On Your Way

You're a woman who wants to start your own business and you need capital. You would prefer not to take out a business loan, which you would have to pay back. There has to be an alternative! What you may not realize is that there are hundreds of dollars of grant money available from the government and other organizations just waiting for the right person to find them. And it just so happens that you are that person.

Finding grants takes time, so be prepared. Try not to get too overwhelmed and don't limit yourself to just one grant. The more grants you apply for, the better your chances will be of getting one.

There are various resources available for finding grants. Some of these include:

  • Local or national professional women's organizations. These may offer access to grants or assistance in finding agencies or organizations that do.
  • Chamber of Commerce or other local groups like the Rotary. Attending events held by these groups can allow you to meet others who may have gone through the process you are going through. (In other words, network!)
  • Current employer, especially if it is a larger one.
  • Local small business administration agency.
  • Local companies as well as national and international businesses. These may offer support grants for female entrepreneurs.
  • Internet. Conduct a search for grant and foundation agencies.

Any legal American resident is eligible for grants, even those with less-than-perfect credit history. Some grants are only available during certain times of the year, and depending on the agency, you could be asked for periodic progress reports.

To apply for a grant, you will need an application, a proposal letter and a business plan. Once you have these items, you can begin the research for the type of grant you want.

Thanks to the Internet, you can now apply for grants faster online. Most sites have step-by-step instructions. When applying online, you will receive a Funding Opportunity Number. This number is needed when downloading and as part of the registration with the Central Contractor Registry, which is used for identification and is helpful when applying for more than one grant. Upon completion of your application, an advisor will contact you. You will then need to have a grant proposal and a business plan ready.

Your grant proposal should include the following:

  • Detailed description as to what your business will be about.
  • Needs assessment of your business at the beginning and in the future.
  • Business idea objectives.
  • Methods you plan on using to build your business.
  • Five-year business plan.
  • Places where you are going to get future funding.
  • List of projected start-up costs.

Your grant proposal should include an introduction as to where you've been and who you are. This is also a good place to list your relative work history and provide a short biography of yourself and any of your employees. In the needs assessment part of your proposal, you must explain your reason for requesting the grant, how your business will benefit the economy and how you plan to solve any future problems.

Applying for a grant may sound intimidating, but if carried out successfully, it could reduce the debt you have to carry. You just have to remember to be patient. Once you apply for some grants, don't expect to hear back right away. The selection process could take months, so be patient.

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