Grants for Black Business Owners
“Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.” – Kobe Bryant
The pandemic has presented us with unimaginable challenges. In the midst of these challenges, surprising trend is emerging. More people are starting businesses than ever before. According to US Census Bureau statistics, new business filings were up 24% in Pennsylvania and nationwide in 2020. And numbers indicate that this trend continued throughout much of 2021.
In light of everything small businesses have endured over the past year, it’s inspiring to see the entrepreneurial spirit rising like a phoenix. And as a Black man, I’m particularly excited by the rising number of Black owned businesses.
Business ownership is essential to the empowerment of Black communities. We are the last hired and first fired. We’re paid less to do the same job, while working in corporate environments hazardous to our mental and emotional wellbeing. Not only does entrepreneurship offer us the chance to create generational wealth, but also to create new opportunities for our communities. Business ownership is one of the pillars of wealth creation. If we hope to ever close the racial wealth gap in this country, Black entrepreneurs will have to lead the way.
Witnessing so much Black excellence in the making got me inspired. So, I searched the internet for grants for Black business owners, and found a handful of opportunities from 2021, that should also be offering opportunities in 2022.
As you review this list for opportunities to take advantage of, here are a few suggestions on how to make the most of them.
Making the Most of Grants for Black Business Owners
As I mentioned, this list includes a wide range of resources and opportunities for Black owned businesses. They are all free, which means availability is limited. So how can you increase your chances of being chosen? Here’s a few tips.
Get clear on your business
Organizations want to feel confident the resources they’re giving away are being put to good use. They want to be sure that supporting your business will further their mission. So they’re going to ask you questions about your business to figure out what you’re all about.
This selection process might be as simple as filling out a short online form and waiting to hear back. However, it is often more intense. Organizations may require the completion of several applications, video submissions, or live interviews. Regardless of the exact process, prepare to talk about your business in a compelling way. You must be ready to convince other’s that your business is special.
This is where entrepreneurs who take a serious approach to business planning will separate themselves from those who don’t. Effective business planning helps business owners get really clear on what they do and who they do it for. With a clear understanding of the foundation of their business, they can add devices like storytelling and statistics to paint a picture of their vision vivid enough for others to truly feel.
Talking about your business in a compelling fashion is not a skill you’re born with. It is an ability that you must develop overtime through repetition. So, set aside time each week to practice pitching your business to a new audience. So when the time comes to pitch your business for real, you’ll be ready.
Focus on opportunities that align with your work
How often do you find yourself thinking “I wish I had more time”? For me, the answer is everyday. Unfortunately, we only get 24 hours. That’s simply not enough time to tend to your business, take care of your personal responsibilities, and pursue EVERY potential opportunity.
The mistake many of us make is that when we’re presented with a new opportunity we automatically say yes. A couple days later, an even better opportunity presents itself and we take that one too. Before we know it, we’ve overwhelmed ourselves with a ton of commitments we can’t reasonably expect ourselves to fulfill. So we give 20% of our effort to 5 different things, when we would have been better off putting 100% of our effort into the most promising opportunity.
When it comes to pursuing new opportunities, it pays to be strategic. Applying for every opportunity that you are technically eligible for is a waste of time. First, you probably won’t be selected if your business isn’t a great fit for the opportunity. And even if you are, you’ll most likely find that the opportunity itself is not worth the effort because the benefits weren’t designed with you in mind.
That is why if you’re hoping to make the most of your opportunities, your ability to prioritize is critical. Focus on pursuing opportunities that align perfectly with your work.
The fact is, sometimes knowing the right person is the key to accessing the right opportunity. That is what makes networking so important. But remember, your time is limited. So just like you should be strategic in pursuing the right opportunities, you should also be strategic about how you network.
When you find an organization offering an opportunity that you’re interested in, do some research. Take some time to find out who the decision makers are. Once you know who’s pulling the levers, do a little bit of research on those individuals. What are they passionate about? What organizations do they belong to? Do you have any mutual connections?
But understand this. Networking is not a transactional sport. Don’t expect to sit down with someone for the first time and be offered a seven figure check. Networking, when done right, is about building mutually beneficial relationships. So when networking with others, think about how you can help them get ahead and trust karma to do the rest.
The time you spend building meaningful relationships with people in key positions will be worth it. Not only will it increase your chances of receiving the opportunities that they are offering, but it will give you access to their knowledge of the overall landscape. This could lead to additional opportunities that you weren’t even aware of.
Be patient and persistent
Last but not least, be patient and remain persistent. The right opportunity may not present itself right away. In fact, it may be years before the perfect opportunity comes along. In the meantime, you’ll face rejection, you’ll be overlooked, and you’ll be under-appreciated. That’s part of the journey. Embrace it and push forward.
I chose to start this post with a quote from Kobe Bryant because his career is great example of patience and persistence.
He wasn’t even a top 10 pick. He was chosen 13th, right after Todd Fuller and Vitaly Potapenko (who?). His first two years in the league he came off the bench. In his first NBA playoff series, he shot four consecutive airballs, handing the game over to his opponents. None of that changed his belief that he was destined for greatness. At all times, he remained focused on mastering his craft and in the end he was rewarded for it with 5 NBA Championships.
In order to be a successful entrepreneur you’ll need to have the same attitude. The same sense of purpose. And when things don’t progress they way you’d hoped, you have to have the patience and persistence to stay the course.
So if you were rejected for that grant in 2021, focus on what you need to do to get it in 2022. When you’re denied a spot in that accelerator, apply for two more. Take an honest look at how you can improve and commit to doing so. Eventually, your patience and persistence will pay off.
List of Grants for Black Business Owners
As I mentioned, when I see other Black business owners doing their thing I get inspired. That’s why I was happy to go out of my way to put together a list of resources, assistance, and grants for Black business owners. We’ve got to support and empower one another, and at MZA Legal we’re here to play our part.
I’ll do my best to keep this list updated as time rolls along so it remains a resource for Black entrepreneurs in Philadelphia and beyond. If you come across available opportunities that I can add to the list, please share them. And hopefully this list can help more than a few of us find new opportunities to grow our business.
- The Boost Your Business Fund is offering grants of up to $50,000 each in two rounds. The first application round closes January 31st. Your business must be at least three years old and have $350,000 in annual revenue.
- The Women of Color Grant Program is a partnership between the Fearless Fund and The Form Burch Foundation. The program will provide grants of $10,000 to $20,000 to 150 small businesses. APPLICATION IS OPEN NOW until February 9th.
- The Coalition to Back Black Businesses is offering $5,000 grants to Black-owned businesses. A handful of grant winners will be selected for an additional grant of $25,000. Grant applications will open in the Fall. Applicants must employ 3 employees or 1099 contractors (including the owner), be located in an economically vulnerable community, and have been harmed by the pandemic.
- The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest offers Seven $20,000 first prizes and three $50,000 grand prizes. The entry period begins February 10th.
- The Courier Fresh Fund offers Cash grants to Black owned businesses in the US and UK. Grant amount typically range between $10,000 and $20,000. The application will reopen in June.
- At the moment, applications for the Comcast RISE Grant are only being accepted for the Marketing Services and Tech Makeovers Program, which provides free technical assistance. Keep an eye out for the reopening of applications for the Investment Fund, which offers grant money.
- Fast Break for Small Business provided $10,000 grants to 50 small businesses in 2021. The fund focuses on helping small businesses owned by those who face obstacles because of who they are. The first grant cycle opened up in October of 2021. Keep an eye out for the second.
- The Hello Alice Black-Owned Business Resource Center is a great place to find new grant opportunities for Black entrepreneurs.