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- Access to capital is one of the many financial challenges minority-owned businesses face
- Business grants are a great option for minority-owned businesses since they don’t require repayment
- Alternatives to business grants include business loans, business credit cards and crowdfunding
Minority-owned businesses make up about half of all the new businesses created in the last decade. They’ve helped create nearly five million new jobs and generate close to $700 billion but still face significant financial challenges.
Small business grants for minorities provide funds to minority business owners — groups that have historically lacked fair access to business capital. Unlike small business loans, these grants don’t have to be paid back, though you will likely face a lot of competition for these funds.
Here’s a look at 16 of the best small business grants for minorities and additional resources that could help you secure financing for your business.
Data from the Federal Reserve Banks Small Business Credit Survey highlights the financial challenges faced by minority small business owners. It was found that in 2022:
- Less than 10 percent of minority-owned firms had excellent financial health
- The top financial challenge minority-owned firms faced was the increased cost of goods, services and/or wages
- Over the past five years, minority-owned firms were more likely to use personal savings to cover business expenses than other sources of funding
Federal small business grants for minorities
Grants.gov is a federally operated website that hosts more than 1,000 funding opportunities — including those for small and minority-owned businesses.
These grants are offered by federal agencies like the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Small Business Administration. Once you sign up, you can search the available grants and find the options that best match your business.
Businesses that want to apply for grants through Grants.gov must first register with the System for Award Management (SAM.gov) to obtain a non-proprietary identifier. The identifier, known as a Unique Entity Identity (UEI), is a 12-character alphanumeric identifier. All entities that want to do business with the federal government must have a UEI. After obtaining a UEI, you can return to the Grants.gov website to proceed with submitting funding applications. The non-proprietary identifier replaces the DUNS Number, which used to be required up until April 4, 2022.
2. The USDA Rural Business Development Grant Program
Rural Business Development Grants can be used for technical assistance, training and other projects that benefit rural communities. While not specific to minority-owned businesses, the USDA Rural Business Development Grant Program is a valuable resource for rural regions where minority populations are leading sources of economic growth.
The USDA offers two types of grants: Opportunity and Enterprise grants. Both can be used for projects like community improvement, feasibility studies, strategic planning and leadership training. But Enterprise grants go further to also include projects like training and technical assistance, rural distance learning and land acquisition.
Businesses that would like to apply for the USDA Rural Business Development Grant Program must have 50 or fewer employees and less than $1 million in gross revenue. Also, they must operate in an eligible rural area. The USDA Rural Development’s application process takes place through its local or state offices.
3. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs
The SBIR and STTR programs provide early-stage, high-risk funding to small businesses that conduct Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D). Grants come from eleven federal agencies that currently participate in the programs, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
As part of the HHS, The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) allocates grant funding to small businesses from all backgrounds that provide research and development specific to the health equity challenges faced by underserved communities.
Both the SBIR and STTR programs have three phases: Phase I awards can be worth up to $250,000, while Phase II awards are usually $750,000 for two years. Phase III funding isn’t provided by these programs, but there may be funding and production contracts that come from non-SBIR/STTR sources.
You’ll need to determine your eligibility before applying for SBIR and STTR grants, typically reserved for U.S.-based, for-profit businesses with 500 employees or less. Eligible businesses will have to research current opportunities and register with multiple web-based systems, including the System for Award Management (SAM) and Electronic Research Administration (eRA) Commons before continuing with the application process.
Additional federal resources
Direct grants alone won’t be enough to overcome social and economic disadvantages faced by minority small business owners. Here’s a look at some additional federal resources to look into:
- SBA 8(a) Business Development Program. The SBA 8(a) Business Development program doesn’t award grants to small business owners. Instead, it’s a federal contracting assistance program that provides training and assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged small business owners so they have fair access to contracting opportunities in the future.
- National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). The NMSDC is a business growth engine for minority business owners. The resources it provides can help people of color gain access to contracts and create new business opportunities that can help close the wealth gap.
Minority business owners are just one group that continues to face an uphill battle for equal access to capital. Women-owned businesses, veterans, and LGBTQ+ business owners have also historically lacked support and funding opportunities. That’s why the Small Business Association sets aside federal contracting dollars each year. Check out the SBA’s contracting assistance programs for more information.
Private small business grants for minorities
4. Wish Local Empowerment Grant
Wish created the Wish Local Empowerment Grant to provide financial assistance to its small business partners. Wish’s $500 to $2,000 grants for minority-owned businesses can cover rent, inventory costs and more.
Eligible U.S. businesses must be black-owned and have no more than 20 employees, an annual revenue under $1 million and a brick-and-mortar. Grant applications are reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis.
5. HerRise Microgrant
The Yva Jourdan Foundation and HerSuite Spot offer monthly $1,000 HerRise micro-grants to women of color entrepreneurs. These grants provide financial assistance to women of color starting or expanding their small businesses. In the past, recipients have used grant funds to cover the cost of equipment, marketing and more.
To qualify, your business must be predominantly owned by women of color, constituting at least 51% ownership, and it must be a for-profit entity registered within the United States. Applications must be received by the end of the month, and the winners will be announced at the HerSuiteSpot First Friday Mixer in the following month.
6. Hawaii FoundHer Program
FoundHer is a program in Hawaii that focuses on promoting the growth of women-founded businesses, particularly targeting historically underserved AAPI and Native Hawaiian wāhine. In addition to a $20,000 grant, January 2024 participants family support, mentorship, skill development and a $4,000 stipend to cover care costs
Applications, which are available online, close on October 31. If selected for the program, you must meet with mentors for 1 to 2 hours per month, complete progress surveys and attend various virtual and in-person sessions.
7. BGV Pitch Competition
Hosted by Black Girl Ventures, this the BGV Pitch Competiton is exclusively for Black or brown female business owners. Through the Raisify platform,audiences are given the opportunity to financially support the founders they believe in. Each founder has three minutes to pitch, followed by a three-minute audience Q&A. Three winners are awarded a first, second and third place prize of a $10,000, $6,000 or $2,000 grant, respectively.
Businesses must apply by November 10 to participate in the next pitch competition. To qualify, you must identify as a woman; your business must be in good standing, 51 percent founded by a Black or Brown woman and generating revenue for at least a year.
8. Feed the Soul’s Restaurant Business Development Grant
Participants in the Restaurant Business Development Program not only receive $10,000 grants but also benefit from six months of consulting services and educational training. During the program, a focus is placed on menu consultation, customer service, human resources, merchandising and more to support their growth and development.
The program is available for food businesses with a majority ownership (at least 51%) by individuals from specific categories, including Black, Indigenous, Latinx, LGBTQ+, military veterans, persons with disabilities, or formerly incarcerated individuals. Applications are open until January 31, 2024.
9. Founders First Job Creators Quest Grant
The Founders First Creators Quest Grant offers a unique opportunity for 25 businesses based in Southern California and Chicago. This initiative aims to bridge that gap by providing financial support and resources to local businesses to expand and create jobs in their communities. Each business received a grant from a fund of $100,000 and a scholarship for a Founders First accelerator program.
The grant is designed to support founders who identify as Asian, Black, Latinx, women, LGBTQ+, military veterans or a business in a low-to-moderate income area. Businesses must be for-profit businesses with an annual revenue of $100,000 and $5 million and a staff of at least two. Southern California applicants can apply starting October 17, 2023. Chicago businesses can now pre-register for the 2024 application cycle.
10. The Freed Fellowship Grant
The Freed Fellowship offers monthly $500 grants for minority-owned businesses to help entrepreneurs build successful and impactful companies. Freed Fellows also receive a half-hour strategy session with a business expert, a one-year membership in the Freed Studio, which focuses on sustainable growth practices, and a chance to secure an extra $2,500 grant at the year’s end.
Applications are accepted online on a rolling basis.
11. Rebuild the Block Bridge the Gap Fund
The Bridge the Gap Fund offers financial support to Black business owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic or looting destruction. This grant runs annually and takes three months for donations to be awarded.
Applications are accepted on a three-month application cycle. The current application maximum of 90 applicants has been reached, so check back for the opening of the next application cycle. Up to 15 eligible applicants will be selected each cycle. To apply, you must be an identified Black business owner operating within the U.S. In addition, your business must have been launched prior to January 1, 2020. You must also be able to document financial losses.
12. National Association for the Self-Employed Growth Grants
Four times each year, the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) offers business grants of up to $4,000 to small business owners through its Growth Grants program. Funds can be used for marketing, advertising, hiring employees, expanding facilities and other specific business needs.
While these grants are open to small business owners in general, they can be a great resource for people who operate their own organizations and are looking to grow — which includes a growing population of business owners of color.
To apply for a Growth Grant from the NASE, you must become a member of the organization and be in good standing for three months before applying. You will have to provide the organization with details on how you will use the grant and its potential impact on your business and its success. Grant applications can be submitted throughout the year and are reviewed on a quarterly basis.
13. Small Business Growth Fund
The Small Business Growth Fund is a partnership between Hello Alice and the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN). It awards $5,000 to $25,000 grants to small business owners of any background. The most recent round closed in January, and there is no word on when the next cycle will open.
Applicants must be small business owners who earn less than $1 million per year in revenue and who have a clear plan for how the funds will be used. The 2023 application period closed in July, and recipients will be announced in September 2023.
14. Merchant Maverick Opportunity Grants
The Opportunity Grant from Merchant Maverick was created to help fund small businesses that may have issues obtaining traditional business financing. A part of Merchant Maverick’s mission is to drive positive change in the small business space. As many underserved and marginalized groups and startups have difficulty accessing business financing, eligibility for the grant changes yearly. Previous grants have gone to Black female business owners, AAPI restaurant owners and Portland-area startups. Grant money can be used for the following:
- Business space rent, utilities or renovation
- Repayment of business loans or taxes
- Business equipment
- Business marketing
- Business travel expenses
To apply for Merchant Maverick Opportunity Grants, you visit the application page. The second round of 2023 grants is open to Native American/American Indian business owners. The application opens on September 1, 2023, and closes on November 3, 2023.
To be eligible, the business must be located in the United States and be majority-owned by a registered member of a federally recognized American Indian or Alaskan Native tribe. A $10,000 grant will be awarded to two business owners.
15. National Black MBA Association Scale-Up Pitch Challenge
Launched in 2017 by the National Black MBA Association, the Scale-Up Pitch Challenge was created to provide wealth-building opportunities for association members. The pitch challenge is a competition that aims to help “Make Big Ideas Bigger” by helping members create startups that are scalable. The competition also connects startups with early-stage investors and venture capitalists.
From the pitches submitted, 10 semi-finalists were chosen to compete at the upcoming National Black MBA Association’s annual conference, which took place September 14, 2023, in Philadelphia. The top three applicants moved on to a final round of pitching on September 15 and competed for a chance to win a $50,000 first prize. A second prize worth $10,000 was awarded, as well as a third prize valued at $7,500 and a People’s Choice award worth $1,000.
Applications for this contest closed in June 2023, so check back to confirm when the 2024 application period opens. To be eligible to pitch your business, ideas and concepts must be in the initial or early stages of development. In addition, you must provide details about any funding you’ve already received. Applicants must be a U.S. resident who is over the age of 18. Additional requirements include:
- Having a founder who is Black (of African descent) and maintains an “at least equal stake” in the startup (if the startup has three owners, at least 33% of its ownership must be Black)
- One member of each Scale-Up Pitch Challenge team must be an active member of the National Black MBA Association
16. Comcast RISE Investment Fund
The Comcast RISE Investment Fund provides various resources to minority and female entrepreneurs, including assessment of the business and tactical planning, educational resources, and a $5,000 grant that can be invested in growth and sustainability. Award-winners also receive production of a 30-second TV commercial, along with a media strategy consultation and 180-day media placement. Computer equipment is also provided to winners.
This grant is limited to applicants from specific geographic areas. The target areas are Baltimore, Maryland; Detroit, Michigan (Macomb County, Oakland County, Wayne County, Washtenaw County); Memphis, Tennessee (Shelby County); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Portland, Oregon.
To apply, a business must have been operating for at least three or more years and have 100 or fewer full- or part-time employees. The application process closed in June 2023, but applications can be completed during future rounds.
17. The Coalition to Back Black Businesses
The Coalition to Back Black Businesses is a joint effort among several corporations to fund minority-owned businesses. The coalition includes American Express, Cummins, Optimum, Shopify and Firefli.
Qualifying businesses receive $5,000 grants, along with mentorship and training. A few promising businesses also receive $25,000 enhancement grants.
The Coalition to Back Black Businesses Grant is available to Black-owned small businesses located in economically vulnerable communities and employing between three and 20 people.
Applicants can express their interest by providing their business name, zip code, industry and contact information. Grant finalists will be contacted and must complete a full application, submitting a W-9 form, Employee Identification Number and other supporting information about their business. The 2022-2023 grants have already been awarded, so check back to find out when the next application period opens.
18. FedEx Small Business Grant Contest
FedEx launched its annual Small Business Grant Contest in 2012. In that time, the company has given away $1.5 million in cash prizes to more than 100 small businesses.
For 2023, Grants were recently awarded to 10 winners for up to $30,000 in funds to grow and develop the business. There was also a print credit at a FedEx Office worth $1,000 and mentor matching. A grand prize winner who is also a U.S. veteran received an additional $20,000.
The annual contest is open to small businesses that have been open for at least six months, have fewer than 99 employees, use shipping services and have a FedEx account.
Applicants must provide details about their business and how they would intend to use the grant money if they received it. Details about the business, including revenue and industry information, will also need to be submitted.The 2023 application process closed in February, and awards were announced in April. Check back for 2024 application dates. You can sign up to be notified when applications reopen.
19. Fast Break for Small Business
The Fast Break for Small Business is a grant opportunity launched by LegalZoom in partnership with the NBA, WNBA and NBA G League. It currently awards Black-owned businesses grants worth $10,000 and an additional $500 worth of legal services provided by LegalZoom.
The program is managed by the Accion Opportunity Fund, a nonprofit that offers a business loan and additional resources to support small business owners who belong to groups that have historically faced limited access to business financing. This includes women, people of color, business owners of low-to-moderate income and immigrants.
Applications for the most recent round of funding were open from February 1 through February 17, 2023, and are now closed. Check back for future application dates. The application process requires the submission of tax returns, identification of the business owner, bank statements and a completed W9.
20. The Entrepreneurial Spirit Fund
Since 2021, the Entrepreneurial Spirit Fund by SIA Scotch Whisky has provided $10,000 grants to entrepreneurs of color who work in the food and beverage industry. This grant program is inspired by Sia Scotch Whisky’s founder Carin Luna-Ostaseskia, one of the first Hispanic founders of a scotch whisky. It’s run in collaboration with Hello Alice, a free online platform that provides grants and small business resources to entrepreneurs across the U.S.
The grant cycle typically begins in the summer, though the application dates for 2023 have not yet been provided on the organization’s website.
Applicants must be small business owners of color who are at least 25 years old, have less than $5 million in annual revenue and have a business in one of the following states: CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, IL, MA, MN, NJ, NV, NY, RI and TX. Businesses that make alcohol or hold an alcohol beverage retail license are excluded.
21. Democratizing the Friends & Family Round
The Democratizing the Friends & Family Round program awards $25,000 to 20 female founders of color in New York City. Its goal is to help them overcome the early-stage funding gap that many women and women of color face. This is a joint program run by Hello Alice and Project Entrepreneur, a UBS initiative.
Even though this initiative is only for entrepreneurs of color in New York City, Hello Alice offers numerous resources and grant opportunities for small business owners all over the U.S.
Applications for this funding are currently closed, and the next application dates have yet to be announced. Applicants must be female founders of color operating a business based in New York City. To enter, you’ll need to create a Hello Alice account and complete an online application.
22. Sage Invest in Progress Grant Program
The Sage Invest in Progress grant program awards 25 Black female entrepreneurs with $10,000 in funding along with training, mentorship and networking opportunities. It’s a collaboration between The Boss Network, an online community that helps to advance the career development of women of color, and Sage Foundation.
The 2023 applications for this funding closed on February 24. Check the Sage website for future application dates. To apply, visit Hello Alice and create an account or log in and complete an online application.
23. First Nations Development Institute Grants
Awarding grants since 1993, the First Nations has awarded 3,052 grants as of 2023, which amounted to $64.7 million. The money has been used to support Native American projects and organizations in 45 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Territory of American Samoa. Past grants have included a Native Youth Business Plan competition.
The organization’s website does not currently provide details about available application rounds, so check back for more information.
24. Beyond Open Small Business Grants
Designed to offer economic mobility, Beyond Open Small Business Grants provide capital to businesses in Charlotte, North Carolina that are owned by minorities, women, veterans, LGBTQ+ and individuals with disabilities. The next round of grant funding, which will open in 2024, is expected to make more than 150 awards totaling about $5 million. Individual grant amounts vary but range from between $10,000 and as much as $150,000. The money can be used to purchase equipment, technology, real estate or inventory. The funding cannot be used for operating expenses like payroll, advertising, marketing or utility bills.
The next round of grant applications will open in 2024, though the exact date has not yet been announced, so be sure to check the website regularly. To be eligible to apply, businesses must be located within specific parts of the city of Charlotte that are designated Corridors of Opportunity as identified by the city. The business must also be a for-profit organization with a minimum annual revenue of $30,000 and a maximum revenue of $5 million. In addition, the business must employ 200 or fewer people.
Additional private resources
Here’s a look at just a few of the private-sector resources available to minority business owners:
- SCORE. This network of volunteers has been providing education and mentorship to small business owners since 1964.
- Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFI) Fund. The CDFI fund provides financing to CDFI-certified lenders that serve low-income communities. These lenders then provide services, education and low-cost loans that can be used in many ways, including to help fund a business.
- Chambers of Commerce. These organizations offer training and resources that help promote the interests of local businesses.
- Farm Aid. This nonprofit organization has an annual grant program that funds family farms and rural service organizations. In 2022, it provided grants that assisted Black and other minority farmers and groups that worked for racial justice and social equity.
Alternatives to small business grants
Small business grants may not be the best solution for everyone. Grants are typically available for specific purposes and may have narrow eligibility restrictions. The application process is often competitive.
If you are looking for more flexible options, consider alternatives to small business grants. These are typically more widely available, easier to apply for, and have fewer restrictions. But unlike grants, most of these alternatives must be repaid.
- Business loans. Some lenders have special programs that offer business loans for minorities. These tend to be more accessible than traditional loans and have lower rates and better repayment terms.
- SBA loans. The Small Business Association offers low-cost government backed loans to many types of small businesses, including businesses in underserved communities. There are several types of SBA loans to consider, including microloans of up to $50,000.
- Business credit cards. Opening a business credit card offers your business a line of credit that can be used to pay for expenses related to your business. They can also help you build business credit, which can help you eventually qualify for loans with better rates and terms.
- Business line of credit. Similar to a credit card, small businesses can seek a line of credit through a bank or other financial institution, providing flexibility to access funds when large expenses arise.
- Friends and family. While it can be difficult to ask, seeking financial support from friends and family can help. Formalize the agreement in writing and plan to repay the funds.
- Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding platforms can help you connect with potential customers enthusiastic about your product.
Learn more about SBA loans. Our review shows you the different types, interest rates, pros and cons and how to apply.
The bottom line
Seeking out grants is a great way for minorities to seek support in developing and growing their businesses. These grants may help businesses in underserved communities and support business owners who may not have ready access to other resources.
Frequently asked questions
The SBA considers Asian Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, Hasidic Jews, Hispanic Americans and Pacific Islanders minorities.
The 2020 U.S. Census found that over 1.2 million or 20 percent of employer businesses were minority-owned.