9 Grant Opportunities For Minority-Owned Small Business & Startups In 2021
Modern American capitalism is a study in contradictions. While cheap consumer goods are more accessible than ever and the price of large high-resolution TVs keeps going down, the things actually required for human beings to live and thrive — housing, health care, education, retirement security, etc. — are out of reach for many Americans. This reality has all the more salience to minority groups whose access to these necessities was precarious to begin with.
Startup capital is another resource that has been made scarce to marginalized communities. Over 12 years after the financial crisis of 2008, banks still aren’t lending to those who could do the most with the cash. For many people, the prospect of getting free money for minorities to cover business expenses is going to sound rather far-fetched.
That’s where startup business grants for minorities come in.
Minority business grants are not easy to obtain, but they do exist and can be an invaluable source of funding for those who receive them. We decided to compile a list of the best business grants and grant-related resources for minority-owned businesses to help you learn how to get a minority small business grant.
Table of Contents
- 1) The National Association For The Self-Employed Growth Grants
- 2) FedEx Small Business Grant Contest
- 3) National Black MBA Association Scale-Up Pitch Challenge
- 4) Sephora Accelerate
- 5) Asian Women Giving Circle Grants
- 6) Coalition To Back Black Businesses Fund
- 7) SoGal Foundation Black Founder Startup Grant
- 8) Rebuild The Block Grants
- 9) Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship
- Government Grant Resources For Minorities
- Other Business Grant Resources For Minorities
- FAQs About Minority Business Grants
- Business Grants For Minorities: Final Thoughts
1) The National Association For The Self-Employed Growth Grants
- Submission Dates: Growth Grant applications can be submitted year-round. Applications received in January through March will be reviewed in April. Applications received in April through June will be reviewed in July. Applications received in July through September will be reviewed in October. Applications received in October through December will be reviewed in January of the following year.
- Entry Requirements: Applications are open to members of the NASE that are in good standing. You must also demonstrate a specific need for the grant, provide a detailed explanation of how grant funds will be used, show how the grant will improve business growth and success, and offer up documentation to support your request.
- Website: https://www.nase.org/become-a-member/member-benefits/business-resources/growth-grants
The National Association for the Self Employed (NASE) is a nonprofit trade association that gives grants and provides educational resources for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Its Growth Grants Program lets small business owners apply for grant financing for a particular small business need.
These grants are worth up to $4,000 each. While you won’t hit the funding mother lode with the NASE, it’s a great resource for minority business owners with a specific, defined funding need. You’ll need to join the NASE to apply for a grant, and you’ll need to explain in detail how you’ll use the funds and how this funding will bolster your business operations. Annual membership costs $120/year, or you can opt for a monthly membership starting at $11.95/month.
2) FedEx Small Business Grant Contest
- Submission Dates: The submission date for the 2022 contest has yet to be announced. However, the submission period typically opens in February and is open for one month. Interested applicants can sign up for FedEx emails to receive updates.
- Entry Requirements: Applicants must be at least 18 years old. All applicants must operate a US-based for-profit small business with 50 or fewer employees and less than $5 million in annual sales revenue. All applicants must also have shipped or plan to ship within the next 12 months as part of their business. Nonprofits, resellers, franchises, and independent consultants are ineligible to apply.
- Website: https://www.fedex.com/en-us/small-business/grant-contest.html
The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest is a nationwide competition held annually to award grants in the form of cash and prizes (such as credits for FedEx services) to small business owners and entrepreneurs. It’s not specifically for minority business owners, but many past winners and finalists have indeed been minority business owners. The amount awarded to contest winners and the number of grant recipients varies year-to-year. The above details are current as of the 2021 competition, and the 2022 competition details will be unveiled when the next round is announced early in the new year.
In 2021, the top prize was a $50,000 business grant plus $7,500 in FedEx Office print services. Smaller prizes are also available. For the 2021 contest, there were a total of 12 winners of the FedEx Small Business grant.
3) National Black MBA Association Scale-Up Pitch Challenge
- Submission Dates: Submissions for the 2021 competition are currently being accepted. Entrants have until July 26, 2021 to submit their pitches.
- Entry Requirements: Applicants must be US residents who are at least 18 years old. All ideas submitted must be the original work of the applicant. All applicants must disclose any funding previously received. The business founder must be Black or of African descent and have an equal stake in the business. The applicant or at least one team member must be a member of the National Black MBA Association.
- Website: https://nbmbaa.org/scale-up-pitch-challenge/
Since 2017, the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) has recognized scalable startups and provided grants for black-owned businesses through its Scale-Up Pitch Challenge. This competition gives startups a chance to connect with investors and venture capitalists. Additionally, winners may be awarded prizes from $1,000 up to $50,000 for their pitches.
Interested applicants can submit their pitch and a Powerpoint presentation. Select participants will then be invited to pitch their ideas to a team of experts for a shot at winning a cash prize. Finalists will be notified via email in early September.
4) Sephora Accelerate
- Submission Dates: Application information, requirements, and deadlines will be posted to the Sephora Accelerate website on October 1, 2021, for the 2022 competition.
- Entry Requirements: All applicants must be at least 18 years old and own an early-stage brand that’s not yet widely distributed. Applicants should at least have a sample or prototype before applying. Must have a merchandise product brand, such as makeup, skincare, fragrance, hair care, and wellness.
- Website: https://sephoraaccelerate.com/
The beauty retailer Sephora is giving back to minorities. The company already signed the Fifteen Percent Pledge by committing at least 15% of shelf space to black-owned businesses. Sephora goes a step further to help aspiring entrepreneurs with grants for minorities through the Sephora Accelerate program.
If selected for the program, winners will complete a six-month program that includes two all-expense-paid trips for program events, mentoring, and a hands-on boot camp. Winners will also receive a monetary grant and be eligible for additional funding. Sephora’s goal is to ensure that all products created by winners are launched in Sephora stores at the end of the program.
5) Asian Women Giving Circle Grants
- Submission Dates: A Request for Proposals is typically released each January. Applications are due in March. Grant winners are selected and funds are distributed in June.
- Entry Requirements: This grant is available to Asian American women-owned businesses in NewYork City. Per the organization, grants are awarded to “individual artists and community groups that contribute to progressive social and political change.”
- Website: http://asianwomengivingcircle.org/apply/
Over the last 16 years, the Asian Women Giving Circle has raised and distributed over $1 million in funding to Asian American women-owned businesses in New York City. This also includes artists in theater, dancing, and film. Recipients of these grants have contributed to progressive social and political change through documentaries, choreography, visual arts, street festivals, and workshops.
In 2020, the AWGC gave $67,500 in grant funds to 11 recipients, with individual awards ranging from $2,500 to $10,000. The number of recipients and submission dates vary each year, but information about applying for grants is typically released in January.
6) Coalition To Back Black Businesses Fund
- Submission Dates: The submission period for 2020-2021 is currently closed. However, interest forms are expected to be available again in September 2021 for the next round of rolling grants.
- Entry Requirements: Black business owners in eligible industries may apply. Eligible businesses must employ between three and 20 people. Businesses must also be located in an economically vulnerable community and have been impacted by the coronavirus.
- Website: https://webackblackbusinesses.com/
The coronavirus hit small businesses hard in 2020, and the effects are expected to be felt for years to come — especially in economically vulnerable areas. This is why a number of organizations, including American Express, Stanley Black & Decker, and the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, came together to form the Coalition to Back Black Businesses.
This initiative is set to run through 2023 and provides Black business owners impacted by the coronavirus with free business grants for minorities. Grants are valued at $5,000 and will be distributed on a rolling basis to hundreds of eligible small businesses throughout the fall.
7) SoGal Foundation Black Founder Startup Grant
- Submission Dates: This is a rolling grant program with grants awarded at the end of each month.
- Entry Requirements: Black women and Black nonbinary entrepreneurs qualify for the program. Multiracial black applicants may also apply. All entrants must have a registered business, plan to seek investor financing in the future, and have a scalable business or idea.
- Website: https://www.iamsogal.com/black-founder-startup-grant/
The SoGal Foundation has teamed up with businesses such as Winky Lux and Bluemercury to launch the Black Founder Startup Grant. This program is designed to provide Black women and Black nonbinary entrepreneurs with grants to start or further their businesses.
This program provides grants of $5,000 and $10,000 to select entrants. Additionally, winners also receive lifetime access to the SoGal Foundation and SoGal Ventures teams. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, and awards are given at the end of each month.
8) Rebuild The Block Grants
- Submission Dates: The grant runs continuously in 3-month cycles. Rebuild The Block accepts 90 submissions per cycle. Submit your application, and you’ll be eligible for the next funding cycle.
- Entry Requirements: Applicants must be a Black-owned small business that was impacted by COVID-19 and/or looting. Businesses must have been launched on or before January 1, 2020. All applicants must be able to verify the legitimacy of the business and any financial losses incurred.
- Website: https://www.rebuildtheblock.org/home
According to its mission statement, Rebuild the Block “bridges black business owners within our communities with reputable resources to infiltrate generational wealth and capital in the black community.” One of the ways that Rebuild the Block is helping is with its Small Business Relief Fund.
Through this program, Black-owned small businesses affected by the coronavirus or by looting/civil unrest can receive monetary grants. Up to 15 winners are selected each 3-month cycle. The organization does not specify the monetary value of its grants, but it has given out over 25 grants and has a fundraising goal of $1 million to help Black-owned businesses. Freelancers and creative entrepreneurs are also eligible to apply for this program.
9) Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship
- Submission Dates: Applications must be submitted by July 13, 2021 at 5 pm MDT
- Entry Requirements: Submissions are open to Native American knowledge holders and knowledge makers.
- Website: https://www.firstnations.org/rfps/luce-2022/
The First Nations Development Institute is partnering with the Henry Luce Foundation to offer the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship, a program that awards 10 fellowships of $75,000 each to 10 Native American knowledge holders and knowledge makers engaged in work that benefits Indigenous people.
Fellows will be required to gather together three times to “pool their collective knowledge, and create a community of practice that crosses fields, geographies, and tribal cultures.” Further details can be found on the Fellowship’s application page, listed above. Submissions are due by July 13, 2021, so apply ASAP if you are eligible and interested!
Government Grant Resources For Minorities
Like all grants, government grants are received from federal, state, or local government funds and are not expected to be paid back. These are given straight from the government to the recipient without an intermediary.
Grants.gov doesn’t originate grants; rather, it’s a searchable database of every grant program from across all 26 grant-making agencies of the federal government. Despite the clunky website, it’s a valuable resource. There is also a Grants.gov app available on the App Store and Google Play.
To apply for federal grants, you must do the following:
- Get a DUNS number from Dun & Bradstreet
- Register to do business with the federal government through its System Award Management website
- Create an account at Grants.gov
Most federal grant money is earmarked for institutions involved in healthcare, scientific research, education, and social services, with most grant funding going to city governments or nonprofits rather than for-profit businesses. However, some federal grant opportunities are geared toward minority business enterprises (MBEs) within those fields and possibly some other fields. As local governments often receive and redistribute federal grant money, you might also be able to find pertinent opportunities for government grants for minorities through the website of your local city government.
USDA Rural Business Development Grant
For minorities in rural areas, this grant, issued by the United States Department of Agriculture, is an attractive prospect. In the words of the USDA:
This program is a competitive grant designed to support targeted technical assistance, training and other activities leading to the development or expansion of small and emerging private businesses in rural areas which will employ 50 or fewer new employees and has less than $1 million in gross revenue.
Note that this is not a grant you apply for directly from the federal government; towns, communities, state agencies, and nonprofits can qualify for the grant. Then, these entities distribute those funds as they see fit. Contact your local USDA Rural Development office to find out what’s on offer in your state.
Minority Business Development Agency
A US Department of Commerce agency, the purpose of the Minority Business Development Agency, or MBDA, is to help connect minority business owners to federal contracts and other financial resources. The agency also has historically periodically awarded grants to minority-owned companies for specific purposes.
There are MBDA centers in many major cities that can assist you in finding funding. From helping you find grants and loans to providing marketing and legal assistance, the MBDA’s physical business centers are set up to offer a range of services to minority business owners and entrepreneurs. Here’s a searchable directory of these MBDA business centers.
Office Of Minority Health Grant Programs
A division of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Minority Health (OMH) offers grants to businesses whose mission is to eliminate health disparities among racial and ethnic minority populations. Monitor the OMH website to learn about grant opportunities when they are announced.
Native American Business Development Institute (NABDI) Grant
This grant program is funded by the US Department of Indian Affairs and is intended to support Native American and Alaskan Native business owners. Currently, there isn’t a great deal of information posted on the grants being offered; you can always contact the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development to learn how the program stands to benefit your business.
State Government Grants
As mentioned, federal grant money is usually awarded to local governments and nonprofit entities, which may then redistribute eligible funds to small businesses in their region. Local governments can also use local state and city taxes to fund business grants. So be sure to search for government grants particular to minority-owned businesses in your city and state.
For example, the state of Maryland has not one but several different minority business grants. One such grant is the Small, Minority and Women-Owned Business Account — Video Lottery Terminal Fund (VLT), which uses proceeds from video slot machines to assist small, minority, and women-owned businesses located in targeted areas surrounding six Maryland casinos.
Other Business Grant Resources For Minorities
Seeking additional resources? Check out these options — from SCORE’s mentoring service to other funding sources for your small business.
One organization that can get you pointed in the right direction in your quest for business funding is SCORE. It’s an SBA partner and provides mentoring services to small business owners and entrepreneurs from over 300 chapters across the country. SCORE also provides online webinars and business courses.
Venture Capital Financing For Minority-Owned Businesses
VC funding is not a grant per se, as the venture capitalists who invest capital in your company (this capital is also called “seed money” or “seed funding”) receive ownership in your company in exchange for their investment. However, VC funding can be a viable source of capital for some businesses, especially tech startups. There is also a growing list of VC groups that specifically invest in minority-owned businesses. And while venture capitalists still give most of their money to white men, there are many more VC funding opportunities for minorities than there are grants for minorities.
Here are just a few VC investors that provide seed money to minority-owned businesses:
- New Voices: “New Voices provides capital for startups, established businesses, and community-based enterprises led by women of color entrepreneurs.”
- Kapor Capital: “Kapor Capital invests in tech-driven early-stage companies committed to closing gaps of access, opportunity or outcome for low-income communities and/or communities of color in the United States. We are particularly interested in those that address gaps of disproportionate relevance to African-Americans and Latinx communities.”
- Access Latina: “Access Latina is a nonprofit accelerator that empowers Latin American women in Puerto Rico, US mainland, and Latin America by providing access capital, knowledge acquisition, and public policy. The program also provides investment resources to women-owned businesses with high-growth potential via a yearly competition in agriculture, social innovation, and STEAM industries. Although Access Latina does not invest directly, it provides capital through grants, loans, crowdfunding round with Kiva Zip, and other accelerators.”
Keep in mind that VCs typically invest in high-growth startups that are already turning a strong profit (e.g., $500K/year). Angel investors — affluent individuals who invest their private money into startups — may invest lesser amounts at an earlier stage of the startup process.
SBA 8(a) Business Certification
While there are a limited number of federal grants for minorities for business needs, it does set aside a certain portion of federal contracts to disadvantaged businesses, including minority-owned businesses. If your business is eligible for federal contracts — for example, you have a construction business or manufacture goods that government agencies purchase — then it’s a good idea to get an 8(a) small disadvantaged business certification, as this status can help you get contracts.
An 8(a) small business is any business where the owner(s) is socially and economically disadvantaged. This includes any minority-owned small business where the owner is also economically disadvantaged; see the specific criteria on the Small Business Administration (SBA) 8(a) Business Development Program page.
You can apply for 8(a) status through the certify.SBA.gov website. If you are a woman, you can also apply for Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) status on that same website.
Note that there are various other organizations that offer minority-owned business certifications. Other MBE certifications from reputable organizations may still offer some benefits and could help you qualify for business financing in general. However, you will need certification from the SBA or another government agency (such as the EPA or DOT) to receive preference for federal contracts.
FAQs About Minority Business Grants
Business Grants For Minorities: Final Thoughts
Entrepreneurial talent can be found in every community across this land. Sadly, social and structural barriers to equality persist. Small business grants are but one means by which minority small business owners can get some ever-elusive funding. For other such means, check out our article on the various types of alternative financing available for small businesses.