Cities and counties also support business development. There is less money available, but there is also less competition for that money. Some examples are:
Cleveland Green Technology Business Program
Cleveland Job Creation Incentive Program
Miami Mom & Pop Small Business Program
New York City Fashion Manufacturing Initiative
Detroit NEIdeas Grants
Roseburg, Oregon Tourism Grant
Cities and counties across the country actively support small business. You’ll need to do some research, and some small programs at this level don’t get much attention online. If your city or county has an agency or office that promotes enterprise development, that’s where to start. Again, the targets are likely to reflect government priorities, but you could find what you need.
Many big companies actively support small business owners. They have their reasons for doing this: it’s part public relations, part helping the community, part seeding future partners or acquisitions. It’s real money, and it’s available. For example:
West Elm Grant
Industrial Bank Grant
Visa Everywhere Initiative
Miller Lite Tap the Future
National Association for the Self-Employed Grants
Some of these are small, under $5,000 and some are up to $200,000. You will be dealing with a for-profit entity, so be careful, and have a lawyer check anything you sign to make sure you aren’t giving away any rights that you might want to keep.
Programs for Specific Groups
Some Americans, especially women and minorities, are under-represented in the entrepreneurial community, and programs exist to encourage members of these groups to go into business. If you’re a woman, a member of a minority group, or a veteran, check out these special-purpose efforts designed to encourage you to start your enterprise.
Eileen Fisher Program
Zions Bank Smart Women Grants
The Amber Grant
New Media Women Entrepreneurs
Community Programs to Improve Minority Health Program
Partnerships for Opportunity, Workforce, and Economic Revitalization
Rural Business Enterprise Grants
MillerCoors Urban Entrepreneurs Series
StreetShares Commander’s Call Veteran Business Award
VetFran Business Grant Fund
Some franchises give substantial discounts for veterans, $10,000 to $20,000 off the normal price.
Examples are 7-11, Little Caesar’s, and UPS.
It is possible to find free startup capital in the forms of grants and matching funds programs at the state, local, private and organizational level. It will take some research, persistence, and effort to find any applicable programs in your state or locality. You’ll need to sell your idea effectively, so pay close attention to your business plan and make sure you are ready to answer probing questions. If you have any doubts about your plan and its ability to convince donors that you are worthy of their attention, seek professional assistance, not just to help you get the grant but to help you assure success. Even if you are confident, it’s always good to get someone knowledgeable to review your proposal to spot any weak points and help you refine your plan.
Grants tend to be all about the donor’s agenda and interests, and not yours. You will have to shop around, or perhaps reinvent your plan a little to make it fit the prospective donor’s agenda. Sometimes it’s a good idea to tweak your proposal and add some key words or ideas to show potential donors that your plan fits their agenda. It all takes effort and planning, but that’s the nature of entrepreneurship. Free startup capital is never guaranteed, but it is possible, with effort and planning!