Seeking Seed Money

Grants for starting a small business are available through a variety of local sources. Here's how to get them.

across the country.

Think private. Getting big bucks from the private sector, corporations, and foundations can be challenging and intensely competitive. A lot of the grants offered by foundations and corporations are tied to specific objectives or to a specific project, such as research and development in a given industry. They aren’t looking to just hand out operating capital. Getting the money, though, comes down to connections. You need to be able to tap the right network of people, to have someone lobbying on your behalf. It’s a mistake to think that getting a grant is based solely on merit. It’s a very political process.

Getting Started
Approach finding seed money the same way you would approach applying for a job. Learn as much as you can about the company, the CEO, the board of directors, and the grantors. You want to know who the key players are and what the goals, objectives, and mission of the grantors are, so you can shape your presentation or pitch.

For government grants, comb public records and look at previously approved grants to see what worked. You may even be able to find some grant applications that were rejected and learn from the mistakes of those companies.

You also want to be careful to avoid scams. “Beware of the unsolicited e-mails you receive about grants. [The people who send them] most likely want you to buy their book or e-book, which probably just reprints government material you could get online for free. Some e-mails are come-ons to have a telemarketer follow up and try to convince you to fork over thousands of dollars to get a grant from their company. They’ll say, ‘Don’t worry, you won’t lose money because you can just write our fee into your grant proposal,’” says Ward. She adds that if an
yone promises to give you access to hundreds of business startup grants–it’s a scam. There aren’t hundreds of startup grants to be had.

Carol Hendrix, owner of consulting and training firm GIM Associates L.L.C., says there are a couple of things you should do before you submit a grant proposal. First “find out who is part of the process and request an informational meeting with them. This is your chance to learn about the organization. Do not be pushy; don’t try to sell yourself yet. Sell what you are offering first. Get them interested [in your business,] and then get them interested in you. If you don’t know who they are and what they are, your credentials won’t mean anything if you can’t address what they need,” she says.

Secondly, make sure you are eligible to apply for the grant and that you are applying for an appropriate grant for your business. “I’ve seen someone with no military experience apply for a grant for veterans and a naturalized citizen from Eastern Europe apply for a minority grant,” says Jerome Katz, of Saint Louis University’s John Cook School of Business.

Beverly A. Browning, author of Grant Writing for Dummies (For Dummies; $21.99), offers the following suggestions

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