When you are preparing a business plan, the thought might cross your mind that a grant would be an ideal source of funding for your project. But obtaining a grant is by no means an easy task; in fact, it is, by most accounts, a far greater challenge than securing a standard bank loan, particularly if your target is the Small Business Administration (SBA). When attempting to write business plans for a grant, there are a host of interrelated considerations that you must take into account while composing the plans. The most important thing to note is that the SBA, with very limited exceptions (discussed herein), will not offer a grant to any start-up or business seeking expansion. The SBA offers a myriad of loan programs, but only a handful of grants, and these are doled out with great scrutiny and care. Establishing your business plan's eligibility for a grant from the SBA may well be one of the most daunting tasks you can face in preparing a business plan.
The grants that the SBA does maintain are mainly reserved for the expansion and enhancement of organizations actively providing management, financial, and/or technical guidance to existing small businesses. In short, the groups that qualify for these grants are non-profits, intermediary lending institutions, and local (or state) governments. Exceptions to this rule, and lists of other grant programs for which your business might be eligible, are available from the SBA website. The document "Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements to State and Local Governments" (13 CFR 143) outlines these requirements in greater detail; Grants.gov is also a useful resource. Unless your specific business model will qualify under these terms, it will be more profitable to explore independent agencies or organizations willing to fund the creation of your business plan.
The organizations and business models that do potentially qualify for a business plan grant from the SBA are limited, but the list bears exploring: the SBA Women's Business Center, for example, provides grants for specific projects. The Department of Health, the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, and even the State Highway Program all have grants which, while highly selective, may apply to your business plan. Other specific programs—like Native American programs and the Housing and Urban Development branch of the federal government—offer grants as well. In general, as outlined in this account, obtaining a grant from the SBA for your business plan is especially difficult; pursuing a grant from outside, non-governmental sources is surely a better bet. It will help immensely if you intend to operate a socially-conscious business, open a company designed to serve a minority group, or run a non-profit—history has shown that business models like these are more likely to find favor with private sector organizations that do issue grants.
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