation. Shareholders are considered the owner(s) of the company and receive limited liability protection; however, the business decisions are made by corporate officers who may or may not be shareholders. The corporation is taxed separately and shareholders pay income tax on dividends. To form a C-corp, you’ll file articles of incorporation with your state.
  • S-Corp: S-corps are similar to C-corps in most ways, but come with a few additional restrictions: you have to have fewer than 100 shareholders and they have to all be U.S. citizens or residents. Unlike C-corps, profits and losses are reported on personal taxes, not unlike an LLC. In addition to filing articles of incorporation, you’ll also need to file IRS Form 2553.

Separate Personal And Business Finances

Even if you’re going to run your tutoring business as a sole proprietorship, you should take steps to separate your business finances from your personal ones. A separate business checking and/or savings account can save you a ton of headache when it’s time to pay your taxes. And even for your own edification, it will make your profits and losses much easier to track.

Choose An Hourly Rate

Get your merchant funds fast. Image description: Clock with money underneath it

Figuring out how much to charge for your tutoring services can be one of the more challenging parts of getting your business up and running.

A good place to start is to do some research on the prevailing rate for similar services in your area and then figure out a strategy for your business. Are you going to try to undersell the competition? Charge more but offer something your competitors don’t? You can glean this information often from your competitors’ websites or by checking out third-party sites that do regional salary comparisons for different industries. You may also want to speak to local colleges and schools about how they handle independent tutors.

It sounds obvious, but you don’t want to charge so little that you’re breaking even, or even losing money, on your gig. Take into account the transportation costs of meeting your clients, any money you’re spending on coffee, etc. And be sure to deduct those expenses when it comes time to pay your self-employment taxes!

Bolster Your Web Presence

Word of mouth can still go a long way in the tutoring business, but these days there’s really no way to avoid the necessity of building a strong digital presence.

It never hurts to have a sleek, attractive website. Indeed, it can make your operation look professional as well as help build hype for your services. Luckily there are user-friendly and cost-effective ways to build a website.

That said, a website is not the only way to use the internet to build up your tutoring business.

Remember that the web is, itself, a medium for instruction and tutoring. You may want to consider offering some freebies on YouTube, for example, to build up your reputation. In addition, free services can function as advertisements for your paid services. Just make sure you don’t make your paid services extraneous.

Social media strategy is too complex to go into in great depth here, but making posts that are fun to read and interact with is a good place to start.

Advertise Your Business

In addition to what we covered above in web presence, you’ll also want to get your name out there in other ways. If you’re just starting out, you’re probably not looking at expensive media buys on TV, radio, or even your local newspaper.

Let your network know what you’re up to so they can spread the word about your new tutoring. Make a Facebook page. Get yourself a Twitter account. Offer free consultations with curious parties. Even cheap, low-tech solution like flyers with tear-off tags can be powerful if you post them in the right places.

Final Thoughts

Does helping someone grow and learn while earning money sound like a dream job? Tutoring can be one of the more rewarding and flexible businesses you can get into. But while the demand for expertise is often high, you’ll still want to approach the industry with a strategic mindset. Take your time, narrow down your niche, and build your reputation and tutoring can turn into so much more than just a side gig.

The post The Step-By-Step Guide To Starting And Funding A Tutoring Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Small Business Grants: Resources For Free Money

small business grants

From business loans to credit cards, it’s assumed that funding a growing small business necessarily involves taking on debt. No pain, no gain, right? Well, in the event that your business doesn’t turn a profit, you’ll be taking on the pain without seeing any resulting gain. Wouldn’t it be nice if there existed a way to fund your small business that relied on your capabilities, not on your willingness to go into debt?

As it happens, there is one way to get funding that doesn’t rely on your willingness to take on debt: small business grants.

What Are Small Business Grants?

A small business grant is a sum of money — issued either by a government agency or a private organization — awarded to a growing business. While it’s tempting to think of a grant as “free money,” that doesn’t quite capture the essence of a small business grant. For one thing, when a business receives money in the form of a grant, that money always comes with strings attached. The terms of a grant are usually quite specific about how the money can be used. It isn’t like getting a loan, where you get to decide exactly how to invest your funds.

Additionally, getting approved for a grant will likely involve lots of work on your part. Grants are difficult to qualify for and applying for them involves lots of jumping through hoops. Since time is money, grants aren’t exactly free of cost. Then again, these “costs” aren’t going to imperil your credit score!

Small Business Grant Pros & Cons

Grant Pros Grant Cons
“Free” money Long application process
Can lend prestige to your small business Funds must be used in the manner specified by the grant

Getting one grant makes it more likely you’ll get others

Most applicants for a grant won’t get it
Grant information is always publicly available Business grants are not always renewed from year to year

The nice thing about receiving a grant is that, because grants are generally awarded based on a company’s contribution to the public good, they come with a certain degree of prestige. In turn, getting one grant will make your business more attractive to other grant issuers.

Of course, when you pursue grants, you need to be aware of the harsh realities. The vast majority of grant proposals are not accepted, and even if you are ultimately successful, the application process can be rigorous and time-consuming. What’s more, the money will likely be earmarked for a certain purpose. You can’t treat the money received via a grant like any other funding — you must use the money exactly as specified (or exactly as you laid out in your grant application).

The downsides of business grants don’t hold a candle to the downsides attached to other forms of business financing, however, so don’t let these challenges discourage you!

How To Find Business Grants

Business grants can be found by checking the online offerings of every level of government (federal, state, local) and by seeking out directories of private grants that allow you to search for a program that fits your mission and your business.

When searching for grant programs, narrow your search to those that pertain specifically to your business type. Since grants are often meant to incentivize social responsibility, certain businesses will be more likely to find a grant than others. A company working on a new type of water filtration system stands a better chance of scoring a grant than a vape juice maker, for example. Likewise, certain grants may be aimed at specific segments of the population. An organization might award grants specifically for women-owned businesses or veteran-owned businesses.

What To Do Before Applying For A Grant

  1. Define your exact funding need: be ready to define the precise objectives a grant would help you meet.
  2. Create a detailed business plan.
  3. Gather and assemble all the business records you can from at least the last three years.
  4. Have your plan and records reviewed by experts, whether they be SCORE mentors or others with experience in guiding business owners through the grant-hunting process.
  5. Consider hiring a professional grant writer if you can.

8 Places To Look For Small Business Grants

startup grants

Grants.gov

Grants.gov is the place you should go if you want to search every grant program administered by the federal government. There are 26 grant-making agencies in the federal government, and although the website feels clunky and dated, you’ll at least get to search for the sort of grant program that your particular business could qualify for.

I should warn you, however, that most of the grants offered by the federal government are medical research grants, and these are typically awarded to nonprofit organizations and, in some instances, local and state governments. This blog post from the Small Business Administration details the limited instances in which private businesses may be eligible for a grant from the federal government.

Your State & Local Governments

This may actually be a better place to start your grant search than the federal grant database. That’s because grant programs initiated by your state government — or perhaps your city government — stand a better chance of aligning with your business mission than a federal grant program.

Check out your local Chamber of Commerce for grant opportunities as well as any city, county, and state websites that might have information about grant programs. Depending on where you live, selection may be limited, but you may well find a grant program that aligns with your mission. Most of these programs only accept grant applications at certain times of the year, so it pays to be vigilant and check the relevant websites frequently.

National Association For The Self-Employed

If a smaller grant for your small business is worth pursuing, the NASE provides grants and educational resources for small businesses owners. Through their Growth Grants Program, grants of up to $4,000 are awarded to small business for specific purposes, such as hiring employees.

To apply for a grant, you’ll first have to join the NASE. You’ll then need to detail exactly how you’ll use the funds and how the funds will fit into your overall business plan.

Along with grants, the NASE offers the following services to small business owners:

  • 24/7 expert advice
  • UPS discounts up to 32%
  • $10K included term life insurance
  • Medical emergency help
  • Office Depot discounts
  • LifeLock ID theft protection

FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest is a nationally prominent grant contest that has, since its inception in 2013, awarded over $500,000 in grant money to small businesses. Qualifying entities must be for-profit U.S.-based businesses with fewer than 99 employees and at least 6 months of time in business.

The contest is held annually, with applications typically accepted starting in late February. Keep a watch on FedEx’s website to find out when you can apply. Here is a closer look at the winners of the 2018 Grant Contest.

USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program

An endeavor of the United States Department of Agriculture, this grant program offers grants of between $10,000 to $500,000 to rural small businesses. If your business has fewer than 50 employees, takes in less than $1 million in annual revenue, and is located in a rural part of the US, it is eligible to apply.

Rural small business owners looking to apply should do so through their USDA Rural Development state office.

Amber Grant Program

The Amber Grant program is a grant set up by WomensNet to support female-owned small businesses. This is how it works: the program awards $1,000 to a woman-owned business every month. At the end of the year, one of the 12 monthly grant winners wins another grant for $10,000. All female entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Canada are eligible to compete, and there are no restrictions on the type of business eligible to receive a grant.

The program accepts applications year-round, and unlike some other grant programs, the Amber Grant program makes applying as easy as possible. According to WomensNet:

Applying for the Amber Grant is easy. Don’t try to “sound corporate.” Past grant winners are women who have simply shared from the heart. Our judges are looking for passion as well as business smarts.

Visa Everywhere Initiative

The Visa Everywhere Initiative is a multi-national grant program offering grants to companies meeting the following description:

When evaluating submissions for VEI, we look for startups that have ideas relevant to Visa’s business, a product in market, traction with early customers, and early funding from external investors.

Submissions for the 2018 program were accepted from March 19th until April 23rd, so if you’d like to submit your proposal for the coming year, keep an eye on the VEI website around that time of year and look for information on how to apply.

StreetShares Foundation Veteran Small Business Award

StreetShares is an online lender specializing in lending to veterans and veteran-owned businesses. The lender also has a grant program called the StreetShares Foundation Veteran Small Business Award. The program is open to any military veteran, reserve or active duty member of the Armed Forces, or a qualifying spouse.

The StreetShares Foundation is currently accepting applications for the upcoming cycle of the Veteran Small Business Award, so if you’re interested, apply now. StreetShares gives out three grants at the end of each contest. 1st place gets $15,000, 2nd place gets $6,000, and 3rd place gets $4,000.

Don’t Qualify? The Best Alternatives To Small Business Grants

Grants are awesome because you don’t have to pay them back. Naturally, this makes them popular, but it also means the vast majority of grant applicants are rejected. If you’re not successful in securing a grant, don’t despair! You’re in good company. Of course, you’ll still need funding to launch and grow your business. Two of the primary ways entrepreneurs launch and build their small businesses are personal loans and lines of credit. Here are some of the top lenders in each field, vetted by the fine folks at Merchant Maverick.

Personal Lenders For Business

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Interest Rate Min. Credit Score Next Steps

$2K – $25K 2 – 4 years 15.49% to 30% 600 Apply Now

$1K – $50K 3 or 5 years 8.16% – 27.99% 620 Apply Now

$2K – $35K 3 or 5 years 6.95% – 35.99% APR 640 Apply Now

lending club logo

$1K – $40K 3 or 5 years 5.32% – 30.99% 640 Check Rate

Lenders That Specialize In Lines Of Credit

Lender Borrowing Amount Draw Term Draw Fee APR Next Steps

$6K – $100K 6 months None Starts at 13.99% Apply Now

$2K – $5M Varies Varies Varies Apply Now

$5K – $5M 6 months 1.50% per draw 21% – 65% Apply Now

$1K – $100K 12 weeks None 12% – 54% Apply Now

Final Thoughts

Great business ideas can come from absolutely anybody. Unfortunately, startup capital is not so equitably distributed. Grant programs can help small business owners — particularly those who make an identifiable contribution to the grant-giving organization’s conception of the public good — with much-needed cash. Just be persistent, be undaunted by rejection letters, and be prepared to accept the strings that come attached to grant money should you be successful.

The post Small Business Grants: Resources For Free Money appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Business Grants For Minorities

business grants for minorities

Modern American capitalism is an ironic tableau of cruel contradictions. While cheap consumer goods are more accessible than ever and the price of large high-resolution TVs keeps going down, the things actually required for human beings to live and thrive — housing, health care, education, retirement security, etc — become ever less accessible to the exploited, over-policed masses by the day. This reality has all the more salience to minority groups whose access to these necessities was precarious at best to begin with.

Startup capital is another resource that has been made scarce to marginalized communities. 10 years after the financial crisis of 2008, banks still aren’t lending to those who could do the most good with the cash (never mind that all of us, both marginalized and privileged, were made to bail out these same banks after they ruined the world). For most minority small business owners, the prospect of getting free money to cover business expenses is going to sound rather far-fetched.

That’s where business grants come in. Small business grants are not easy to obtain, but they do exist and can be an invaluable source of funding for those who obtain them. We decided to compile a list of the best grants and grant-related resources for minority-owned businesses.

But first, here’s more information on getting funding for your small business:

  • Do I Qualify For A Startup Grant?
  • How To Find A Startup Grant
  • The Best Business Grants For Women
  • The Best Small Business Loans For Minorities With Bad Credit

Minority Business Development Agency

An agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the purpose of the Minority Business Development Agency, or MBDA, is to help connect minority business owners to federal contracts and other financial resources. The agency also periodically awards grants to minority-owned companies for specific purposes. In November, the federal government announced that the MBDA had awarded over $13 million in grants to 35 projects across the country.

From helping you find grants and loans to providing marketing and legal assistance, the MBDA’s physical business centers are set up to provide a range of assistance to minority business owners and entrepreneurs. Here’s a searchable directory of these MBDA business centers.

Grants.gov

Grants.gov doesn’t originate grants; rather, it’s a searchable database of every grant program from across all 26 grant-making agencies of the federal government. It’s a valuable resource, though the website is pretty clunky.

In order to apply for federal grants, you must do the following:

  • Get a DUNS number from Dun & Bradstreet
  • Register to do business with the federal government through its System Award Management website
  • Create an account at Grants.gov

National Association for the Self-Employed

The NASE is a nonprofit trade association that gives grants and provides educational resources for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Their Growth Grants Program lets small business owners apply for grant financing for a particular small business need.

These grants are worth up to $4,000 each, so while you won’t hit the funding motherlode with the NASE, it’s a great resource for minority business owners with a specific, defined funding need. You’ll need to join the NASE to apply for a grant, and you’ll need to explain in detail how you’ll use the funds and how this funding will bolster your business operations.

FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest is a nationwide competition held annually to award grants in the form of cash and prizes (such as credits for FedEx services) to small business owners and entrepreneurs. The amount awarded to contest winners and the number of grant recipients varies year-to-year. The details of the 2019 competition have yet to be unveiled, but these specifics will be unveiled when the 2019 competition is announced early in the new year.

For reference, here is a series of features on the winners of the 2018 Grant Contest winners.

Dare To Dream Grant Program

The Eugene Applebaum Dare to Dream grant program is a prominent program based at the University of Michigan offering business development seminars and $500-$5,000 in grants to individuals and/or student teams. Prospective entrepreneurs in the upper midwest, take note!

USDA Rural Business Development Grant

For minorities in rural areas, this grant, issued by the United States Department of Agriculture, is an attractive prospect. In the words of the USDA:

This program is a competitive grant designed to support targeted technical assistance, training and other activities leading to the development or expansion of small and emerging private businesses in rural areas which will employ 50 or fewer new employees and has less than $1 million in gross revenue.

Program applications vary by state, so you’ll need to find the specifics of what’s on offer in your state through the USDA’s RBDG website.

Native American Business Development Institute (NABDI) Grant

This grant program is funded by the U.S. Department of Indian Affairs and is intended to support Native American and Alaskan Native business owners. Currently, they don’t have a great deal of information posted on the grants being offered, but you can always contact the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development to learn how the program stands to benefit your business.

Office of Minority Health Grant Programs

A division of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Minority Health (OMH) offers grants to businesses whose mission is to eliminate health disparities among racial and ethnic minority populations. Keep an eye on the OMH website to learn about grant opportunities when they are announced.

How To Find & Apply For Small Business Grants For Minorities

startup grants

Finding the right grant program, applying for it, and actually getting the grant in question can be a daunting prospect. That’s why it may be a good idea to simultaneously look for alternate sources of funding, such as personal loans or lines of credit. We recommend the following reputable funder to minorities who are looking for business financing:

Personal Lenders For Business

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Interest Rate Min. Credit Score Next Steps

$2K – $25K 2 – 4 years 15.49% to 30% 600 Apply Now

$1K – $50K 3 or 5 years 8.16% – 27.99% 620 Apply Now

$2K – $35K 3 or 5 years 6.95% – 35.99% APR 640 Apply Now

lending club logo

$1K – $40K 3 or 5 years 5.32% – 30.99% 640 Check Rate

Lenders That Specialize In Lines Of Credit

Lender Borrowing Amount Draw Term Draw Fee APR Next Steps

$6K – $100K 6 months None Starts at 13.99% Apply Now

$2K – $5M Varies Varies Varies Apply Now

$5K – $5M 6 months 1.50% per draw 21% – 65% Apply Now

$1K – $100K 12 weeks None 12% – 54% Apply Now

Remember that unlike with loans and the like, the money that comes with grant programs has strings attached. It must be used in precisely the way specified by the grant giver. That’s why it pays to know the details of the grant you’re applying for, as there’s no reason to apply for grants that would disburse money for a funding need you don’t even have.

I should reiterate that in order to qualify for any federal grants, you need to register at sam.gov. Unfortunately, the registration process isn’t as straightforward as it should be, as the government agencies in question seem to be in the middle of shifting their small business assistance materials between agencies and websites. As things stand, sam.gov lays out the steps required to register your small business here.

One organization that can get you pointed in the right direction in your quest for business funding is SCORE. It’s a partner of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and provides mentoring services to small business owners and entrepreneurs from over 300 chapters across the country. They also provide online webinars and business courses.

What To Do Before Applying For A Grant

  • Define your exact funding need: be ready to define the precise objectives a grant would help you meet
  • Create a detailed business plan
  • Gather and assemble all the business records you can from at least the last three years
  • Have your plan and records reviewed by experts, whether they be SCORE mentors or others with experience in guiding business owners through the grant-hunting process
  • For a large grant, consider hiring a professional grant writer if you can

Final Thoughts

Entrepreneurial talent can be found in every community across this land. Sadly, social and structural barriers to equality persist. Small business grants are but one means by which minority small business owners can get some ever-elusive funding. For other such means, check out our article on the various types of alternative financing available for small businesses, or look into one or more of the alternative funders below:

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Interest/Factor Rate Req. Time in Business Min. Credit Score Next Steps

$5K – $500K 13 – 52 weeks x1.029 – x1.1872 9 months 550 Apply Now

$5K – $300K 6, 9, 12, 15, or 18 months x1.15 – x1.31 1 year 600 Apply Now

$5K – $500K 3 – 36 months x1.003 – x1.04/mo 12 months 500 Apply Now

$2K – $5M Varies As low as 2% 6 months 550 Apply Now

The post The Best Business Grants For Minorities appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Find A Startup Grant

business grants

Startups are inherently risky endeavors. According to Fortune Magazine, close to 60% of new startups fail. Because new businesses are so risky, it is notoriously difficult to obtain startup financing — most banks won’t lend to you unless you’ve been in business at least two years. While some online lenders offer startup loans, startup grants are another option for new business financing. A startup grant is even harder to get than a startup loan, but grants are more desirable because you don’t have to pay the money back.

Want a shot at a startup grant? Follow these steps to find a business grant you might qualify for.

1. Determine Whether You’re Grant-Worthy

Generally, only certain types of businesses qualify for startup grants. If your biz doesn’t fall into one of these categories, it’s unlikely you’ll qualify. For example, while there may be grant money for an innovative hardware manufacturer, when it comes to a run-of-the-mill hardware store…eh, not so much. Then again, if you face the significant hurdles of having a female-owned hardware store opening up shop in an economically distressed region, it’s a lot more likely that a private or public entity might want to give you some free money.

Read my post Do I Qualify For A Startup Grant? to determine if your business falls into one of the industries likely to qualify for startup grant funds. If not, you might want to start considering other alternative financing options, such as crowdfunding.

2. Start Local

City and township governments, business associations, and nonprofits in your immediate region are good places to start looking for grants. Even if you determine that your business doesn’t fit into one of the “grant-worthy” categories I mentioned above, you might be eligible for a grant if you’re starting a business in a certain city or region. For example, the Arch Grants organization awards grants to new businesses in the St. Louis area. There are not too many of these sorts of grants, but it’s always worth checking.

Be sure to scan city, county, and state websites for grant opportunities, as well as your local Chamber of Commerce. If you’re willing to relocate, you can also check local business grant opportunities in the city or cities you’d consider moving to.

3. Search Your Niche

If you can’t find any grant opportunities for businesses in your area, you can search grants by niche; that is, by your particular industry or business type. Your startup may fall into multiple niches — for example, your business may be veteran-owned and also a clean-energy business. Simply searching a phrase like “business grants for green construction” or “grants for home daycare” may deliver results tailored to your specific business niche.

Sometimes grants are for a particular niche and also a particular region. A couple examples of niche business grants include the Halstead Grant for new silver jewelry designers living anywhere in the US, and the Green Technology Business Grant Program for green technology startups in Cleveland, Ohio.

4. Go Corporate

Several large corporations offer business grants or host some kind of small business contest where the best businesses can win free money. These grant programs are highly publicized and thus highly competitive, but they might be worth looking into. FedEx, Miller Lite, and Visa are a few corporations that award business grants; Miller Lite’s grant contest is especially aimed at startups.

Even some popular business lenders offer business grant contests. Veteran-owned businesses, for example, should look into StreetShares‘ annual business contest for veterans.

5. Look At A Federal Level

Small businesses can potentially find grants they are eligible for on Grants.gov, the one-stop-shop for government grants. However, you should know that the vast majority of these are medical research grants. Also, even if you’re eligible for one of these prized federal grants, you’ll likely be competing with nonprofit organizations, and even city and state governments. The reason I listed federal grants last is that there are few, if any, federal grants a typical startup business would be eligible for.

However, at least a couple federal grants are aimed at innovative small businesses, and these are Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants for high-tech businesses involved in scientific research & development. The InnovateHER grant contest is for businesses that benefit women and children.

This blog post on the SBA website explains a little more about US government grants and how most are not really aimed at for-profit businesses. If you want some government help in funding your small business, you might want to look into a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. These loans are low-interest and relatively easy to apply for if you use an online SBA lender like SmartBiz.

Final Considerations

Once you find a list of startup grants you’re eligible for, the next step is to start preparing your grant application package. The application process is slightly different for each type of grant, but usually you will have to submit a business plan and Request for Proposal (RFP). For a large grant, you might even consider hiring a professional grant writer, though this probably wouldn’t be feasible or necessary for a grant contest where you only stand to win $2,000-$5,000, even after beating out thousands of other applicants.

The last thing I’d recommend to anyone searching for startup grants is to review startup grant alternatives, such as small business loans or alternative business financing options like P2P loans or equipment financing. If you have any questions about startup loans or alternative business financing, feel free to email us or ask in the comments!

The post How To Find A Startup Grant appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Business Grants For Women

business grants for women

Do an online search for “business grants for women” and a slew of articles will come up. But when you click to read the articles, you’ll find that there is scant, if any, information on actual grants. Often, when you do find the name of a specific grant for female-led businesses, like the “Huggies Mom Inspired” grant, there will be no link to apply, because the program has been discontinued. Most of these articles will also toss you a link to Grants.gov — which does not offer any grant expressly for women-owned businesses.

The truth is that while there is a lot of demand for business grants, i.e., free money to help start or continue your business, there are hardly any such programs in existence. While both government and private grants do exist, most of that money goes to not-for-profit organizations, and the majority of these programs do not give preferential treatment to female applicants.

However, there are a select few grants offered specifically to female owners of for-profit businesses. This article includes real grants for women entrepreneurs only. Meaning, there will be an actual link to apply in most cases. Woohoo! Hopefully, this will save you some time scouring the web. I could only find a handful of legit, worthwhile business grant opportunities for women, but if you know of any others, feel free to mention them in the comments!

1. Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant

About

Eileen Fisher is a socially conscious clothing brand that emphasizes sustainability. The clothing brand offers a yearly grant to women-owned businesses, particularly those that focus on using their businesses to bring about environmental and/or social change. Each year, Eileen Fisher awards Women-Owned Business Grants totaling $100,000 to up to 10 recipients, with a minimum grant amount of $10,000. Additionally, grantees are invited to New York City in the spring following their reward for two days of business collaboration with Eileen Fisher.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for an Eileen Fisher grant, businesses must meet the following criteria:

  • At least 51% woman-owned
  • Have been in business at least 3 years
  • Revenues not exceeding $1 million
  • Business founded on principal of creating social and environmental change

Franchises, startups, and past award winners are not eligible to receive the grant.

How To Apply

Visit the Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant website to find more information about the grant and apply.

 

Visit the Eileen Fisher website

 

2. Amber Grants

About

Amber Grants began in 1998. After a young woman named Amber died before being able to fulfill her entrepreneurial dreams, WomensNet started offering grants for women in Amber’s name. These are smaller grants, but they are very accessible and easy to apply for. Amber Grants awards $500 to a woman-owned business every month, and at the end of the year, one of the 12 monthly qualification winners wins another grant for $2,500.

Eligibility Criteria

Amber Grants do not have any particular qualification criteria, other than that recipients must be female entrepreneurs (age 18 and up) living in the United States or Canada. Amber Grants are open to any type of business.

How To Apply

Simply fill out the application template on the Amber Grant Application Page and pay a nominal $7 fee. Amber Grants recommends that rather than trying to “sound professional” in your application, you focus on conveying the passion you have for your business.

Amber Grants receive between 200 and 600 applicants every month. Visit the website for information about application deadlines.

 

Visit the Amber Grant website

 

3. Cartier Women’s Initiative

About

The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, a joint partnership created in 2006 by Cartier, McKinsey & Company, and INSEAD business school, awards annual grants to support projects by women entrepreneurs. This is one of the largest and most prestigious business grants for women, but the competition is steep. The first-place prize in this international business competition is $100,000; second place comes with a $30,000 prize.

Eligibility Criteria

Women entrepreneurs in the initial stages of development (2-3 years old), in any country, of any nationality, and operating in any industry can apply for this grant. The business must have an original concept and the business must have a for-profit model.

You can download the official Cartier Women’s Initiative rules of participation for more details.

How To Apply

When applications are open (which is only during certain times of year), you will be able to apply using the online Cartier Women’s Initiative application form.

From the Cartier Women’s Initiative website:

The call for applications for the 2018 edition of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards is now closed. The call for applications for the 2019 edition of the competition will open in May 2018.

Before applying, be sure to read up on the grant application process. In addition to filling out the application form, you’ll need to supply supporting documentation including your resume, scanned copy of your business registration, proof of patent (if applicable), and detailed financials. Optionally, you can also include three additional attachments, such as your logo, images of your product, press articles, etc.

 

Visit the Cartier Women’s Initiative website

 

4. Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program

About

Fashion designer and philanthropist Tory Burch created the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 to help empower female entrepreneurs. The Foundation has been quite successful in this goal, and today runs one of the most preeminent business grant competitions.

Each year, up to 10 finalists of this grant competition receive a $10,000 grant for business education, a 1-year Tory Burch Fellowship, and a 3-day business workshop at Tory Burch Headquarters in NYC. Note that the $10,000 grant cannot be used for purposes other than business education. Fellows will also participate in a Shark Tank-style pitch competition before a panel of judges to choose one winner of a $100,000 award, of which 50% is a grant and 50% is a “recoverable grant” (fancy way of saying 0%-interest loan).

Eligibility Requirements

Applicants to this business grant must be female business owners who meet the following criteria:

  • Own a majority stake in for-profit business, from any industry, in early-stage growth (minimum of 1 year and no more than 5 years of operations), generating minimum revenues of $25,000 and maximum revenues of $500,000 per year
  • Manage said business on a day-to-day basis
  • 21 years or older as of the application due date
  • Legal resident of the United States
  • Proficient in English

Read more about Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Grant eligibility.

How To Apply

Here is the application page for the Tory Burch grant. The application period is pretty short — it opens in early fall and closes in November. But that’s okay; in the meantime, you can download the application help guide to start perfecting your business plan and application essay so you will be ready to go when the next round of application opens.

 

Visit the Tory Burch Foundation website

 

5. Girlboss Foundation

About

Launched in 2014, The Girlboss Foundation funds female entrepreneurs pursuing creative endeavors. Specifically, these grants are for women in the fields of art, fashion, design, and music. Every six months, one grant beneficiary receives $15,000 to be used for a creative project within the following 12 months, in addition to online media exposure.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible, Girlboss applicants must be US-based female creative business owners who are 18 or older. Note that the Girlboss Foundation only awards grants to individuals; GB can award the grant to an individual representing a business, but not to a business as an entity.

How To Apply

Fill out the online Girlboss Foundation grant application. First, however, read the information on the selection process so you’ll get a better idea of what to include and how you’ll be judged.

 

Visit the Girlboss website

 

6. Women Founders Network Fast Pitch Competition

About

The WFN is an organization that provides both capital and mentorship to women business owners. The organization’s Fast Pitch competition awards $20,000 in free grant money to a female-led business each year; runners-up receive $7,500, $5,000, and $2,500 respectively. If you make the top 10 finalists, you’ll pitch your business at a live in-person event in Los Angeles.

Eligibility Criteria

These are the criteria for this women’s business grant competition, from the WFN website:

  • Founder/CEO must be a woman or business must be majority-owned by women.
  • Must attend in-person to present in Los Angeles at the Fast Pitch Event.
  • Business must be past the idea stage (revenue preferred)
  • Must have raised no more than $1M in outside funding, excluding research grants.
  • Seeking early stage businesses based in USA with high-growth potential.

How To Apply

You can apply for this grant on the Women Founders Network Fast Pitch website as of May 1, 2018. The next round of applications will be accepted from May 1 – June 10, 2018.

WFN has posted grant application guidelines with detailed information about the contest and tips for applying, but note that these guidelines are for the 2017 contest.

 

Visit the WFN website

 

7. InnovateHER Challenge

About

The InnovateHER Challenge, est. 2015 under the Obama administration, is a national women’s business grant contest hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership. Each year since 2015, InnovateHER has given out three grants to especially worthy women-owned businesses, including a first-place prize of $40,000, a second-place prize of $20,000, and a third-place prize of $10,000. InnovateHER is the only federal grant money earmarked specifically for women-related businesses.

To arrive at the top 10 finalists for this nationwide competition, organizations such as universities and economic development associations run their own local competitions throughout the year. Then, from all of the local winners, 10 national finalists are chosen to pitch their businesses to an expert panel in Washington D.C.

Eligibility Requirements

This contest is for innovative entrepreneurs whose products and services create a measurable impact on the lives of women and families. These business solutions must also “have the potential for commercialization, and fill a need in the marketplace.”

Further eligibility requirements from last year’s InnovateHer Challenge page are as follows:

  • Citizens or permanent residents of the United States who are at least eighteen (18) years of age at the time of their submission of an entry (or teams of such individuals)
  • Private entities, such as corporations or other organizations, that are incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States. Individuals submitting on behalf of corporations, nonprofits, or groups of individuals (such as an academic class or another team) must meet the eligibility requirements for individual contestants. An individual may belong to more than one team submitting an entry in this Challenge.

Note that the rules don’t say this grant is only for women (even though it’s all about solutions that improve women’s lives). However, all of the past grant winners and finalists have been women, so perhaps this is an unspoken rule.

How To Apply

I assume that once the competition opens for 2018, there will be information about how to apply to any local InnovateHer competitions posted on the official InnovateHer Challenge website.

As of February 2018, this website had no information on the 2018 InnovateHER competition, despite the fact that if things were to follow the same schedule as last year’s and the previous years’ competitions, the contest would have kicked off this past December. I emailed the SBA Office of Women’s Business Ownership about this and they told me that they will get back to me as soon as they have any information regarding the 2018 InnovateHer Challenge; I’ll update this post if/when I hear back from them.

 

Visit the InnovateHER website

 

Runner-Up: Halstead Grant

About

Halstead Grants are given to new jewelry designers who work primarily in silver. While this grant is not strictly for women, I’m including it as a runner-up, as the jewelry industry is mostly female-dominated, and most (but not all) of the past winners of this grant have been women. Plus, there is an actual link to apply for the grant. Score!

The grant consists of $7,500 in start-up capital and $1,000 in Halstead merchandise. Finalists receive $500 cash for Top 5 placement, or $250 for Top 10 placement.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Applicant must have opened business within the past three years.
  • Applicant must be pursuing jewelry design as a full-time career, not as a hobby or part-time job.
  • Applicant must be a US citizen.

How To Apply

Download and fill out the Halstead Grant Application. As part of the application, you must submit a jewelry collection along with answers to 15 questions that form the basis of a business plan.

 

Visit the Halstead Grant website

 

Final Thoughts

Grants represent a viable form of free funding for select, exceptionally talented women business owners. If you can present an especially impressive application, essay, business plan, and in some cases an in-person pitch, you might come away with some free cash to help bring your entrepreneurial dreams to fruition. However, such grants are extremely competitive, and in most cases even if you win a prized spot, you won’t receive a large amount of capital. There are some select grants available to small businesses in general, including grants for startup businesses, but these grant programs are similarly competitive. Generally, there just isn’t a lot of grant money to be had for for-profit businesses.

More attainable small businesses funding options for women include online loans, personal loans, or even alternative financing options such as crowdfunding. If you’re a female entrepreneur reading this article, I strongly recommend you also check out my article on the best loans for women. For more guidance on how to get financing for your women-owned business, feel free to contact us!

The post The Best Business Grants For Women appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Do I Qualify For A Startup Grant?

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startup grants

Free money to start your business – isn’t that every entrepreneur’s wildest dream? It’s too bad that startup grants are so hard to come by. You can think of business grants sort of like scholarships for adults. Just as with a scholarship, you have to convince the grant-issuer that a) you will put the funds to really good use and b) you are more deserving of the money than other applicants.

There are many types of business grants offered by myriad organizations, both public and private. As you might figure, there are different eligibility requirements for different grants. In general, though, only certain types of businesses are eligible for grants. These include businesses belonging to economically disadvantaged demographics such as Native American Indian tribe members, single mothers, and veterans returning to civilian life. There are also grants for innovative businesses breaking new frontiers that benefit society  – think tech startups, doctors, and scientists.

In this post, I’ll talk about the types of businesses that might qualify for a startup grant, and give a few examples of organizations that offer grants to these businesses.

If you belong to any of the following business categories, you might eligible for a startup grant.

Table of Contents

Innovators

Many startup grants are for innovators and businesses which contribute valuable creations to society. These grants are generally for entrepreneurs in the fields of technology, medicine, science, agriculture, education, and research and development. Here are some grants you might qualify for if your business falls into this category.

Grants.gov 

While this is the one-stop shop for all U.S. government grants, the majority of these grants go toward businesses and nonprofits in science, medicine, and R&D.

Search for grants on Grants.gov or check your eligibility to apply for a grant from the federal government.

SBIR 

From The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) website:

The SBIR program is a highly competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) that has the potential for commercialization.

This US government-funded program awards grants of up to $150K in Phase I of funding. Depending on the results achieved after six months, recipients may receive up to $1 million over the next two years (Phase II).

NC IDEA 

This is a private foundation offering up to $50K for high-tech companies in the state of North Carolina.

Green Businesses

There are some public and private grants for green businesses, including startups. Generally, these grants cover the cost of installing sustainable infrastructure and/or energy systems.

Rural Energy For America Program 

As part of the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), this program awards renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvement grants. Grants are awarded to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.

Green Technology Business Grant Program 

This grant is designed to attract new green technology businesses or to expand existing green technology businesses in the City of Cleveland, Ohio. Eligible applicants may receive grants of up to 0.5% of new payroll to the city for up to five years and may also qualify for an additional $5,000 Moving Assistance Grant.

Rural Businesses

Various grants aim to stimulate the economy in rural and economically distressed areas. These grants serve to attract new businesses to struggling regions. Depending on where you are opening your business or nonprofit and the specifics of your organization’s goals, you might eligible for some of this grant money.

Rural Business Development

This grant is specifically for nonprofit and public entities. From their website:

This program is a competitive grant designed to support targeted technical assistance, training and other activities leading to the development or expansion of small and emerging private businesses in rural areas which will employ 50 or fewer new employees and has less than $1 million in gross revenue.

From the same agency, rural farmers/agricultural producers might be eligible for the Value Added Producer grant, while for-profit businesses that provide education or health care to rural areas through telecommunications might be eligible for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant.

U.S. Economic Development Assistance Grants

From their website:

EDA supports development in economically distressed areas of the United States by fostering job creation and attracting private investment. Specifically, under the Economic Development Assistance programs (EDAP) Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), EDA will make construction, non-construction, and revolving loan fund investments under the Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) Programs.

Interested? Check out the EDA’s grantee resources.

Women-Owned Businesses

There are many business grants you might be eligible for if you are a female entrepreneur. Additionally, some grant money goes to businesses that create solutions that benefit women and families.

InnovateHER Grant 

Sponsored by SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership, the InnovateHER grant competition is an opportunity for entrepreneurs who create commercially viable products and services that benefit women and families. The first place prize awarded in 2017 was $40,000. There were also grants awarded in the amounts of $20,000, $15,000, and $10,000.

Chicago Foundation For Women

Women living in the Chicago metropolitan area are eligible to apply for a grant to start a new business through this nonprofit fund. Grants range from $15,000 to $150,000. These grants are very competitive and are only available to businesses that benefit women’s economic security, freedom from violence, and/or access to health care.

Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofit startups that have 501(c)(3) status with the IRS are eligible for some government and private grant money. In fact, you’re much more likely to be awarded a grant if you run a nonprofit organization, as opposed to a for-profit business. While there are tons of nonprofit grants, I won’t spend too much time on this section, assuming this audience is mostly for-profit entrepreneurs.

These grants, which you can apply for year-round, are mainly for nonprofits and educational programs, though some small businesses may be eligible as well.

As mentioned, Grants.gov is the main stop for government grants, many of which go to nonprofit causes.

Veteran-Related Businesses

Veteran business grant money includes retraining grants for veterans returning to civilian life and grants to nonprofits providing services to veterans. Below are a couple examples.

StreetShares Commander’s Call Veteran Business Award

This StreetShares program awards annual grants to veterans and spouses of veterans who own small businesses. The first place award is $5K, the second is $3,000, and third is $2,000.

StreetShares also offers conventional business loans to some small businesses, veteran-owned or otherwise. Head over to our StreetShares Review for a rundown on their loan services.

Wisconsin Department Of Veterans Affairs Retraining Grants

This program awards up to $3,000 per year for up to two years to veterans receiving job-related training. Most “startups” probably wouldn’t be eligible for this program, but hey, it’s possible.

2501 Program

These grants, awarded through the USDA, go to veteran and minority farmers and ranchers. You might think that most startups aren’t in the farming sector, and you’d be right, but ag-tech startups are gaining prominence – think sustainable farming and other “smart” farming practices now possible with the help of new technology.

Minority-Owned Businesses

While there are grants designed to benefit various non-white business owner demographics – Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and others – most government grants for minority businesses are specifically for members of federally recognized Native American Tribes. Here are a couple grants that may help fund minority-owned startups.

Healthcare-related small businesses can use this grant for programs that provide health services to minorities.

Native Arts Capacity Building Initiative

Offered through the American Indian First Nations institute, this initiative awards six grants of up to $30,000 each year to Native American institutions that support arts and culture.

Note that while the Minority Business Development Agency offers various resources designed to help minority business owners, this program does not include grants.

Just Plain Amazing Small Businesses

There are a few general small business grants available to any kind of business, but they are very competitive, so you will need a super impressive story to wow the judges. An impressive track record is a particular challenge for a startup business, which is usually defined as a business that’s been around for less than six months. But hey, if you’ve achieved a lot in just a few months or you have an especially amazing idea, you might want to apply to one of these highly competitive small business grant contests.

FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

Any type of small business may apply. To give you an idea of what kind of competition you’d be facing, in 2017 there were 4,500 applicants and 10 winners. The grand prize is $25,000, and the other winners in the top ten get $5,000.

Miller Lite Tap The Future

This grant is one of the few that’s actually specifically geared toward startups. With this Shark Tank-style entrepreneurship grant contest, participants have the opportunity to pitch their business ideas and compete for the grand prize of over $100K.

Visa’s Everywhere Initiative

This contest awards startups with innovative IT solutions, awarding $50,000 to the top three finalists.

Startup Grant Alternatives

Very few private businesses are actually eligible for a business grant. Unless your business or startup is highly innovative and provides a demonstrable benefit to your community or the world at large, unfortunately, you are probably not grant-recipient material. Even if you are eligible for some grant money and you make it through the lengthy proposal process, you may only land a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Furthermore, startup grants are particularly hard to come by, as grantees will generally want to see what kind of results you’ve achieved on other projects carried out by your organization. Don’t fall for government grant scams that will have you believe there are piles of free grant money out there for the taking – this is not the case at all.

So, rather than hoping to be among the fortunate few who are granted free money, you might want to look into grant alternatives for your business.

Startup grant alternatives include crowdfunding, P2P lending, online loans, equipment financing, and others. Some examples might include:

For more ideas on how to get the seed money for your new business endeavor, check out our article on the best ways to finance a business startup.

Shannon Vissers

Shannon is a freelance writer and editor based in San Diego, CA. Shannon has a three-year-old daughter named Izzy. Shannon likes to unwind by watching trashy reality television and reading literary fiction during the commercial breaks.

Shannon Vissers
Shannon Vissers

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