There is a big difference between a grant and a loan. In case of the former, you do not have to repay the financial assistance provided, but the latter needs to be repaid over a period of time.
When you apply for the latter, the lender will check if you are capable of repaying the funds, and whether you have a good credit rating. Whereas if you are applying for the former, the disbursing organization will have a preset eligibility criteria which you need to qualify for.
To help you understand better, a grant is a financial assistance for a specific purpose or for a predetermined target group. For example, some institutions provide aid for starting day care centers, whereas others provide assistance to minority women.
People have this misconception that grants are excess funds lying in government coffers, waiting to be taken advantage of. However, that cannot be further from the truth. These funds are provided only after careful scrutiny, and only to the truly deserving and challenged.
There are two avenues: federal government grants and private funding organizations. Like any financial assistance program, you are required to fill out an application form, state your purpose, and provide details about your background.
Most people get discouraged by the application process itself. However, it is advisable to go through the formalities because the outcome can be rewarding. Here are some ways of getting aid to start your business.
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA)
You should have a look at the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) which provides grants for women under different categories; they have more than 2,000 assistance programs listed in their database. These grants help women from different walks of life and backgrounds.
Small Business Administration (SBA)
Another resource is the US Small Business Administration (SBA). They also offer grant programs to organizations, that render small business management or technical assistance. The SBA mostly provides grants to those who operate for profit and have some equity to invest on their own.
You need to apply on the government grants site. Once you do this, you will get a funding opportunity number (FON). You can then track your application on their site. When you apply, you will be required to furnish information about the project details and your background.
State governments are a good resource for grants. The federal government gives development funds for each state, and the state in turn avails a part of these funds to individuals to start or expand business. They provide grants to businesses that will benefit the community in future. Projects dealing in saving energy, child care, and tourism are supported.
There are many nonprofit organizations that provide financial aid to women-owned businesses. They have cause-driven grants and they help women as a target group. Some organizations specialize in providing aid to minority women.
Whenever you want to apply for a grant, keep information about your financial background, business plan, marketing strategy, and forecasted growth ready to stand a better chance of qualifying.