Black-owned businesses have not had equal access to financial capital compared to their white counterparts in the US. According to the Minority Business Development Agency, racial discrimination and unfair lending practices are among the reasons for this disparity. This is why grants can be especially helpful to Black business owners.
What are grants?
Grants are funding opportunities, typically set sums of money, issued by a variety of givers, including local, state, or federal governments. Grants also are awarded by private organizations, such as corporations, or through public/private partnerships. By definition, grants do not have to be paid back and are not considered small business loans or forgivable loans. However, there might be stipulations on how grant money is used by each recipient.
In this case, the criteria for a small business grant can include being Black-owned. Typically, each small business may be required to meet additional grant requirements. For example, a business might need to be located in a particular county or state, have a certain number of employees, have a social impact angle baked into its model, embody a certain set of values, require a minimum or maximum gross revenue, or have a founder from a specific demographic.
Grants are not always well publicized and may have short application windows. You can learn about these opportunities by networking with fellow small business owners and tapping resources from organizations and agencies like the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA),America’s Small Business Development Center Network,Hello Alice, the US Small Business Administration (SBA), and the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMDC).The SBA also powers programs like the Small Business Innovation Research(SBIR), dispersing federal grants through other federal agencies, such as NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), among others, to help close the funding gap for underrepresented founders.
5 types of grants
- Lump sum grant
- Grants for specific use
- Grants as a workshop or incubator
- Pitching competitions
- Grants through services
Black and minority small business grants can take several forms, such as a set dollar amount wired to a business’s bank account, or being linked to required participation in a workshop or program. Here are some examples of types of grants for Black entrepreneurs:
- Lump sum grant. Some small business grants are a set amount of dollars and given in one payment—with no strings attached.
- Grants for specific use. A small business owner might win a $15,000 grant but will have to allocate the money toward specific parts of the business, as determined by the giver—perhaps for scaling-up production, reducing the business’s carbon footprint, or completing a social impact project within a certain timeline.
- Grants as a workshop or incubator. Grants are often given to founders and business owners in conjunction with winning a spot in a cohort, requiring them to participate in business development programs or accelerators that support early stage startups. Grant money might be in the form of capital investment or cash.
- Pitching competitions. Pitching competitions are popular in the tech sector and other industries like wellness and health, and food. Prize money is awarded to entrepreneurs who give savvy business pitches to public or private audiences. These grants might be in cash, capital investment—or both.
- Grants through services. Grants can take the form of free services, such as $5,000 worth of marketing or technical assistance, legal services, or time in a co-working space or community kitchen.
What is a Black-owned business?
For many business owners, it might seem self-evident: a Black-owned business is one whose leaders, founders, or owners are Black. Therefore, they are a Black-owned business. But what about when there are multiple business owners, a parent company, or investors holding a majority stake that are of different races or mixed-race?
Each grant may have its own definition of a Black-owned business, but it basically boils down to this: Being Black-led. According to a US Census Bureau Survey of Business Owners: Black-owned businesses are firms in which Black or African-Americans own 51% or more of the equity, interest, or stock of the business. When grant programs are open to minority business owners, or entrepreneurs of color, it typically means 51% of the business is owned by someone who is Black, Asian-Indian, Asian-Pacific, Latin, or Native American, or belongs to a combination of such groups.
What are grants for Black business owners?
Grants for Black business owners are grant opportunities created specifically for Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned businesses by both the US government and private organizations. These private and federal funding opportunities are opening the doors to minority grants, which can help Black businesses grow and succeed, and be a stepping stone to closing the Black-white wealth gap.
Today’s Black-owned businesses have a better chance of accessing capital and business financing, due to legislation like the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, Black-led CDFIs (Community Development Financial Institutions), and increased support for minority business development.
10 grants for Black business owners
- Keep It Local Business Fund
- PowerShift Entrepreneur Grants
- Wish Local Empowerment Program
- The NBMBAA Scale-Up Pitch Challenge with Collegiate Edition
- Backing the BAR
- Back Black Businesses
- Galaxy Microgrants
- Kinetic Business Black Business Support Fund
- Comcast RISE Innovation
- Oakland Black Business Fund
Applying for small business grants can be a rigorous process involving gathering tax returns, bank statements, and revenue documentation. To make sure your application qualifies, check that your business satisfies the grant’s requirements before filling out and submitting the application.Remember, once you’ve assembled one grant application, it becomes easier to apply for future grant opportunities.
Here is a list of grants—or entities awarding grants—for Black business owners, including information about eligibility, application processes, and sponsoring organization.
1. Keep It Local Business Fund
The NAACP and Nextdoor Kind Foundation teamed up to create the Keep It Local Business Fund, a $5,000 microgrant awarded to entrepreneurs of color. In addition to the minority business grants, business owners have access to training materials and are promoted on Nextdoor. The grant includes specific criteria, including businesses that are community focused, and has gross annual revenue of less than $1 million. There is an online application process.
2. PowerShift Entrepreneur Grants
Twenty Black entrepreneurs have a chance at winning $25,000 to grow their businesses through this NAACP PowerShift Entrepreneur grant, with support from Shark Tank’s Daymond John. In addition to the grant funding, each entrepreneur receives mentorship and brand visibility. Applications are typically open in early to mid-October.
3. Wish Local Empowerment Program
Wish Local is an ecommerce platform that enables physical pick-ups and delivery of online purchases. Wish Local created a $2 million fund to issue $500 to $2,000 Wish Local Empowerment grants to Black-owned, brick-and-mortar small businesses that are Wish Local partners. The grant is flexible on the use of funds. Additional grant criteria include having average yearly revenue of less than $1 million and joining Wish Local (it’s free) if awarded a grant.
4. The NBMBAA Scale-Up Pitch Challenge with Collegiate Edition
The annual NBMBAA Scale-Up Pitch Challenge awards startups prizes of $50,000, $10,000, $7,500, or $1,000 from the National Black MBA Association. This competition enables startups to connect with early stage investors and venture capitalists (VCs). The newly launched collegiate edition awards entrepreneurial college students a top prize of $50,000. Eligibility includes being Black founded and a team member with an active NBMBAA membership.
5. Backing the BAR
The NAACP and Bacardi partnered to create $10,000 Backing the BAR grants for Black-owned businesses in the hospitality industry with liquor licenses (or seeking one). In addition to the money, grant recipients have access to education and business support in order to accelerate their businesses. Applications are typically open from mid-June to late July.
6. Back Black Businesses
The Coalition to Back Black Businesses, which has a partnership with Shopify, is a collective of companies that issue $5,000 Back Black Business grants to Black-owned small businesses located in economically vulnerable communities. Businesses must also have been impacted by the pandemic, have three to 20 employees, and work in specific sectors. (Certain businesses are ineligible to receive this grant.) Grantees also receive mentorship from successful business owners, as well as training. Select applicants will be awarded an additional $25,000 enhancement grant.
7. Galaxy Microgrants
The membership-driven resource platform Galaxy of Stars, which supports minority small business owners (along with the organization that empowers low-income and minority-owned small businesses Hidden Star), gives away Galaxy microgrants every year. A brief application process requests basic information like contact info, ethnicity, and whether you are a current or future business owner. It also promotes grant opportunities through its social media.
8. Kinetic Business Black Business Support Fund
Arkansas-based Kinetic Business, a fiber internet company by Windstream, is offering up to $2,500 in Black Business Support Fund grants for Black-owned small businesses in their service area. Grant eligibility includes being a small business (no more than 25 employees) and a for-profit, with restrictions on industry. Click the Check Availability button on this page to see if your business is in the service area of eligibility.
9. Comcast RISE Innovation
Comcast NBCUniversal is issuing $10,000 grants from the Comcast RISE Investment Fund to 100 small businesses owned by people of color. Businesses must be located in Chicago, Miami, Oakland, Seattle, or Washington, DC. Beyond money, the grant provides technology, media, and marketing support. After confirming eligibility, you can apply online.
10. Oakland Black Business Fund
Black-owned businesses in Oakland, California, can apply for grants through the nonprofit Oakland Black Business Fund (OBBF), in partnership with Community Bank of the Bay and the nonprofit Alliance for Community Development, among others. It offers grantees access to business growth strategies by providing financial capital and technology assistance. There is a short online application process. The grant amounts are not publicized on the OBBF website.