5 Best Startup Business Grants in 2021

Startups are typically built around the concept of rapid growth. However, in order to achieve this goal, most startup companies need additional funding. Startup business grants provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs to secure free money for their business to increase scalability. To get started, you need to find the right startup grant for your company's needs. We’re here to help with the 5 best startup business grants in 2021 to help you grow and support your startup.


Best Startup Business Grants

The first step toward getting a startup business grant is finding the one best suited to your business’s needs. Not only does narrowing down the grants that are right for your business make the application easier, it increases the likelihood of you receiving the funding you need.

Our Approach:

Choosing the best business grant comes down to three things:

  1. The type of business you have
  2. The needs of your business
  3. What you want for the future of your business

Our Top Startup Grants for 2020:

  1. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program offers the best federal small business grant for tech startups. Innovative tech startups are eligible for this grant which provides startups with funding to conduct research and development to aid a number of government institutions.
  2. The US Economic Development Administration (EDA) offers the best state small business grant for startups. The EDA serves as a resource for startups of all types and sizes to find resources, grants, and other funding opportunities on a state level.
  3. The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest offers the best corporate small business grant for startup growth. FedEx offers one of the best-known small business grants with cash prizes and FedEx services awarded to the winners.
  4. The Amber Grant is the best small business grant for women-owned startups. The Amber Grant is awarded monthly to women-owned startups in the US and Canada with an additional grant awarded to one of the 12 winners annually.
  5. The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) offers the best small business grant for minority-owned startups. The MBDA provides an exhaustive list of resources for minority-owned startups to find and secure grants as well as other funding opportunities.

Best for Tech Startups: SBIR Program

Grant amount: $150,000-$1 million

The SBIR program provides grants for startups and entrepreneurs to enable them to develop and research high-tech innovations for federal agencies that have the potential for commercialization. Common areas for startups that receive this funding include homeland security, clean drinking water, healthcare, green construction, and more.

The mission of this program is to support scientific excellence and innovative technology to grow and build the US economy. For technology startups, the SBIR program provides substantial seed money and contracts with government agencies that will help qualifying startups research and develop new technologies.

To apply for an SBIR business grant, you need to meet the following criteria/eligibility requirements:

  • Applicants must be a for-profit business.
  • Applicants must have less than 500 employees.
  • A majority of ownership must be held by one or a combination of the following:
    • One or more individuals that are citizens or permanent residents
    • Other for-profit businesses
    • Venture capital-operating companies, hedge funds, or private equity firms

Pros

  • Winners of the SBIR business grant can be provided with grants and contracts with 12 government agencies.
  • While the grant amount starts at $150,000, promising and successful candidates can receive up to $1 million in additional funding.
  • Each of the participating government agencies create their own guidelines and eligibility requirements which means you have a better chance at securing funding if they align with a specific agency’s requirements.

Con

  • This grant is highly competitive which means only a small number of applicants receive grant money through this program.
  • The application process is lengthy and time-consuming, which can be a struggle for small business owners.

Best State Grant for Startups: EDA

Grant amount: Varies depending on the grant

The EDA is an agency of the US Department of Commerce that provides grants, resources, and support for small business owners and entrepreneurs. The mission of this agency is to provide small business owners with the free tools and funding they need to dedicate their time to innovation and entrepreneurship.

To find grants from the EDA, you can easily search their database of available grants and find local funding opportunities by searching for resources in your state.

To apply for an EDA business grant, you need to meet the following criteria/eligibility requirements:

  • Due to the EDA being only a source for finding grants, eligibility will vary based on the grant you’re applying for. Be sure to read the requirements carefully before proceeding with your application.
  • Since loans are processed through Grants.gov, applicants must create an account on the site.

Pros

  • The EDA provides an easily searchable database of available grants, making it convenient to find the right grant for your business.
  • There are state-level resources available for small businesses through the EDA.
  • Grants are available at various times of the year, so you don’t have to worry about meeting a singular deadline.

Cons

  • Since this isn’t a specific grant offered by the EDA, finding the best one for your business can be overwhelming.
  • This is a widely used source for small businesses, meaning grants may be highly competitive.

Best Corporate Grant for Startup Growth: FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

Grant amount: $15,000-$50,000

FedEx offers one of the best-known small business grants. Developed to support businesses looking to grow — this is a great grant option for businesses looking to scale their small business. Twelve contestants are chosen to receive grant money, with the first place winner earning $50,000 and $7,500 in FedEx credit.

Unlike other grants with formal application processes, the FedEx small business grant only requires a one-minute video, a logo submission, photos that capture your business’s personality, and a short profile to enter.

To apply for a FedEx business grant, you need to meet the following criteria/eligibility requirements:

  • Applicants must have been in operation for over a year.
  • Applicants must have less than 50 employees.
  • Applicants must have been using business shipping services within 12 months of applying.

Pros

  • Twelve winners are selected from applicants of the contest, so if your business isn’t first or second place, you still have ten chances to win thousands of dollars in funding.
  • Winners also receive a credit for FedEx print and business services.
  • Once you’ve entered, you can spread the word to your business’s fans to vote and increase your chances of winning.

Cons

  • Thousands of businesses apply for this grant contest every year, with only twelve winners selected, making this one of the more competitive grants to win.
  • FedEx small business grants are only available to already established businesses. 

Best for Women-Owned Startups: Amber Grant

Grant amount: $10,000-$35,000

In 1998, WomensNet established the Amber Grant Foundation in memory of an aspiring entrepreneur whose life was cut short. Since then, the foundation awards a woman-owned business $10,000 every month, with one of the twelve winners that year receiving an additional $25,000.

With the Amber Grant, women-owned businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs have the opportunity to explain and articulate their business goals to compete for the grant each month of the year.

To apply for an Amber Grant, you need to meet the following criteria/eligibility requirements:

  • Applicants must be a women-owned business.
  • Applicants must be located in the US or Canada.
  • Applicants must submit a $15 application fee.

Pros

  • Applying for the Amber Grant is easy, with the only requirement being to tell the foundation about yourself and your business dream. No difficult application process or hefty amounts of paperwork.
  • If you are one of the monthly winners, your loyal customers can vote for your business to receive the extra $25,000 annual grant.
  • There is no requirement for the type of business you operate or would like to operate in order to win this grant. 

Cons

  • This a highly sought-after business grant, making the application process competitive.
  • There is an application fee to compete for this grant.

Best for Minority-Owned Startups: MBDA

Grant amount: Varies based on the grant

The MBDA serves as a resource for minority-owned businesses to find grants, consulting, and other forms of business assistance. Unlike others on this list, the MBDA operates by providing grants to their Minority Business Centers located across the US.

By searching for the Minority Business Center near you, you can find grants that your business qualifies for as well as a litany of other resources available to minority-owned businesses.

To apply for an MBDA grant, you need to meet the following criteria/eligibility requirements:

  • Applicants must obtain a Data Universal Number System (DUNS) to have their applications tracked.
  • Applicants must be a minority-owned business.
  • Applicants must register their application with the System for Award Management Registration (SAM). 

Pros

  • The MBDA serves as a resource not only for grants but also for many other business services for minorities.
  • There are Minority Business Centers all over the US ready to help minority-owned businesses.
  • The mission and purpose of this organization is to support minorities in maintaining their small businesses to promote a successful community of entrepreneurs.

Cons

  • Since the MBDA doesn’t issue grants itself, finding grants can be a little more challenging.
  • The application process can be competitive for these grants, which means accessing funding can be difficult.

Final Thoughts

One of the cornerstones of startup companies is a focus on rapid growth. For most startup companies, this requires adequate funding to increase scalability. With startup business grants, your company can receive free money to fund projects, expand offerings, and otherwise grow your business.

However, if you aren’t finding a grant that suits your business needs, there are alternative sources of funding, such as startup loans and lines of credit that can help you satisfy your startup’s financial needs.

Explore More Business Grants