The Truth About Government Grants for Your Business

Free money! Receive up to $25,000 that never has to be paid back — Guaranteed! Get a grant to start your own business today!

If you’re a small business owner, or you’ve always dreamed of starting your own business, you’ve probably run across ads like these. Companies that “guarantee” you’ll get a grant to start your own business that never has to be paid back. Purchase their product, and they’ll give you the “secrets” to making all your money troubles go away.

Have you ever wondered if all the hype is true? Can you really get free cash to start or expand your business? Before you spend your hard-earned money on what could turn out to be nothing more than a list of names and addresses (that you can actually get for free in the Internet by the way), keep reading to learn the truth about grants for individuals and business start-ups.

First of all, what is a grant?

A grant is a sum of money that is used for a specific purpose. Grants are given away by charitable organizations called foundations, and their sole purpose is to give away that money.

In addition, the U.S. Federal government also gives away billions of dollars of grant money every year for many reasons — including to support and encourage economic development and small business growth, which is where you come in.

So what’s the catch? (You knew there had to be a catch, right? I mean, if it was that easy, every new business out there would be starting out in the black!)

Most corporations, foundations and government agencies ONLY give grant money to nonprofit organizations that have a 501(c)(3) designation from the IRS.

The most common grants given to individuals are in the form of scholarships.

So, are there any grants available to you as a small business owner? Yes. Is somebody just waiting to hand you a check for $25,000? No. In fact, you may never actually see the cash. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of all the programs that are out there — and that could add up to a lot more than $25,000. You just have to know where to look and what to ask for.

Here’s how it works. First of all, be prepared. Finding a grant is going to take some work on your part. You’ll want to set up a system for keeping the information organized. You can create a paper system with files and a calendar, of do it on your computer. You’re going to want to separate your research into classifications that make sense for your business, plus you’ll need to keep track of who’s giving what away and the corresponding deadlines.

Next, you’ll have to do some research to find what programs are available in your area, and what the guidelines are. Then you’ll have to do some deeper research, to eliminate the ones you don’t qualify for. (Most grants have some type of restrictions — some are geographic, some are targeted towards specific groups, some are for specific types of businesses, etc.)

And the third and final step will be to apply for the grants you qualify for and need. (For a small business grant, what’s required is usually a well written business plan).

So how do you get started? Before you start looking for grant money, you need to figure out exactly what you’re looking for. What exactly do you need to take your business to the next level. This will not only help you to be more focused on your business goals, but it will give you a better idea of where to start looking and save you time in the long run.

For example, do you need training? Maybe you’ve realized you need to learn how to use a computer, learn to build your own Web site, or master a specific program such as word or excel.

What about technical assistance? Are you trying to learn a new process or need to learn how to use specific equipment?

Do you need assistive technology because of a disability?

Do you need cash to purchase equipment and supplies?

Make a list of exactly what it is you need, and prioritize it. Figure out a schedule of when you need to have it. Create a basic budget based on how much what you need would cost if you had to pay for it out of pocket. Also note down where, in your local area, you can find what you need.

Now it’s time to start looking for your grant. A good place to start is the Small Business Administration. They’ve got a great Website that has lots of information to get you started. You can even take free online classes to learn how to write — or tweak — your business plan.

After that, start locally. Check with your own Small Business Development Center, Chamber of Commerce or, if you’re in a rural area, Association of Government office. If there are small business grants available in your area, these are the experts who will know about them.

Don’t forget about your local library. The librarian in charge of the research section is very knowledgeable, and can provide you with a wealth of materials.

It’s important to keep an open mind and think outside the box when you’re looking for grants. Not all grants come in the form of cold, hard cash. You might be able to find funding that will pay for the training you need, business classes or get a scholarship to go to your local community college.

Your local Small Business Development Center may operate a “small business incubation center” and can provide you with low-cost office space that includes telephone lines, use of office equipment, meeting rooms and someone to answer calls and take messages.

If you need help with advertising or marketing your products or services, look to larger corporations, your local chamber of commerce or your city’s economic development office. They may offer co-op advertising programs, reduced printing costs on specific advertising campaigns, and other resources for getting your name out to your target market. If you sell products for nationwide companies, check to see if there are advertising incentives where they’ll help to pay for your advertising costs.

If you’re a member of a professional or trade organization, see if they offer programs. Check the Internet. You can find grant information from the federal government online. The foundation center is another great resource with an interactive database. Women should utilize women’s organizations and the women’s business centers.

You can check the foundation center online for a very comprehensive listing of foundations and the grants they offer. Again…remember that most foundations DON’T give grants to individuals, so don’t waste a lot of time looking at the foundations themselves. Instead, LOOK FOR THE NONPROFIT organizations they have give grants to! You’re looking specifically for economic or community development grants.

That’s you’ll actually be able to access whatever grants, services and resources are available, because the nonprofit organizations are the ones who work with indidivuals and provide “service delivery.”

To find out who is getting the money, check the foundations 990 tax forms, which are usually available online. That will tell you which nonprofit organizations to contact.

Keep a file of all the possibilities, and hone your research to the sources that provide the best fit for your needs.

There are resources out there, if you’re willing to spend the time looking for them. Keep an open mind, be willing to think outside the box, and never give up!

Business Grants For Women

I started researching business grants for women when I decided to start a small home based business in late 2008. I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to create a steady income so I wanted to know what my options were.

I found that most government grants, as well as those funded by non-profits that are tagged as being for women, are often made available only as part of a need to reach an underserved population (like the disabled, minority serving institutions, etc.). For example, when “women” is used as the search term on grants.gov ( a great place to find a full list of government grants) the grant titles in the search results rarely have to do with women or business. If women are mentioned specifically, it’s usually for a study related to pregnancy.

Further digging revealed that different counties and cities may offer grants to locally owned businesses, without regard to ownership, that have some payback in terms of economic development. These funds become available fairly randomly, and usually carry some expectation about the improvement of “Main Street.”

I learned that the Small Business Administration hasn’t had any start up grant programs for women since the 1980’s.

It soon became apparent that “women business grants”  were usually specially packaged and marketed loans for “for profit” initiatives.

After just a few phone calls, I learned about several local resources for entrepreneurs that could not only help me make my way through all the funding options, but would also help me grow my business, provide me with a mentor, and connect me with other small businesses who might  need my services. Wow, I thought. Maybe all that would get me to a place where I could be self sufficient and wouldn’t need “free money,” much less borrow it. Here are some of the national and local resources I found that offer advice, resources and expertise, all for free:

The Government funded Small Businsess Administration (SBA), is not a funding source for grants, but does a tremendous amount of financial assistance through a variety of loan programs, including loan guarantees with participating lenders and micro loans. We have several locations in the Kansas City area.

The SBA created the Women’s Business Centers specifically for female entrepreneurs. They also are not a funding source, but do provide advice on business planning, financial needs assessment, and information on the different kinds of funding available in the local marketplace. In my town, we have two Centers.

SCORE – The Service Corps of Retired Executives is a national organization with many local offices that matches industry experts with startups. The mentors are matched with an entrepreneur in their area of expertise.

KCsourcelink.com is a local non-profit business resource center. It currently being used as a model for a number of national networking organizations.

The Business Information Center, also affiliated with the SBA, is another resource for people trying to build a business. They provide over 200 sample business plans and information on dispelling myths of funding.

Better Call Center Phone System for After Call Surveys

VirtualLogger, a company that provides call centers with quality monitoring and recording software and tools on an ASP or hosted basis, introduced their new VirtualLogger AgentPrescience PCS, which is a new after-call survey for call center phone systems that is cloud-based and designed to cut costs and speed up its installation process. This new system gets rid of all the hassling steps needed for instillation. This does so while obtaining all the required information the contact center needs. Most call survey system scan be expensive and slow to set up if the system requires integration with the contact centers call recording tools, says a contact center manager, which is why the arrival of VirtualLogger’s new system is so important.

The AgentPrescience PCS system records the call and sends the customer the after-call survey in one incorporated package. With the use of technology on speaker recognition, the program recognizes the agent handling the call. This new approach makes it more efficient with the systems installation process in many ways. This program takes out the need of data integration with telephone system and telephony computer integration. The control and settings used by the AgentPrescience PCS allows the call to go on without needing a CTI. This solution addresses quite a lot of related problems inside the call center phone system.

This call center phone system automatically matches the surveys to call recordings of the agent the customer talked to. With the AgentPrescience PCS system, all of the information, which would include the caller’s telephone number, the name of the representative, and number dialed, is recorded and sent to the data base. The new program uses recording that is cloud-based. The AgentPrescience PCS program recognizes the agent together with the DNIS, ANI and other needed information that is normally searched for, the program let’s searching for both the recordings and the surveys easier and faster. This is a great help for managers and quality control analyst when giving feedback to their agents.

Frost & Sullivan, which is a leading business consulting and research firm which offers market research, market analysis, and reports from a global panel of different industry experts, has recently released a market analysis on contact centers in Asia Pacific. The industry has made market revenue growing to $334.5 million dollars in 2010. The domestic order for contact centers is rising in markets like India, Indonesia, Philippines, China and Vietnam. This has caused a boost in the demand for small to medium business call centers that have less than fifty to one hundred seats.