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 Work at Home Moms > General Internet Marketing Articles > Small Business Grants for Women

Small Business Grants for Women

We've all heard that small business grants for women are available, but accurate information about where and how to obtain grant money is difficult to find. Cheryl Antier has been writing grants for twelve years and shares her secrets for obtaining small business grants for women and other business owners.

The 7 Secrets You Must Know To Get A Grant  For Your Home-based Business!

by Cheryl Antier
October, 2004

Every time I get online, it seems there's another pop up ad, or an email message telling me about the $300 Billion dollars of grant money that is being given away by the U.S. government for small business owners.  If you’ve seen them too, chances are you want to know two things: One: Where is all this FREE Money I've been hearing so much about?  And two: How do I get my piece of it?

Well, wonder no more, girlfriend, because I'm about to give you all the inside information.  Because underneath all the hype, and the  hoopla, there really IS grant money available for small business owners -  and you probably qualify for some of it!

In fact, I’m going to give you the 7 top “insider secrets” of successful grant writers! So, grab a cup of coffee, get comfortable, and keep reading.  I’m about to “show you the money!”

First of all though, let me tell you a little about myself.  (I don’t want you to be wondering why you should listen to me!)  I’m the mother of three, I was a widow for several years, and recently married a wonderful man.  I divide my time between my homes in southern France and Southeast Utah. And, as my family, friends and clients know, I have really bad karma when it comes to technology!  (I think I must have been an evil copy machine repairman in a past life).  In fact, I’m being dragged slowly and reluctantly into the 21st century – nails digging furrows behind me – I’m only now having my very first Web page designed!  But, while I may be technologically challenged, I’ve been writing grants for over twelve years, and helping small business owners “weave their dreams into reality” for three.

So, back to your first question – where is all the Free grant money for your business?

Do me a favor.  Google “small business grants” right now.  How many sources did you come up with?  (When I did it as I was writing this article, I got over three million.)

Three million sources for small business grants!  That’s a little overwhelming, to say the least, isn’t it?  (Even if two thirds of them are repeats, broken links or not pertinent to your situation…that still leaves over a million Websites!) And it brings up so many more questions.  Are you wondering where to begin searching?  Or, if you did happen to luck out, and found a potential source right away, what your next steps should be? What information do you need?  How do you find out if you qualify? Are you a good enough writer?

Secret #1: You don’t need to have a degree in English lit, or even be an especially talented writer to write a successful proposal.  If you have average writing skills, and can read and follow a recipe, you can write a grant yourself.  All grants have a basic format, with certain “ingredients”.  Follow the format, provide the required information, and you’ll end up with a finished grant that has as much chance getting funded as one that is written by an “expert.” And just so you know, you receive a “grant” (which is money for your business that doesn’t have to be paid back), but you also write a “grant”.  Another word for a written grant is “proposal”.

Hmm…that brings up another point.  There is some specific terminology used in grant writing that will be helpful if you’re familiar with.  All the definitions are going to be on my Website, but…it’s not up yet!  (Darn technology.)  Okay, I’ll tell you what.  If you want a list of the most common words and definitions used in grant writing, email me, and I’ll send it to you!

Do you want some more good news?  Your proposal is going to be your business plan.

Secret Tip #2: If you don’t have a business plan already, you need to write one, or hire someone to write it for you.  Your business plan isn’t just for getting a grant.  A good business plan is a written statement that describes your business.  It’s a road map you've created that gives the details of how you're going to get from where you are now, to where you want to be.  It puts you in charge of your success.
 
There are several good sources that will give you more information, even walk you through the steps of writing your business plan.  Here are just a few:
http://www.sba.gov/
http://www.bplans.com/
http://www.count-me-in.org/

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that you’ve already got your business plan written, and that you’re ready for the next step.  What is it?

Research.  Sadly there is no such thing as a “free lunch”.   Because there are thousands, okay, millions of sites out there (remember your Google search?), you’re going to have to do your homework.  Even with the links I’m going to give you, and the rest of the secrets I’ll share with you, be prepared to invest some time to find that perfect grant for you!

Secret #3: Put together a research system now, before you get started, where you will keep all your research, supplemental information, a calendar, RFPs and copies of completed applications in one place.

This may sound pretty simple, but believe me; you’ll kick yourself later if you don’t set one up before you get started.  There’s nothing more frustrating than looking for a scrap piece of paper that has a vital piece of information on it, or trying to remember what the deadline is on a grant application you filled out two months ago.  There are a lot of different organizing systems out there.  You can use a 3-ring notebook, keep everything on your computer, or get an expanding file.  Use whatever system you’re most comfortable with.

So, where do you start?  How do you get a piece of the grant money pie?  I suggest you start by looking for grants for women and minority business owners.  Does it surprise you to know that every year, over 500,000 women start their own businesses?  Or that, according to the National Foundation of Women Business Owners, Women-owned firms now generate over $3.6 trillion in sales, a 132% increase since 1992? 

In fact, according to the Center for Women's Business Research, the growth rate of women-owned businesses is twice that of other firms.  So, “yay” us!  But, on the downside, the two biggest reasons that businesses fail are lack of planning, and not having enough capital.  And statistically, as women, we still have a harder time accessing capital through traditional methods than our male counterparts.

Secret #4: Narrow your focus, become your own niche!  You know when marketing your business on the Internet that the tighter your niche, the more successful your business is.  It’s the same thing when you’re looking for grant money.  You want to find a grant that is as closely matched to your needs as possible, because it gives you a better chance for being awarded the money.

The secret here is defining your business.  Are you a “start up” or ongoing concern?  What is your field of expertise?  Who is your target market?  Do you live in an urban or rural area?  Do you have employees?  Do you offer services or products, or both? 

The next step is to define yourself.  Are you economically disadvantaged?  Disabled? The primary caregiver for a disabled spouse or child?  What is your ethnic background?

Now decide what you need the grant for.  Education or training for you or your employees?  Research and development?  Capital expenses?  To purchase equipment, supplies or inventory?

The answers to those questions will give you your keyword search terms.  Knowing keywords specific to your business is going to save you a lot of wasted time when you start researching.  I suggest that you write them down, and keep them in your system under “keywords”.  You’ll be referring to them and adding to them as you move from the “initial research” and start doing “primary research”.

Where do you go to find the “initial research”?  That’s actually…

Secret #7: Access to my private databases, online links and closely guarded sources! (I told you I was going to share secrets that would help you get a grant, remember?) Some of the information that I’m going to give to you now has taken me 12 years to compile, and is one of the reasons that I am so good at what I do. I know exactly where and how to find money that my clients qualify for.

You may have noticed that I listed it as secret #7, and we’re only on Secret #5.  That's because number 7 has a lot of information, and I want you to finish reading this article!

Secret #5: Don’t reinvent the wheel!  Remember Secret #1?  Take the time to become familiar with the grant writing formula.  Look at examples of how successful grants were written, and follow their example.  Read through the guidelines of each grant you’re writing.  If you’re looking at a corporate or private foundation, explore their Website.  Find out about their core operating
values and their principles.  See whom they’ve given money to in the past.  CALL and talk to someone at the foundation.  Ask questions.  Pick the brains of your local librarian, your SBDC representatives, your Score Executive, professional grant writers.  If you don’t understand something, ask, explore, do some more research.

Don’t forget your own local resources as well.  Do you have a Women Business Development Center near you?  Chamber of Commerce?  Small Business Development Center?  (The Small Business Development Center is one of the first places I send new clients.  They are an incredible resource for business owners, and offer an almost unbelievable range of services for you – most of them FREE!)  Is there a micro-enterprise group, or women’s group in town?  Check with your state legislator’s office.  If your state has a Web page, get online and look around.  If you’re disabled, go and talk to someone at your local Vocational Rehabilitation office. (Did you know that they have grants to help you start a business that range from $6,000 to $15,000, depending on the area and other guidelines?)  Always start with at home, because chances are your local agencies, organizations and groups are going to know about grant resources in your state.

Secret #6: Once you’ve finished your proposal, go back over the guidelines, the proposal, and the supplementary information – everything with a fine toothed comb. Make sure that you’ve dotted all your i’s and crossed all your t’s.  Do you have the correct number of copies?  Are you ONLY sending them the information specifically requested?  Is your plan well thought out, concise and easy to read?  Have you avoided the use of jargon or technical terms whenever possible, and explained them when it wasn’t?  Have you had someone proofread your plan and other documentation?  Are you sending it in well before the deadline?

If you can answer yes, then congratulations!  You’ve just written a grant and hopefully you are on your way to receiving the help you need to ensure the success of your business.  

And finally, here we are at:
Secret #7.  Here is a list of Websites that can teach you everything you need to know about writing a grant, and finding sources of free grant money for your business!  Through these sites, you’ll have access to databases that you can search for a grant using your keywords, or by type of grant, or even by foundation name.  The Foundation Center offers a free downloadable prospect worksheet, which can help you stay focused.  Good luck, and have fun!

The Foundation Center
One of the largest resources about foundations, grants and grant writing, you can find information through a hard copy or their online searchable database.  If you check out their Website, you’ll find an online foundation finder, foundation profiles, grant writing tips and a lot more!  This is worth the time it takes to learn how to navigate the site. 

The Council on Foundations
This online site provides information about research, publications, conferences, and workshops: Check out their index of: Community Foundations, Corporate Foundations and Giving Programs, Family and Public Foundations, and International Grantmakers.

Foundations.org
Their directory of charitable Grantmakers lets you browse for potential foundations, go to the foundation’s homepage, find information and/or purchase software and other fundraising products.  (Note: most foundations have a homepage, which will give you information you need about guidelines, deadlines, format, etc; and will often include a downloadable grant application.  Many foundations even allow you to apply for a grant online – okay, so technology can be a wonderful thing. Sometimes.)

The Chronicle of Philanthropy
This incredible Website features information about issues related to the nonprofit world, Request for Proposals, a guide to getting grants, a list of grant-related workshops, seminars, and conferences.  Their “Chronicle Guide to Grants”, is an electronic database of all corporate and foundation grants that have been listed in The Chronicle of Philanthropy since 1995. Visit them at http://philanthropy.com/.

Women Work
1625 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: (202) 467-6346
Membership: 10,000
Annual dues: Start at $15
Non-profit organization that assists displaced homemakers, single parents, and older women re-entering job market. WW has 1600 agencies in all 50 states and offers assistance through scholarships, job counseling, skill building, health insurance and referrals to other relevant organizations.

The Women’s Business Owners Corporation has a Webpage of government resources and Websites that can help you.

The Online Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance gives you access to a database of all Federal programs available to State and local governments (including the District of Columbia); federally -recognized Indian tribal governments; Territories (and possessions) of the United States; domestic public, quasi-public, and private profit and nonprofit organizations and institutions; specialized groups; and individuals. After you find the program you want, contact the office that administers the program and find out how to apply.

Small Business Development Center Website will help you find your local office.

Check out the article on this Website if you’re interested in doing contracting with the government.

I also said that I'd share with you some of my private databases.  The problem is, they are all Internet-linked and when printed out, are over 32 pages long -- way too much information for an article.  I mentioned that my first ever Website is under construction right now. I hope to have it up and running (or whatever the technical term is) within a couple of weeks, and all of that information will be available free to members.  So, if you'd like to know when the site is up, email me and just put "add me" or something like that in the subject line, and I will let you know as soon as it's ready, and you can go online and search from there.

One last thing. Do yourself (and the rest of us who write grants) a BIG favor.  DO NOT just send your proposal out in a "shotgun" fashion.  More and more foundations are no longer accepting unsolicited proposals, because everyday they receive grants that do not meet their guidelines, or outside of their giving priorities.  They have to use valuable resources to read and then reject each of those proposals.  So, please, do your homework, and only send out proposals when you know you're a good fit with a foundation.
_______________
Cheryl Antier, President of Dream Weaver Enterprises teaches business owners and nonprofit organizations how to raise the funds they need so they can "Weave Their Dreams Into Reality." Email her at
rainwalker1111@hotmail.com

2004-2005 This article was reprinted with permission from the author and may not be re-published or copied without permission, except to print one copy for personal use. Comments and general questions about the article's content or it's use can be directed to the author.

 

 

 

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