How to find Free Grants for your Small Business in 2024?

Small Business Grants: Free Grants to Start a Business in 2024

Starting a business can be quite costly.

There's a lot to shell out for, like developing your products, diving into market research, and stocking up on inventory—startups aren't cheap. But when you haven't made your first sale yet, where's the funding supposed to come from? For budding entrepreneurs, finding that initial cash flow can be a real puzzle, especially without any sales to back up your pitch.

Not every grant fits every business, and it's vital to understand how these organisations decide who gets the funding. This is key to getting the help you need.

If you're ready to invest the time and effort into applying for a grant, make sure you understand all the options out there. We've put together a list of resources to guide you in choosing the right grant for your business.

Related reading: Set up a startup budget in 8 easy steps.

Federal SBA Grants 

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) is a federal agency committed to supporting small businesses that meet specific size criteria. Its main aim is to bolster the national economy.

Across the nation, the SBA operates Small Business Development Centers and provides an extensive range of federal grants, loans, and other initiatives. Below are some of the SBA grants and programs available to assist your small business:

Economic Development Administration 

The U.S. Economic Development Administration offers business grants, resources, and technical support to communities to promote economic growth and foster entrepreneurship.

Each state's agency assists small businesses in accessing financing (including state or regional grants), securing locations, and recruiting employees. You can explore the economic development directory to find regional offices and local resources tailored to your needs.

State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) 

The State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) provides federal grants across the U.S. to help existing businesses expand into global markets. These grants can be used for participating in trade shows abroad and other international expansion activities.

Veteran Assistance Programs 

The SBA offers several programs to support veteran-owned businesses with grant funding to help them grow and succeed.

Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program 

This program aims to level the playing field for female entrepreneurs by providing specific funding opportunities to women-owned businesses, enhancing their chances to win federal contracts.

HUBZone Program 

The HUBZone program aims to drive economic growth in historically underutilised business zones by offering assistance to small businesses located in these areas.

Natural Resources Sales Assistance Program 

This program focuses on helping small businesses win federal contracts through a competitive bidding process, primarily in industries such as timber, forestry, minerals, coal, oil, gas, and real estate.

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) / Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs 

The SBA administers the SBIR program, which supports small businesses engaged in innovative research and development with commercial potential. It includes participation from 11 federal agencies, such as:

  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • Department of Education (DOE)

The STTR program encourages collaborative R&D efforts between small businesses and research institutions, aiming to bridge the gap between basic science and commercialisation.

Learn more: How R&D tax credits can fund your startup in 2024?

Additional Federal Small Business Grants Beyond the SBA

Several other federal agencies also provide grant programs to support small businesses in the U.S.

National Institutes of Health 

The National Institutes of Health offers numerous grant opportunities for businesses engaged in biomedical research, particularly projects related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

USDA Rural Business Development Grants 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides Rural Business Development Grants (RBDG) to support technical and training programs for small rural businesses. These grants also cover non-technical aspects like entrepreneurial training and strategic business planning. Eligible businesses must have at most 50 employees and less than $1 million in gross revenue.

U.S. Department of Energy Clean Energy Grants

The U.S. Department of Energy grants support businesses that focus on clean energy solutions, particularly those that have previously received SBIR or STTR funding and are working towards combating climate change.

U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural eConnectivity Program

This program provides grants to businesses and projects that enhance connectivity in rural areas, especially those in disadvantaged communities, or contribute to climate change mitigation efforts in rural settings. is a central platform where numerous federal small business grants are available from various federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the U.S. Department of Commerce. These grants are primarily aimed at organisations rather than individuals.

Private and Nonprofit Grants for Small Business

In addition to government sources, numerous private corporations and nonprofit organisations offer grants and financial assistance to small business owners to help them launch and expand their operations.

Comcast RISE 

The Comcast RISE Investment Fund supports independent businesses by providing funds for advertising, marketing, business consultations, entrepreneurial education, commercial creative production services, and other forms of technical assistance.


Patagonia, an outdoor brand with a focus on activism, offers grants to small businesses working to tackle the root causes of climate change and address environmental injustice.

National Association for the Self-Employed 

The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) offers a variety of support programs to help small businesses thrive and remain competitive. NASE provides growth grants up to $4,000 for businesses poised for expansion, usable for marketing, staffing, or technology updates.

500 Global Flagship Accelerator Program

This program offers $150,000 in seed capital along with mentorship to rapidly growing tech companies aiming to foster technological innovation.

Halstead Grant 

The Halstead Grant awards a top prize of $7,500 in startup capital, alongside smaller grants, to businesses that innovate in the jewellery industry and advance their artistry.

StartOut Founders Program 

StartOut's Founders Program offers resources, including the Growth Lab startup accelerator, to support LGBTQ+-owned businesses at various stages, from the idea phase to established enterprises seeking expansion.

Second Service Foundation 

Dedicated to aiding the growth of veteran-owned businesses, the Second Service Foundation provides coaching, financing, and educational resources. Its Military Entrepreneur Challenge awards capital grants to businesses demonstrating positive social and community impacts, with grant amounts varying by event.

Corporate Grants 

Many corporations or their foundations offer small business grants that can be a good fit if your business aligns well with a corporation's goals and mission. These grants often come with more flexible eligibility criteria than federal grants. Here are a couple of examples:

FedEx Small Business Grants Program 

Businesses with fewer than 99 employees can apply for this and in operation for at least six months, the FedEx Small Business Grants Program distributes over $225,000 in grants annually. Winners also receive $500 in FedEx print credits.

Venmo Small Business Grant 

The Venmo Small Business Grant awards $10,000 to 20 small businesses each cycle, along with free promotion on Venmo's social media channels and access to technical resources and mentorship. Eligible businesses must have a U.S. Venmo account with a valid business profile, annual sales under $50,000, and 10 or fewer employees.

Grants for Women-Owned Businesses 

Various grants are specifically designed to support women entrepreneurs and their businesses. Here are some notable examples:

Cartier Women's Initiative Regional Awards Program 

This program provides up to $100,000 to female entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses in the early stages of development that contribute to one of the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

IFundWomen Grants 

IFundWomen, a platform that helps women-owned businesses network, partner, and secure funding, collaborates with major brands like Adidas, Caress, Botox, Visa, and others to offer grants. Women-owned businesses can apply through the Universal Grant Application Database to be eligible for various partnership grants.

Foundation for a Just Society Grants 

The Foundation for a Just Society issues grants to organisations at local, national, regional, and international levels that promote the rights of women and LGBTQ+ individuals. Focusing on areas such as Francophone West Africa, Mesoamerica, South and Southeast Asia, the U.S. Southeast, and specific parts of New York City, grants range from $50,000 to $500,000.

WomensNet's Amber Grant 

WomensNet supports women who are beginning their entrepreneurial journey by providing Amber Grants of $10,000 monthly, plus an additional $25,000 grant at the end of the year to outstanding entrepreneurs.

Stacy's Rise Project 

In partnership with Hello Alice and Stacy's Pita Chips, this initiative offers $25,000 grants, mentorship, and resources to women-led businesses specialising in consumer packaged goods, with annual sales between $25,000 and $1 million.

Restaurant Disaster Relief Fund Hello Alice

In collaboration with DoorDash, administers the Restaurant Disaster Relief Fund, providing $10,000 grants to help restaurants recover from natural disasters such as fires and floods.

Alternative Funding Options for Small Businesses 

In addition to grants, there are various other avenues through which new businesses can secure the necessary funds for growth. If you're exploring different ways to finance your startup, here are some key options:

Small Business Loans 

One of the most traditional methods for entrepreneurs to fund their ventures is through small business loans. Unlike grants, these loans require repayment. It's crucial to know exactly how much you need, what you'll spend it on, and how you plan to generate the revenue to repay the loan.

Crowdfunding for Small Businesses 

Crowdfunding is a way to raise funds for startups, primarily facilitated by online platforms. This setup involves raising small amounts of money from a large number of people who believe in your business's potential.

Equity Crowdfunding 

Equity crowdfunding is a variation where individuals invest in a business in exchange for equity. This option has opened up investment to non-accredited investors who previously could only invest if they met specific net worth criteria. This shift has made investing and entrepreneurship more accessible to the public.

Capital Investors 

This category includes angel investors and venture capital funds. These accredited investors provide significant funding in exchange for equity or convertible debt, which might later be converted into equity. 

Capital investors offer substantial capital and mentorship to help you scale your business effectively. They can inject large amounts of capital into your business swiftly, which is beneficial for rapid growth phases.

Small Business Grants by Corporates

American Express Backing Small Businesses 

The Backing Small Businesses grant program, a collaboration between American Express and Main Street America, is entering its third year. It will award $10,000 grants to 500 small businesses, with an additional 25 businesses receiving $30,000 Enhancement Grants for specific purposes. 

Eligible businesses must be located in historic main street, downtown, or commercial districts. Applications are open from March 14 to April 7, 2024.

Verizon Small Business Grant 

Verizon's Digital Ready program offers business owners access to free courses, educational materials, and the chance to apply for a $10,000 grant. To qualify, entrepreneurs must register on Verizon's website, complete at least two activities (courses, live coaching, or community events), and then submit a grant application. 

This funding round targets businesses in Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and Phoenix, with applications accepted from February 26 to April 8, 2024.

Small Business Growth Fund Grant 

The Small Business Growth Fund, a partnership between the Global Entrepreneur Fund and Hello Alice and funded by Etsy and Progressive, aims to help entrepreneurs expand their operations. In 2023, the fund awarded grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 to U.S.-based for-profit businesses with less than $1 million USD in gross revenue in 2022. Details for the 2024 application have yet to be announced.

Amazon Small Business Grant 

Amazon's annual Small Business Grant Program provides unrestricted grants to businesses with an Amazon Business account and $1 million or less in annual revenue. 

Fifteen businesses will receive grants ranging from $15,000 to $25,000. Winners also benefit from a one-year Business Prime membership and free eero Wifi and Kindle Scribe products. While 2024 details are pending, business owners can sign up for updates via Amazon's website.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Top Small Business Awards

America's Top Small Business Awards offers a $25,000 grant to recognise a small business's contributions to the U.S. economy. The competition includes various categories such as emerging business and green/sustainable business, each with its own prizes. Businesses must have been operational for at least one year to qualify, with 2024 application details still to come.

Visa Everywhere Initiative 

The Visa Everywhere Initiative is a global competition offering free funding to tech-forward startups that creatively integrate Visa's products. Each of the five global regions will have five finalists, with winners advancing to a global finals event. The top global winner receives a $50,000 grant, with additional grants for runners-up and regional winners.

Lenovo Evolve Small Business Grant

The Lenovo Evolve Small initiative supports U.S. and Canadian small businesses with grants and technology donations. In 2023, the program awarded $10,000 and a Lenovo laptop to 30 small businesses, along with business support. Winners of the 2023 cycle will be announced early in 2024.

Read more: What are the different types of startup Investors?

Grants for Starting a Business 

Finding startup grants, especially federal ones, can be challenging, but some state and local governments, as well as private entities, do offer support for new small businesses.

Fast Break for Small Business 

This program, a collaboration between LegalZoom, the NBA, WNBA, NBA G-League, and Accion Opportunity Fund, offers $10,000 grants and up to $500 in LegalZoom services. Eligible entrepreneurs must have been in business for at least three months. Those with less than three months of operation or those yet to launch can apply for a LegalZoom product up to $500 in value. Applications for the 2024 cycle are open until September 13, 2024.

The UPS Store Small Biz Challenge 

This challenge offers a $25,000 grand prize grant to one U.S. small business with nine or fewer full-time employees, along with a feature in Inc. Magazine. Two additional finalists will receive $5,000 each. Businesses must have started (actively operating) by January 29, 2024. Applications closed in March 2024, with semi-finalists to be announced in April.

Bizee Fresh Start Business Grant 

Formerly known as the Incfile Fresh Start grant, this grant offers $2,500 to support new entrepreneurs with startup costs. Winners also receive free business formation services, a year of registered agent services, and a tax consultation. It's open to those planning to start or expand a business, with the next cycle scheduled for 2024. Bizee also offers a Young Entrepreneur Grant for students starting their own businesses.

SubSummit Pitch Competition 

This competition targets subscription-based businesses under two years old, offering a $10,000 small-business grant and $40,000 in business services. Applicants must submit a short video describing their business and its inspiration and may also discuss their plans for the grant. Semi-finalists will compete virtually, with finalists vying for the grand prize at a live event. Those interested can now join the waitlist for 2024 applications.

Small-Business Hardship Grants for Emergency Recovery

Small-business hardship grants provide essential support to businesses affected by emergencies, such as natural disasters / public health crises. 

These grants, available from various sources including government, nonprofits, and corporations, often have specific application periods tied to the timing of the emergency.

State and Local Small-Business Recovery Grants 

State and local governments frequently offer grants, loans, and other financial assistance to help small businesses recover from crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. They also provide ongoing support for damages caused by fires, floods, hurricanes, and other disasters.

Etsy Emergency Relief Fund 

Etsy, in partnership with the nonprofit CERF+, offers financial aid to sellers impacted by federally declared natural disasters. To be eligible for a $2,000 hardship grant, you must have been an active Etsy seller in good standing for at least one year prior to the disaster. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, with funds distributed quarterly.

Small Business Readiness for Resiliency Program (R4R) 

The R4R Program is designed to help businesses prepare for and bounce back from disasters. To be eligible for a $5,000 grant post-disaster, participants must complete a preparedness checklist, which includes creating an emergency action plan, and register in the R4R database. Eligibility requires that your business has incurred disaster-related damages or losses of at least $5,000 and employs fewer than 500 people.

Extend your business tax deadline by 6 months. 

How to Secure a Small Business Grant?

  1. Focus on Your Industry Many small business grants are tailored to specific industries. Narrowing your search to organisations and research institutions related to your field can not only streamline your search but also help you connect with key industry figures who might offer guidance or investment opportunities.
  2. Understand the Eligibility Requirements It might seem straightforward, but it's easy to gloss over critical eligibility criteria, wasting time on applications for grants you don't qualify for. Take the time to thoroughly read and understand these requirements. If anything is unclear, don't hesitate to reach out to the organisation for clarification.
  3. Align with the Granting Organisation's Mission Grant providers typically fund projects that advance a particular mission or goal. Reflect on how your business can contribute to their objectives. If the connection isn't clear, it might be more productive to look for a different grant that better aligns with your business model.
  4. Plan Your Budget Wisely Knowing how you'll use the grant money is crucial, especially since some grants have strict guidelines on how funds should be used. Even if there are no stipulations, having a clear, detailed plan for the funds can strengthen your application. This helps grant providers see how their spending will advance their mission.
  5. Emphasise Innovation and Growth Grants often go to businesses perceived as innovative and capable of growth. In your application, highlight how your business is pushing boundaries, whether through new technologies, services, or growth strategies that align with the grant provider's goals.
  6. Fulfil Your Promises While grants do not require repayment like loans, they come with expectations. Grant providers look for a return on their investment in the form of social good, innovation, or community impact. Show them how your business plans to deliver on these fronts, contributing positively to their mission and objectives.

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