How to Get Government Grants to Start a Business

Free government money? Grants to start a business? Believe it or not, it’s out there, in a variety of government grant and assistance programs to help you start a small business. There are many funding programs for business, but not all of them are for start-ups. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to look, as long as you steer clear of the endless scams from those trying to get your money from you, rather than giving some funds to help you get going. Here’s how to get started in your hunt for government grants for small business start-ups.

Start With Advanced Search

Head to

Perhaps you’ve been here before, but with some advanced search tools, you can unearth grant opportunities that you may not have been aware existed.

Click on the link for ‘Grant Search’ (under the FOR APPLICANTS section). Once at the search page, click the link (or tab) for ‘Advanced Search’.

Search by Eligibility

At the Advanced Search page, check the box labeled ‘Open Opportunities’ to see what grants are currently being offered. You can check the ‘Closed’ and ‘Archived’ boxes as well, if you’re interested in seeing older grant programs.

Then scroll down to the ‘Search by Eligibility’ box, and select all the business-related options. After you click on your first selection, hold down the control key (ctrl) while making additional selections, so that all your selections remain highlighted.

The categories most relevant to grant programs for small businesses are:

Small businesses
For profit organizations other than small businesses
*Unrestricted (open to any type of entity)

All these options should be highlighted as you select them. In addition, if there are other categories relevant to your situation (for example, you’re a member of a Native American tribe), select those as well.

If you want to narrow down the results further, use the other boxes to select grant programs from specific agencies, or on specific topics that are relevant to your business.

When your search page is all set, just click Search, at the bottom of the page.

Be Prepared to Read

When I searched for small business grant programs from the US government, I turned up more than 3,000 open opportunities, from the ‘1000 Genomes Project’ to ‘Women’s Mental Health’.

Even searching only on ‘Small Business’, and no other category, returned over 700 grant programs.

Not all the programs are targeted at business start-ups, but there are grant programs that allow a business to be formed for the purpose of applying for the grant.

Scan through the grant opportunities to find the programs that seem a good match with the experience and skills that your business can bring to bear. For instance, there was a grant program to establish a “Business Enterprise Center” to assist other small businesses. If you and your start-up are qualified for this type of undertaking, then by all means, submit an application for a grant.

Don’t Forget State Sources

Uncle Sam is not the only source of free money for small business grants for start-ups. Your state may have funding opportunities as well. Do a Google search for your state name (or initials) along with the term: small business grants. In all likelihood, you’ll wind up at your state’s Commerce Department or Small Businesses Division, where you’ll find information galore on grants, loans, and general assistance programs for small businesses.

How to Take Minutes at a Business Meeting

Whether it’s an employee meeting or one that involves managers, employees, CEOs and investors, someone needs to be there to record the meeting and share the information with others who were not there. And since memories can be short, the meeting minutes also serve as a reminder to those present about the issues discussed, the decisions made and the actions people are supposed to take. Because the minutes serve as a guide for future business dealings, it’s important to be organized and to include the right information. That starts with reliable tools.

Choose Your Tools
When it comes to choosing tools, select the ones that work best for you and will allow you to stay on top of what’s happening at the meeting and take coherent notes. For some people, that’s a laptop or a tablet computer; for others, it’s a notebook and pen. Having a recording device such as a voice recorder or a smartphone with a recording app can also help you review the meeting later. If you’re using a smartphone, tablet or computer, turn off any sounds, games or social media applications so you don’t get disrupted during the meeting. Those tools can help you take notes faster — but you should always have a notebook and a few pens or pencils on hand as a backup.

Use a Template
Developing a template can help save you time, since you won’t have to spend precious moments during the meeting writing out the topics discussed. Computer programs, including Microsoft Office, offer business meeting templates you can use — or you can develop your own blank document using the agenda you receive ahead of the meeting. These templates typically have sections that include “Attendees,” “Action Items,” “New Business” and so on, but check with your employer to find out whether any other items are required, such as the names of shareholders attending, the names of guests and the location of the meeting. At the top of each section, create a small box with the word “Time” in it, so you can write down the time that section began. On a computer, save the template in Word or another editable format, leaving a few blank spaces in each section. If you’re creating a template to print and then fill out by hand, leave ample space in each section. When you write notes in a hurry, you’ll often write larger and take up more space than you would if you had more time.

What to Include and What to Leave Out
The purpose of taking minutes at a meeting is not to record every single thing that people discuss, but instead to record the things that happened, suggests “Robert’s Rules of Order,” a short book that outlines how to handle parliamentary meetings. This book is often used by nonprofits and businesses as a guide for running meetings. In terms of meeting notes, don’t waste your time writing down every argument someone made for or against a particular business action, for example. When someone makes a motion, for example, write down the exact wording of the motion, who made it, and the final results of the vote. You don’t, however, need to write down everyone’s comments for or against the motion. When someone makes a report, write down who made the report, the name of the report, a short summary of the report, and the action taken. And since you’re taking “minutes,” also write the time the decision was made, as well as the time people began discussing the item.

Developing a Shorthand
Even though you’re not writing down every single thing that happened, sometimes the action in the meeting might go faster than you can keep up. When that happens, use your own shorthand. For example, you might use abbreviations of common business words, such as “mgmt” for management or “prod” for product or productivity. Use initials for people involved in the meeting, such as “JS” for John Smith. Symbols such as a question mark can also be shorthand for “question.” For example, you might write “JS ?” to indicate that John Smith asked a question. Develop your own shorthand, and then translate it into terms everyone can understand before you publish the meeting notes.

How to Start a Small Business

Successfully starting a small business requires answering as many questions as possible before you open your doors rather than tackling problems after you’ve already launched. Researching the marketplace, writing a business plan and securing adequate capital are the basic steps to take when you start any small business.

Research the Marketplace
Determine who your competition is by looking at companies that offer the same product, service or benefit you do. Visit their stores and websites and buy their products, if possible. Talk to potential customers about what they want from a company or product like yours, and what they think of your competitors. Look at the pricing in your marketplace to help guide you as you make your financial projections. Examine where your competitors are selling and advertising. Create a demographic profile of your best target customer using age, race, ethnicity, gender, marital or parental status and other characteristics.

Talk to the vendors and suppliers who will sell you materials and equipment, and the retailers or other distribution providers who will help sell your product. Explain your business concept to them and get advice regarding what they’ve seen in the marketplace you need to address.

Find out what legal steps you need to take, such as getting a local business permit, obtaining a state license, passing health department requirements, incorporating, getting a sales tax license or buying liability insurance.

Write a Business Plan
Visit the website of the U.S. Small Business Administration to learn what goes into a business plan and how to write one. You will need to provide an overview of your product or service, an analysis of your marketplace, a marketing plan and financial figures. Look for a SCORE chapter in your area so you can get free advice from retired executives on the first draft of your plan. You can also ask business friends and associates for advice.

Create a budget, dividing it into sections that list your pre-launch startup expenses and your post-launch operating costs. The budget should include the direct costs to make your product and the overhead costs to run the business. It also should show a break-even point and the profit potential. Create a first-year budget and a three-year budget. It often takes more than one year for a business to become profitable and pay back its initial startup costs.

Create a marketing plan that provides details on the following: your product, pricing strategy, distribution strategy, advertising strategy, public relations, promotions and social media. Don’t work on your marketing communications until you’ve determined your unique selling benefit, target customer, distribution channels and your brand or image in the marketplace.

Secure Capital
Get your personal credit in the best shape possible. Start by visiting to get free copies of your three personal credit reports. If you apply for a business loan or credit card, lenders will evaluate your personal credit. Follow the steps required by Experian, Equifax or TransUnion, outlined on their websites, to challenge any incorrect information on your credit reports.

Review the budget you created to determine how much money you need to launch and operate your business until you are profitable. Calculate how much personal money and credit you have available and how much money you’ll need to raise from other sources. Decide how much of your company you are willing to give up in exchange for money from an investor. Contact your local bank to find out how to apply for a small-business loan or credit card.

Make your pitch to partners, friends and family or silent investors if you are seeking that type of money. Use your business plan to demonstrate that you have done your homework, have objective data that shows your concept is likely to work, and can project your income and expenses with hard numbers. Bankers and investors will often want to see your business plan and budget, according to Inc. magazine.

How to Start Your Own Business

Starting your own business takes lots of research, time, money and resources, so knowing what’s involved before you begin is key to successfully getting your idea off the ground.

Review your skills and experience to help determine what type of business to open. Then, review the market to determine if enough prospects exist who have a problem and are willing to pay you money for a solution, suggests Forbes. Review how many competitors offer similar products or services to see if there’s enough business for both of you. Evaluate your management and leadership skills if you plan to hire staff to help you run the business.

Write a Business Plan

A business plan helps you solidify your idea and figure out what to do to reach your goals, says Bplans, an online resource offering hundreds of free business plans. (see Ref #2) It’s also a requirement if you seek a bank or Small Business Administration loan. A business plan requires details such as a company overview, description of your products or services, details about your target market, a marketing and sales plan, background information about your management team and your financial picture both now and for the next few years.

Create a Legal Structure

The legal structure you choose depends on how many people will own the business and how much you need to protect yourself from being personally liable for the business, says Nolo, an online legal resource. You can choose set up your company as a sole proprietor, a partnership, a limited liability company or a corporation. Each structure has specific requirements, liability issues and tax advantages, so work with an attorney to create the right one.

Obtain Licenses and Tax IDs

Check with your state about the requirements for obtaining a business license. Your state or local government may also require additional licenses, such as food handling or beverage licenses if you plan to manufacture and sell food items. Obtain a federal tax identification number. Inquire about state and local taxes by visiting the SBA’s comprehensive list of agencies to find out what’s required in your state.

Find Financing

Use personal savings, loans from acquaintances and even credit cards, if you have no other options, to finance your business. You can also seek a bank or SBA loan using personal collateral to secure the loan or take on a partner who has the finances to get the business started.

How to Start a Business With no Money

Starting your own business is a dream that many people have. However, few follow through on their impulses to start a business because they think that they don’t have enough money to start a new venture. With the advent and development of Internet commerce, starting a business can now be done with little or no money. Read on to find out how.

Things You’ll Need :
– Business plan template
– Your own business equipment

Evaluate what skills, equipment and assets you have already that you can use to start a business. For example, if you have a computer, Internet access and writing skills then you can start up a freelance business with little or no money.

Determine what type of business you want to start. Take into consideration your interests, your current skills, how much time you want to spend on your new business and what types of businesses you can start with no money.

Research your business options. If you are interested in online businesses then you may want to look at freelance art businesses, freelance writing businesses and freelance data entry businesses. If you have your own office equipment, and if you have bookkeeping experience, then you can set up an outsourcing secretarial service.

Scan through your Sunday classified ads for companies that are offering telecommuting positions. This is a great way to make business contacts and to get your home business off the ground.

Read through online job listings for telecommuting positions or consulting positions. Sites like “Craigslist” and “Monster” are both great places to find job opportunities.

Create a business plan to help you organize your business and create goals for its future. You can download a business plan template free online. Use this as a guide to help you create your business’s business plan.