Chapter Overview

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We have put together an insider look at each chapter of the small business grants guide to give you a better understanding of the value, quality and in-depth research that has been compiled into this single comprehensive manual..

CHAPTER 1

STARTING YOUR BUSINESS

Experienced entrepreneurs agree that there are key steps that must be taken in order to increase chances of success. Following these steps will help indentify your industry, target market and provide beneficial methods to keep your business viable and profitable. Later in this manual we will explain the particulars of each step and places you can go for free professional advice.

Develop a Business Plan – A business plan is crucial when seeking small business grants or low interest loans from financial institutions, government organizations, corporations or private lenders. A business plan can also be updated to reflect the changes within your company as it grows. This manual will provide you with information to put together a professional business plan in Chapters 3 and 4.

CHAPTER 2

CHOOSING A BUSINESS STRUCTURE

You will need to classify how your business will be legally recognized since this will weigh heavily on your eligibility to secure grants, business loans or attract investors.

Take the time to explore the different types of business structures and choose the one that will best suit your company’s needs. Since changing your legal business structure is both time consuming and costly it is best to plan for the future and consider your company’s long term goals.

STATE REGULATIONS FOR LEGAL STRUCTURES

It is important to understand that regulations for setting up these legal structures will vary depending on which state you are in; the following links will provide you with the necessary information for each state.

STATE REGULATIONS FOR SETTING UP A BUSINESS

The following sites will provide you with specific information on the legal requirements for setting up a business in your particular state or territory. Since every state has different laws governing the set up of a business it is highly recommended that you check with your particular Secretary of State by clicking on the business services section of your state’s website.

CHAPTER 3

THE BUSINESS PLAN – WHY WRITE ONE?

A detailed business plan should be done whether you intend to start a small home-based business or launch a larger company. Many businesses, small and large, fail to thrive because the owner(s) did not have a clear picture of how to start, maintain and grow their business. A well researched business plan will give you the tools you need to understand every aspect of the start-up phase, how to find your target market, financing options, etc. It also enables you to see if your original idea needs to be changed completely or perhaps slightly altered. Being prepared for future challenges will contribute immensely to your success and growth.

HOW TO WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN

Once you have gathered the necessary information it is time to sit down and begin writing. All business plans should take the reader from the initial formation of the business

through to finances and long term goals. Although the sections of the business plan will not be written in the order that they are presented in the final document, the outline is

important and shows the reader that you have done the proper research to support your request for funding.

BUSINESS PLAN OUTLINE

CHAPTER 5

TYPES OF FUNDING

Funding a new business or the expansion of an existing one can be challenging for any entrepreneur. Capital can come from a variety of sources such as raising money through family members, personal loans or lines of credit from a financial institution, low interest business loans and of course government and corporate grants

What is a Business Grant?

The simplest definition of a business grant is an endowment of financial aid from an agency enabling the owner(s) to start or continue carrying out a business. The grantor will have specific criteria that must be met in order qualify for any grants being offered.

Who Offers Small Business Grants?

Grants are available from the federal government, state, local and county government departments and many large private corporations or foundations for a specific use.

Federal Government

Federal grants are generally not awarded directly to individuals or small businesses but are instead filtered through other agencies or local and state departments. This process makes it very difficult to locate and apply for business grants unless you know exactly where to look for them. One exception in being eligible to receive direct federal grant money is a non-profit agency whose activities are designed for charitable purposes and one that has been awarded a 501(c) (3) status, making it tax exempt under IRS tax code regulations.

State and Local Grants

Economic Development Agencies exist in every state and aid to develop new businesses and grow already established companies. Some of the services they offer include:

Private Grant Sources

There are a number of private corporations, foundations and business groups that also offer grants to innovative businesses that meet the set out criteria. Some are easier to apply for than others, all have pre-determined limits on the size of grants being awarded and most require a completed business plan for eligibility.

Foundation Grants

There are a large number of U.S. foundations and public charities that offer grants which are generally designed for non-profit organizations. Even if your business is a for-profit company there are ways that you can incorporate a non-profit entity to an existing business. If for example, you own a store that sells musical equipment you could attach a non-profit department that offers music lessons to underprivileged children or some other disadvantaged group within your community.

Some of the foundations that regularly make grant opportunities available are:

CHAPTER 6

OTHER FINANCING OPTIONS

There may come a point in your research where you realize that grant opportunities will not be available for your business at this time. Never despair as an opportunity may present itself as your business progresses. In the meantime there are many options for acquiring low interest business loans.   In the event a new entrepreneur cannot access conventional lending institutions, there are other avenues for acquiring low interest business loans from other sources.

STATE BUSINESS LOANS

Many states offer SBA small business loans that come with subsidized rates and other small business incentives such as tax breaks. Below is a sample of some state incentives that are available and even if your state is not listed below, remember that all states throughout the US offer some form of incentive which can be found on your Secretary of State website.

CHAPTER 7

As you acquire new information and review what you already have, you will suddenly see themes and trends starting to emerge. You may realize that if you alter the primary focus of your business or change your business structure more grant or financing opportunities would be available. This will enable you to narrow your research and focus. Take some time to read about the organizations that offer grants in your particular field. Getting to know how they operate and the type of work they are involved in will go far when you are putting in a request for a grant and outlining the focus of your Executive Summary in your business plan. Since government bodies and other granting organizations all stipulate precisely how their money can be used, it is a good idea to review their application process. The following chapter will give you helpful advice in the area of applications.

HOW TO AVOID GRANT SCAMS

Whether your search leads you to government, corporate, foundation or other grant funding, always keep in mind that any legitimate grant information is given free of charge. You should never agree to pay an agency that promises to find you free grants for your business. Your research will most likely take you to some of these sites that offer guarantees of finding the right grant for your new or existing business. Remember that no one can guarantee grant money and all legitimate organizations that offer small business grants will precisely outline their criteria for eligibility. Keep in mind that federal grants are typically not awarded to individuals and are usually only offered to non-profit organizations. All agencies that offer grants will also provide help with the application process free of charge.

CHAPTER 8

THE GRANT APPLICATION PROCESS

Depending on which government department or agency you apply, the process and forms required will differ. In some cases, a letter of inquiry will be your first step in which you will explain your proposal. The granting agency will then let you know whether or not you can continue with a formal application. If the grantor is with the government you can visit the Grants.gov website for detailed information on how to precede with specific steps and information they require in order to have your grant request considered. In the event that your business qualifies for more than one government grant opportunity, the same application form can be used for each request.
Although grant proposals will vary from one grantor to the next, most will ask for common elements to be included such as:

CHAPTER 9

WHILE YOU WAIT FOR AN ANSWER

You’ve done your research, finished a business plan and completed at least one grant application and have sent it off. Now for the really difficult part – waiting to find out if your project proposal has been accepted. What steps can you take to make the waiting easier and perhaps help the application along the way?

The first obvious thing to do is make a note of how long it will take to hear from the granting organization. This information should be in the original grant offer. It can take anywhere from just a few weeks to several months to get any kind of response from the granting body. If you have submitted an application to the government, the Grants.gov website allows you to track the progress of your application.

CHAPTER 11

HELPFUL LINKS AND RESOURCES

Following is a list of links where you can get free information and advice on all aspects of starting a business, expanding an existing one and informative articles and online business magazines. There is an abundance of free information on grants, loans and business advice if you are willing to spend a little time researching. Before you spend hundreds of dollars on how to start your business and how to apply for grants and low interest loans, be sure to check out the links below.

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