February 1, 2004
My partner and I are trying to start our own business, but we keep running into funding problems. We need to know how to write a government grant proposal and what grants would be available.
–M. Short. Via the Internet
Funding a business is one of the biggest challenges faced by African American entrepreneurs and the idea of “free money” certainly has universal appeal.
With that said, keep in mind that despite the commercials you may see on late night television and the endless Websites and “how-to” books promising a never-ending pool of government grants for every American, this scenario is not quite accurate. True, there are government grants available to entrepreneurs, but there are lots of restrictions–and hucksters who paint a vision of Uncle Sam handing out fistfuls of cash to entrepreneurs have taken too many people for a ride.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch and most of the government grants involve quite a bit of “tit-for-tat” where, in return for the money, the business has to provide some kind of service or product that in some way benefits the government (for example, a construction company may have to build affordable housing).
But to answer your question, you should start with your state office of economic development, usually listed under “Economic Development” in the Blue Pages of the phone book. Then I’d recommend the SBA’s Website (www.sba.gov/ financing/basics/grants.html). It offers a federal grant resource list, including government agencies that offer grants and links that provide tips in the grant application process (which is fraught with red tape and varies from agency to agency).