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Small Business Grants

Business Man on laptopSmall business grants sound like a great way to get funding for your Pennsylvania business. It seems like the perfect option with no strings attached, because unlike loans, you don’t have to pay them back, and there’s no interest rate to repay. Unfortunately, securing a grant for your business isn’t easy. Grants can be hard to locate and often seem to have specific requirements for qualification. The entire process can also seem challenging and confusing for new business owners.

As Cumberland County’s trusted source for business financing and incentives, CAEDC is here to assist you through the grant process. If you think a small business grant could be the right option for your business, follow these steps to make the process go speedily and smoothly.

1. Find out If You Qualify for a Grant

While you may not have to pay a grant back like you would a business loan, that doesn’t mean you can use it for just anything. Both federal and local governments are incredibly particular about grant-giving.. Before you plunge ahead into the process, take the time to do your research and find out if your business even qualifies for a small business grant.

Federal and local grants are usually reserved for specific types of businesses or activities that the government wants to sustain and build upon. Some of the most common bases for small business grants in PA include:

  • Industries: Most grants are designed for businesses in specific industries, such as agriculture, transportation, science and technology, healthcare and others.
  • Specific initiatives: Grants can also be based on specific initiatives that the government hopes to encourage. For example, Cumberland County offers numerous tourism grants to help local businesses attract tourists and improve their overall experience in the county.
  • Business ownership: Grants also exist for women and minorities who own businesses but may have particular struggles as business owners.

The Grants.gov website alone lists over 20 grant categories, with other grants available from state and local governments. Take the time to search through these grants to make sure your small business qualifies for one before you put in the effort to apply.

2. Understand the Time Investment

Once you’ve located a grant you’re interested in, it’s helpful to know just how much time and effort you’ll spend in the application process. Requesting a grant is similar to applying to a top university in the amount of research and paperwork involved — and the applicant pool may be even more competitive, depending on the type of grant you’re applying for.

Because you’ll need to be as detailed and specific as possible on how you plan to use  the grant money, preparing an application and then waiting to hear back can be incredibly time-consuming. And, if your business is awarded the grant, you’ll be required to follow up with several reports and meetings to show how the money was used and how it impacted your business and the local economy or community.

Ultimately, you need to consider whether you have the time to spend on creating a business plan, sending an application and following up on any grants you receive.

3. Have a Business Plan

Because grants require such a significant investment in your business’ time and energy, it’s vital to have a business plan in place as you begin the grant process. The following are two of the biggest steps you can take in preparation:

  • Be able to explain why you deserve the grant: Because the government doesn’t offer grants for small business start-ups or expansions, you’ll need to show them how your business can offer something valuable that isn’t already available or how growing your business could positively impact your community. Think about your business’ unique assets, and prepare yourself to explain how these assets could be explored through a small business grant.
  • Familiarize yourself with the grant process: Know who your local officials are, who reviews the process, when the deadlines are and what businesses have been awarded grants in the past. This knowledge thoroughly prepares you for the process and gives you a more thorough preparation than many competitors.

4. Find the Right Grant — or Loan — for You

There are numerous federal grants available as well as local grants from CAEDC that could significantly help your small business. However, grants aren’t your only option. If you don’t qualify for one, many other business financing options are still available. CAEDC also offers a variety of small business loan programs and other funding solutions that might be a better fit for your Cumberland County business’ needs.

At CAEDC, we’re here to assist you throughout the entire grant process or help you find another ideal funding solution. Contact CAEDC to learn more about how we can help grow your business in Cumberland County, PA.

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