The truth about small business grants

Oct. 19, 2010 at 5:19 a.m.
Updated Oct. 20, 2010 at 5:20 a.m.

Although grants are available for small businesses, they are rare, targeted, hard to get and expensive. Grants also require a lot of work.

Entrepreneurs do obtain grants, but those who do are successful not because of a grant. Grants are most often awarded because of existing, documented success.

During a recent meeting with a determined entrepreneur, he revealed he'd spent the better part of the last month looking for a grant that fit his start-up project. He had even purchased the infamous book about free money.

His frustration was palpable. Calling the Small Business Development Center was his last step.

After reviewing his project and explaining there were no grants for the project he had in mind in the form he envisioned, he paused and said, "I have just wasted a month of my time."

There are about 1,500 federal assistance programs administered by more than 60 federal agencies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, alone, has more than 40 programs. There are programs for weatherization, port security, public transit, value added agriculture, scientific research, neighborhood stabilization and business loan programs.

Reviewing the government notices of funds available is a full-time job.

A better application of the entrepreneur's time is a focused approach to obtain and apply solid research on customers, industry and competitors, and then compiling this research into a plan within the entrepreneur's means to tackle an identified and viable market.

There is, by the way, free business adviser help which is partially funded by grants for this approach at the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center.

By all means, if you have reason to believe your business might qualify, check out relevant foundations and It is an interesting pursuit.

But before you spend sacks of money or time chasing a grant, create a plan and focus your energy on leveraging the gifts you now possess.

Your talents, focus and perseverance will take you much further than the fairy tale grant that may or may not be available. Pursue success first. Plan your work, and work your plan.

For help with business research, a business plan, or other issues affecting your existing business, contact the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center.

Eileen Bonner is a rural business adviser at the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center.



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