In the early months of the pandemic, Connie Nguyen says sales dropped 70% overnight at Snowbite, a modern Vietnamese eatery…
In the early months of the pandemic, Connie Nguyen says sales dropped 70% overnight at Snowbite, a modern Vietnamese eatery in Pharr, Texas. As the restaurant’s owner, Nguyen has since faced a nightmarish pivot to curbside pickup, fear for the health of employees and customers and rising operating costs that placed a further strain on her business.
Hers is a familiar story, one that’s been replicated across industries and states since early 2020. But unlike the hundreds of thousands of small businesses that closed under the economic weight of the coronavirus pandemic, Snowbite stayed afloat — with the help of small business grants and loans.
“We’re lucky we’re still in business,” Nguyen says. “To be able to get help and to have this many different types of programs, it’s how we survive.”
Small business grants can offer a boost for new businesses just getting off the ground or a net to catch existing businesses in free fall.
These grants are offered by federal, state and local agencies as well as by private corporations. Many target specific sectors, like agriculture and technology, or seek to support small business owners from minority communities. Some meet specific business needs, such as providing paper products or covering training costs.
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Finding the right grant for your needs could be the push your small business needs to thrive. Start your search with these examples of small business grants:
— National Association for the Self Employed Growth Grants ($4,000)
— SBA 7(j) Management and Technical Assistance program (varies)
— SBA State Trade Expansion Program (varies by state)
— WomensNet Amber Grant ($2,000 to $25,000)
— FedEx Small Business Grant ($50,000, plus $7,500 in print services)
— Comcast RISE Investment Fund ($10,000)
— Visa She’s Next Black Women-Owned Business Grant program ($10,000)
— The Second Service Foundation The Military Entrepreneur Challenge ($4,000 to $15,000)
— US Department of Agriculture Rural Business Development Grants (varies by state)
— US Economic Development Administration community grants (varies)
— Patagonia Corporate Grants Program ($5,000 to $20,000)
— Small Business Development Centers statewide grants (varies by state)
— Minority Business Development Association state and national grants (varies)
Search for more small business grants at grants.gov.
[READ: A Guide to Launching Your Side Business.]
How to Apply for a Small Business Grant
Before applying for financial support, Keith R. Hall, president and CEO of the National Association for the Self-Employed, says small business owners first need to determine their specific needs.
“You need to know where you’re going and have your story straight of exactly where you’re going and how you’re going to get there,” Hall says. “It is very cumbersome to request money through a loan or a grant program by just saying, ‘I’ve got a lot of credit card debt I need to pay off.’”
Instead, have a specific request such as the need for a website or a new lead generation program and be able to demonstrate how this grant money will help your business thrive. Having a strong business plan and the patience to apply to many small business grants can help you find success.
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Resources for Small Businesses
Beyond grants, small businesses can access loans, lean on support from associations and small business networks and take advantage of online resources like those provided by the US Internal Revenue Service.
While many of the additional resources made available to small business owners during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 have since expired or ceased accepting applications, Hall says there is a renewed interest in supporting small businesses as they continue to rebuild and navigate today’s economic challenges.
“It’s like being sick for two years. There are still holding effects from that. There were many small businesses that didn’t survive, and for those that did, we still have some symptoms to get over,” Hall says. “Now, we’re seeing a lot of expansion in organizations looking to continue support. Our grant program has basically doubled since pre-pandemic times, and that doesn’t include any PPP or government programs.”
Often chief among those challenges facing small business owners is the nation’s recent bout of high inflation.
“The impact on small business is if nothing else it’s a drain on optimism, and that’s dramatic because small businesses are thinking about the future, can I grow my product, can I grow my customer base,” Hall says. “As they see inflation fears, the costs of raw materials and even their personal expenses go up, it’s scary. In many cases, they may be more reluctant to take that next step, buy that next computer or open that next restaurant.”
However, reaching out to sources of support, mentorship and funding can help small business owners navigate those challenges — and, Hall says, feel less isolated. This process takes time, but can be part of a business owner’s regular routine.
“It is so easy when you’re a self-employed business owner to feel you’re out there on your own. You’re CEO, head of marketing, you’re there at night cleaning up,” Hall says. “But there are experts and people who are giving back as part of their careers to help other small businesses grow.”
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Small Business Grants to Jumpstart Your Plans originally appeared on usnews.com
Update 09/27/22: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.