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Government grant scams

You may see books, TV ads, or information on the Internet about getting grants for your business. In general, there are no grants. There are government programs that give small businesses access to loans, but you usually have to provide some collateral, agree to take business training, and/or participate in one-on-one business counseling. And they are loans - which must be repaid.

There are exceptions and those few government grants are used to lure people into thinking that if they purchase a book or get access to the full website, there will be a grant waiting just for them. Generally, all that people find is that they've wasted their money.

But let's discuss some of the limited grants that are available.
  • Competition grants for very innovative, high-tech inventions (SBIR grants). These are not for average business owners - they are for scientists.
  • There are some matching grants for training employees. As an example, you put up 1/3, the government will fund 2/3. You have to be in business and be training existing employees
  • There are some matching grants to help existing businesses participate in international trade shows.
  • There are some grants to lure companies to relocate and expand in a new community. These companies are sometimes given grants to help with the infrastructure to accommodate their business (fix the roads, get sewer service, etc.). Some grants are given for training new employees - but that is generally if the company is training 15+ employees - and usually does not apply to retail businesses. These grants are designed to provide specialized, technical training that is needed by the large business coming into a new community.
  • There are few grants given to artists. But these grants are usually for artists who have been in the marketplace for awhile.
Beyond that, there aren't grants. So we recommend that you don't pay attention to the hype - and don't open your wallet.

And while we're on the topic of funding sources, in general, angel and venture capitalists are interested in high-tech, innovative solutions in very specific industries, such as green technology, computer software, or biotechnology. They do not fund basic businesses. So it isn't worth investing a lot of your time or money investigating angel or venture capitalists.

If you are looking for money, the best thing to do is put together a financial plan showing how you want to make money, show it to your local Small Business Development Center for its input, and then show it to your friends and family and ask for financial support.