Funding a new or existing business using grant funds is often a very attractive prospect for any business owner. Grants seem to be the silver bullet for a business to get funds without having to worry about paying the money back or putting your own money into the business. Grants opportunities seem to be everywhere since the pandemic. The truth is, in most cases, grant funds for for-profit businesses are not widely available and those that are available can be difficult to obtain.
Prior to the pandemic, there were very few grant options. When the Covid pandemic was declared a national disaster, multiple rounds of federal and state grant funds were available to cover certain losses for existing businesses. Grant programs available for Covid-relief purposes are generally only available to those who can demonstrate pandemic-related loss and cannot be used to cover expenses already covered by other relief programs (PPP, EIDL Loan, etc). As we progress through the pandemic, there are less and less of these opportunities.
Grant funding is set up to address a particular economic or social concern or issue. In most cases, grants are taxpayer funds that come from State and Federal sources. They come with strict qualifications, eligibility, record keeping, and reporting requirements. Grants are often industry-specific (like this Childcare Grant) or target specific groups of people (like the Vocational Rehabilitation for disabled Mainers). If your business is a for-profit business operating as normal, it is very unlikely there are grant funds available to you.
One source of grant funding here in Maine is through the Maine Technology Institute (MTI). Like with many grant programs, you must have a 50% match, meaning you would have to come up with 50% of the project costs. MTI’s grants support Maine’s innovation economy. MTI invests in ideas that help create new innovations or that improves an existing product, service or process. MTI grants often fund critical steps in innovation development such as research, testing, patent acquisition and much more. More info on MTI can be found at www.mainetechnology.org. An SBDC advisor can help you determine if MTI grant programs might be right for your business.
Other regular sources of grant funding that have been long-established in Maine help specific groups in the creation of a feasible business. Grants available to for-profit businesses include the community development grants (CDBG Micro-Enterprise Program), which require you to meet strict household income limitations. In addition, several organizations offer grants in the form of paid services. Some of the programs available in Maine include Vocational Rehabilitation for disabled entrepreneurs, Veteran Readiness and Employment program for service-disabled veterans, and the ASPIRE program for low-income parents.
SO, WHAT NOW? How do you get funds for your small business?
While grant funds may not be available to your business, there are many traditional and nontraditional low-cost loans that might be a good fit for you and your business. An SBDC advisor can help you determine which funding source is best for your business and situation. Reach out to a business advisor here.