Nothing good in life comes easily, and that includes getting financing for your small business.

Despite advertisements to the contrary, no federal government agency – including the Small Business Administration – offers grants to start or expand small businesses. Most foundations, corporations and private institutions that sponsor grant programs follow the same policy, except in cases where the business involves development of a new technology or is a nonprofit organization.

The SBA does administer several loan programs in partnership with local lenders, community development organizations and micro-lending institutions (agencies that specialize in limited, short-term financing). And as L-A SCORE counselor and retired bank loan officer Elizabeth Hoy notes, “SBA backs those loans with a guaranty against non-payment that eliminates some of the partner’s risk. In other words, your application for an SBA-backed loan is actually an application for a commercial loan structured according to the SBA’s requirements.”

SBA loan programs include the basic 7(a) program; “504” loans, which are delivered through Certified Development Companies (CDCs) for acquiring real estate, machinery or equipment as part of an expansion or modernization; 7(m) Micro-loans of up to $35,000; and post-disaster recovery and assistance loans. Complete details on these programs and their application requirements are available under the Services section of www.sba.gov.

Depending on where you live, your small business may be eligible for assistance from state and local economic development agencies. Most often, the assistance takes the form of workspace, training and administrative support for start-ups; reduced rates on existing office or production space; and tax incentives. Others sponsor micro-loan programs for specific business types, such as child care and firms that locate in or support designated enterprise zones.

SCORE’s Hoy adds that “Established small businesses can apply for federal grants to carry out various publicly mandated services or programs. As with the SBA loan program, they must be operated for profit, have a place of business in the U.S., significantly contribute to the economy and meet size standards for its industry.”

Another source for researching potential grant opportunities is The Foundation Center’s Foundation Directory Online at fconline.fdncenter.org. This subscription service offers access to a directory of more than 80,000 grant makers.

To learn more about financing strategies in improving or starting your small business, contact SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business. SCORE is a nonprofit association of more than 10,500 volunteer business counselors who provide free, confidential counseling and training workshops. Call L-A SCORE at 782-3708 for additional information and an appointment.


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